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Quality & You

What does your mission statement say about quality?

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    [post_content] => Entrepreneurs and managers will create mission statements in an effort to fix a goal for the entire organization. The most common way to build one is by stating a unifying philosophy wrapped around a strategic purpose, product, and plan. But how does one instill a unifying philosophy that reaches beyond the words contained in a quality vision or the mission statement?

This was my big question; my core intent: to help managers enhance existing efforts by making Quality a common key that belongs to “everyone” in your organization - to bring about a "cause for quality."

Put another way, Quality strengthens your mission statement. It helps fuse together what you currently have in common with an attitude that is shared throughout your entire workforce: from the C-Suite, down to the production worker. The goal is not to make a change, but to enhance what you currently have. The intent is not to replace your existing policies, but to integrate Quality into your organizational DNA.

In my analysis of current quality processes, I found that they are based on one solution for productivity; one concept for quality management. Of course, we want everybody to rally behind one vision of the future, but how do we make that vision truly transformational – something that your people will find personally motivating and personally exciting?

[pullquote]My contribution, no matter how big or how small, will have an impact on the success of my organization![/pullquote]

If there is one thing that we have all learned, you can’t get people excited with a run-of-the-mill mission, vision or quality policy. I believe that by making Quality everyone’s business, you emphasize basic principles that affect people on a personal level. When you encourage individuals to reach out to others, they are – in turn – empowered to do the best work that they can achieve. When you empower them to look beyond personalities and solve problems; you strengthen their resolve to reach deep into their own powerful personal resources and unique talents which, in turn, provides a far better means of personal motivation. What we want is for individuals to sit up and say, “My contribution, no matter how big or how small, will have an impact on the success of my organization!”

Subsequently, as Quality truly becomes everyone’s business, individual behavior will then serve to enhance the intent of your mission statement. People throughout the organization will change their attitudes and beliefs relative to your mission, vision, guiding beliefs, and yes, your quality policy. For instance, in the past, when a problem occurred, you might expect that many people will think “the problem belongs to someone else” or “it’s not my job.” Once they have undergone the principle transformation of understanding that Quality must be a part of everything they do, you can expect that their reaction will be fundamentally different. Instead of passing the buck to the guy in the next workstation, you can expect them to take personal responsibility and be the change agent that produces a lasting solution.

When the notion that Quality is Everyone’s Business is blended with your quality policy as well as with your mission statement, you are encouraging an ideal mindset where everyone now owns problems and creates solutions while supporting the organization’s common vision of the future.
    [post_title] => What does your mission statement say about quality?
    [post_excerpt] => In this bestselling book, Chowdhury introduced his next-generation management system — LEO. In The Power of LEO, he describes how continuous focus on quality improvement can revolutionize any process—from manufacturing operations to managerial decision making. The secret is to cease delegating the responsibility of quality to specific teams or departments and permanently lodge it within the core of an organization’s culture.
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Entrepreneurs and managers will create mission statements in an effort to fix a goal for the entire organization. The most common way to build one is by stating a...

Quality & Economics

Whose political crisis is this, anyhow?

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    [post_date] => 2013-07-10 07:00:44
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    [post_content] => I am deeply troubled by the increased pace of self-inflicted crises in our government and economy. We have been witness to one event after another during the last several years, each with seemingly greater levels of consequence and damage. Not surprisingly, this is all happening under the watchful eyes of two of the least productive congressional sessions in history.

Questions persist as to whether our representatives can actually manage the country’s business without wasting time, money, and even lives. From my perspective, it appears that our elected officials and policy makers prefer political theater to resolving problems.

Consider the so-called “sequester,” enacted as law at the start of 2013. It was another impasse; another political crisis. Congressional leaders and President Obama knew they had to do something, but ideology prevented them from doing something constructive.

The Sequester was a flawed policy that nearly everyone knew wouldn’t work. Many people who participated in the decision warned of consequential damages that could eventually increase the cost of operations and decrease the quality of services delivered. And some of those predictions have already been proven to be correct.

No business survives long making decisions in that way. From my perspective as a management consultant for more than twenty years, it is clear that our current government is focused on putting up barriers instead of tearing them down and creating opportunities.

When I train executives and managers, I teach the importance of listening. As a core competency of successful leadership, active listening brings organizational cohesion. It enriches social interaction and optimizes decision-making though mutual interests. When leaders want an organization to grow, they tear down barriers and look for opportunities. Why can’t we get our government to do the same?  We can, but only if we demand it.

Yet, rather than ask representatives to enact such a change, I challenge each of us, as citizens and voters, to begin the process. After all, it is our duty to elect leaders to represent our interests. “We the people” empower the national agenda—we set the political priorities by what we think and what we believe.

More important, how can we ask our government to adopt a new standard for management if we are distracted by political theater? How can we ask for a new quality standard, if we are not willing to practice it ourselves?

I propose a “cause for quality” in which we see past the differences and build consensus. We don’t need a new party platform or a petition to achieve this goal. But we do need a dose of reality. If we stay on the path we are currently on, if “we the people” fail to change course, my fear is that the crises will only continue and our losses will only grow worse.

Granted, there are significant differences between running a country and running a company. When businesses fail to embrace quality, customers complain, and sales drop. If there are no changes, poor quality will lead to even more lost sales and the business may ultimately fail. However, companies can reorganize, re-invent, re-invest, and recover.

What happens when quality fails in government? The effects are invasive and long-lasting. When government leaders fail quality, economies falter, institutions fail, and individual futures are destroyed. The country can rebuild – we’ve done it before – but no one can replace personal suffering. Just think of the long recession we had to endure. Do you want to endure another?

The root cause of the current failure in Congress and the White House is our own—we lack a true understanding of what is going on and are not engaged in any significant way.  To me, the threat of failure is clear and the answer obvious. We either build up and strengthen the very foundations of this great democracy, or leave things as they and allow the country to continue to erode. We must not tolerate another self-inflicted crisis.

To begin, we all need to stop playing the blame game. It’s not just your representative’s fault, the President’s fault, or the fault of anyone in government. It is our collective failure to recognize poor judgment. It is our fault for accepting poor quality decisions instead of demanding more from the process. The economic advancement of any nation depends on how its citizens practice quality. We are all shareholders in the United States of America.  As such, we have the responsibility to participate and work toward meaningful change.
    [post_title] => Whose political crisis is this, anyhow?
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I am deeply troubled by the increased pace of self-inflicted crises in our government and economy. We have been witness to one event after another during the last several...

Quality & Process

The Wisdom of Listening

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    [post_date] => 2013-02-25 21:09:46
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    [post_content] => Even big and successful companies sometimes forget the importance of listening.

Let’s face it. Problems come and go, but it’s how we deal with the problems that make us stand out to our customer base.

Microsoft spent years combating the perception that it couldn’t deal with or didn’t care about stability problems in its Windows operating system.

Adobe let the prices of its high-level production software rise to incredible heights to the point now where many of their ‘loyal’ users are merely biding their time for a cheaper alternative.

Toyota has been beset with persistent rumors about their quality. First, it was acceleration problems and floor mats, and the headline grabbing recalls continue.

[pullquote]No matter who it is – be it your customers, constituents, stakeholders, investors, membership – or even your family members – careful, intelligent listening is the first crucial step to success and for overcoming problems and achieving a Quality operation.[/pullquote]

For the record, each of the companies I have mentioned has made constructive efforts to reach out to their customers and show that they are – in fact – LISTENING. But listening, as it pertains to your management process, not a rigid, step-by-step technique for finding out what customers want or need. In fact, there is no strict methodology that can be deployed to meet the infinite variations of individual experience.

Each organization is unique in terms of its products and processes, just as each interaction will be perceived differently. However, the failure to truly listen to customers is at the heart of why many organizations fail. No matter who it is – be it your customers, constituents, stakeholders, investors, membership – or even your family members – careful, intelligent listening is the first crucial step to success and for overcoming problems and achieving a Quality operation.

I have three specific rules that will help ensure that your listening skills are applied effectively and that your listening pattern is in fact ‘careful and intelligent’.
  1. Get out from behind your desk. Go to where the action is. Go to the customers. Go to the factory. Go to the sales floor. Go to where the problems are. Go to where the facts are.
  2. Stop talking. It’s hard to listen when you’re the one doing all the talking. Watch what goes on. Watch what your employees are doing. Watch what your customers are doing. Listen to what they say – listen to the types of words they use. Even if you’re confident that you’ve got it, watch and listen more.
  3. Show empathy; look at the world through their eyes. Be in the moment where your employees and customers are speaking. Remember that it’s not about your expectations; it’s all about theirs. Learn from the people with whom you should be listening.
There are many powerful management tools can be deployed to increase the effectiveness of your listening process – this can help you on a personal level. However, the data collection process itself usually involves two phases – quantitative as well as qualitative research. For instance, you may need to deploy marketing surveys and other research to build a complete picture about your situation. Wherever possible, show the affected audience – your customers for instance – that you are actively engaged by including them in the data collection process. As with all things, it is always important to keep matters as simple as possible. The more complex the process, the more effort a company must put into learning to use it properly. Put into another way: the more complex the process, the more likely that more things may go wrong. But you’ll never go wrong just by sitting down and listening. [post_title] => The Wisdom of Listening [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => wisdom-listening [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2013-04-16 12:35:10 [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-04-16 12:35:10 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=178 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )
Even big and successful companies sometimes forget the importance of listening. Let’s face it. Problems come and go, but it’s how we deal with the problems that make us stand...

Quality & Me

Valuable Trash

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    [post_content] => Not all waste is created equal. Some of it is extremely valuable; especially when it teaches us something about the way we run our business. The owner of an insurance brokerage in Los Angeles, CA – we will call him “Cooper” – relayed this story to us recently.

Cooper was working late one night on a presentation for a new client. The printer in his office malfunctioned, so he routed a document he needed to the printer that the staffers shared. As he waited by the printer, he looked down at the trashcan and was startled by what he saw: heaping but neat stacks of printed email, dumped straight into the round file. At the time, his office had about 35 employees, so he imagined that it was an isolated incident. But he knew that he should take a closer look.

The next morning, he asked his administrative manager about the trash and what he heard surprised him even more. Two years earlier, he had set what he thought was a mundane office policy to require a paper record of all emails relating to client business.

Email was still a relatively new business tool. Cooper didn’t know that people tended to communicate with each other via the “Reply To” function. As a result, many emails grew into long strings of messages that included every comment made with the important details sprinkled all over. Outlook and other email managers help search for the important bits, but when you print, you get the whole enchilada including every joke, recipe, sports prediction, birthday greeting, salutation, and thanks.

Because of the policy, agents were forwarding customer emails to staffers. At the close of every day, the staffers printed everything, kept what they needed and tossed out the rest.

Cooper measured the stack of paper and found that it was almost even with a fresh package of paper, or about 500 sheets. The real shock came when the manager revealed that this stack was light. Not only did the process occur daily, many times the amount of waste was double, even triple what Cooper had seen.

Cooper and the manager estimated that the cost of wasted paper from printing emails was running up a $300 a month bill; $7,200 since the email policy was passed. When they added toner and staff time, the total cost soared to more than $14,000.

Talking with agents and staffers, he learned that everyone thought that the policy was wasteful and inefficient. And yet, no one took the initiative to anything about it.

Not long after this incident, a non-paper solution was adopted and Cooper was pleased that he could reduce cost and increase efficiency from one small change. Then he realized that this one example was a symptom of other perhaps more costly problems and worried where they might be. About a year later, “The Ice Cream Maker,” was published.

Cooper bought a copy and read it one afternoon. Inspired by the concept of using quality as the benchmark of behavior throughout his business, he bought a copy for everyone in his office. To this day, new employees receive a copy as part of their training.

Another underlying message in this story is the fact that many businesses pass office policy without attention to a quality process. Had Cooper focused on the outcome rather than the solution, he might have avoided this problem entirely. Luckily, the trash was the clue. In my experience, the cost of such mistakes can produce even greater expense.

Something to think about the next time you’re in a position to set what you think is a mundane office policy.
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Not all waste is created equal. Some of it is extremely valuable; especially when it teaches us something about the way we run our business. The owner of an...