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Quality & You

Is your quality suffering under the culture of “Good Enough”?

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    [post_content] => Every day, we are faced with choices: a choice to do nothing; a choice to take the easy way out; or a choice to bear down and do the right thing.

Our choices are influenced by many things including the people around us; the society in which we live and work, and our community. The pressures of everyday life influence our attitude toward quality; the workplace, careers, money. Maybe we rush through things here and rush through them there; maybe we cut corners, cheat a little and say to ourselves, "That's not perfect, but it's good enough." But, at the end of the day, who suffers? What do we lose when the culture of "good enough" is what drives our daily lives?

Today, throughout most of our society we must all acknowledge that we are living in a culture where “good enough” is at the core of our troubles. We have taken the low road to what we know is right. We have lost the moral high ground to what is expedient, easy, and makes us a fast buck. But, if I ask you to really consider what it will take to make us great again I’m sure you’ll agree with me that the notion of “good enough” really isn’t good enough!

[pullquote]When we all rally around the fact that quality is and must become everyone’s business, will we truly understand and appreciate the fact that “good” can never be “good enough!”[/pullquote]

As I was building my core philosophy for “quality is everyone’s business,” I discovered that the greatest challenge was getting individuals, groups, and organizations (and eventually society as a whole) to recognize that hanging onto the status quo creates enormous waste, but more important, is not sustainable.  The culture of “good enough” has become such a fixture in our mindset that we don’t even recognize the deep problems that it causes. This status quo pervades our lexicon and more importantly causes us to believe that nothing else can be done; meanwhile the waste and wasted opportunities pile up around our feet.

I believe that if we all take the approach and make Quality a part of everything we do then we, as individuals and collectively as a society, will never believe that “good is good enough.” I have seen places where Quality, as I have described it, produces long lasting positive, effects. These are organizations where everyone is exposed to the Quality mindset.  These organizations have done the hard work of taking everyone down the path of acculturation together to understand how the quality mindset requires a “real” change in the way individuals think and behave. And I believe that the individual is changed as well - their life is lifted, their outlook is lengthened, and their whole attitude toward personal responsibility is enlarged.

What I have found is that when the Culture of Quality takes over, people observe and understand - they really listen. People not only listen to their customers, but to co-workers, associates, family, friends, and even neighbors. High achieving people explore and discover by looking for ways to do everything that they can to find the best solution; not the easiest solution, but the best solution possible. For these people, Quality means improving and perfecting everything that they do, every day.

At the end of the day, when people rally around the fact that quality is and must become everyone’s business, will we truly understand and appreciate the fact that “good” can never be “good enough!”
    [post_title] => Is your quality suffering under the culture of “Good Enough”?
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Every day, we are faced with choices: a choice to do nothing; a choice to take the easy way out; or a choice to bear down and do the...

Quality & Economics

A Tale of Two Countries

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    [post_date] => 2013-05-20 03:23:54
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    [post_content] => Earthquakes in Haiti and Chile measured 7.0 and 8.8 respectively on the moment magnitude scale. The difference implies that the Chilean earthquake was 500 times stronger than the Haiti earthquake.

While the devastation in both countries was extreme, structural damage and loss of life were far less in Chile than in Haiti.  The difference in devastation is largely attributed to the difference in building standards.

[pullquote]The impact of one nation's choice to pursue or not pursue quality impacts not only that nation but almost every other nation across the globe. [/pullquote]

Very few structures collapsed in Chile and the number of deaths was far less than in Haiti even though the Chilean earthquake was 500 times stronger.  In other words, in the case of Haiti, lack of quality can be directly attributable to the damage caused there, while a commitment to quality in Chile minimized what could have been an even greater loss of live than seen in Haiti.

In Haiti, the death toll exceeded 200,000 and the number of buildings destroyed or severely damaged exceeded 250,000 homes and 30,000 commercial structures.  In contrast, the death toll in Chile was less than 2,000 and very few structures were totally destroyed.

While the differences in building standards can be rationalized by noting the differences in economic health with Haiti being one the poorest nations in the world, the cost of poor quality proved to be enormous in Haiti.

ART_posts_haiti1Perhaps one of the most critical applications of quality is how it can have an impact on nations and individuals.  The impact of one nation's choice to pursue or not pursue quality impacts not only that nation but almost every other nation across the globe.  These decisions impact how dollars are spent and what they are spent on.  While it's often a difficult decision, especially in third world countries, political leaders who choose to ignore quality risk paying a heavy price.

Natural disasters cannot always be predicted, but you can minimize damage to people and places by integrating quality measures into infrastructures and policies.  Whether it is a hurricane, flood, tornado, pollution, or fire, the impact of the economics of quality for nations and their environmental resources can be devastating.
    [post_title] => A Tale of Two Countries
    [post_excerpt] => Is it culture, the weather, geography? Perhaps ignorance of what the right policies are? Simply, no. None of these factors is either definitive or destiny. Otherwise, how to explain why Botswana has become one of the fastest growing countries in the world, while other African nations, such as Zimbabwe, the Congo, and Sierra Leone, are mired in poverty and violence? 
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Earthquakes in Haiti and Chile measured 7.0 and 8.8 respectively on the moment magnitude scale. The difference implies that the Chilean earthquake was 500 times stronger than the Haiti...

Quality & Process

Walking and Talking Quality

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    [post_date] => 2013-01-11 06:08:17
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    [post_content] => I used to open our management meetings with a simple question: “Which makes the better sense: invest time and energy to avoid problems or to solve them?”

It’s not a trick question, but I’m surprised by how it causes so many managers to squirm. And it is fascinating how many of them get it wrong. Most of them will first answer that solving problems is best – and that is the obvious answer. But the honest ones will come back with a list of apologetics that begins with how busy they are jumping from one crisis to another and ending with a quiet aside (as though it is a terrible secret) that they’re lucky if they can get their regular jobs done. In effect, they tell me that they never avoid problems – they only solve them.

Meanwhile, we watch at a distance as the people who really “get it” shake off the intimidation and the pressure, and simply roll up their sleeves. I remember the hotel manager who drove two hours in her own car, on her own time, to return a credit card to a Japanese guest boarding a flight to Europe. I think of the hydraulics engineer who volunteered to parachute into a wilderness area to fix one his company’s new water pumps. I smile at the memory of the shipping clerk who shouldered past jokes and ridicule from fellow employees as he carefully packaged every order as crisply and neatly as possible.

These are the heroes of quality. They are not ‘firemen’ who not rush to douse fires. They are the fearless fire preventers who jump into the arena to answer the call to stop the fires from starting. Often, their efforts draw scant praise, if they are noticed at all. But how we need these “extra mile people” in all aspects of our operations.

[pullquote]When leaders walk the talk of Quality, the organization moves as a cohesive social group that is better equipped to solve immediate problems and long term ones, and they may prevent problems that you haven’t foreseen.[/pullquote]

I’ve seen some organizations proclaim their commitment to quality, and yet go on crafting flawed processes that produce flawed products and services that rely on heroic efforts for day-to-day rescue. Lacking a strategy to take corrective actions and address the causes of the fires, eventually a situation will arise that even heroic efforts shall fail.

What should happen is that the organization must walk the talk of quality – bring quality into the corporate culture from the top down. And it can starting with encouraging those basic human skills of communication, interaction, and implementation, or as defined in the LEO methodology: listen, enrich, and optimize.

Imagine what would happen if we made a sincere effort to improve communication with our customers, suppliers, co-workers and even our competitors? What would happen if we really listened to them? Maybe instead of keeping our noses to the spread sheets, perhaps we we’d start asking questions like “why” and “how” and listen to people who might give us better clarity about what is going on NOW.

With meaningful interaction, we enrich the organizational culture and encourage everybody to do more. We open ourselves up to lessons on how we may improve, where we may improve and when. We may even increase the opportunity of keeping problems from occurring in the first place.

Equipped with better communication and interaction, now we are better prepared to implement a renewed awareness throughout the organization. Not only are we putting out the fires; we are preventing them from happening. We are optimizing our relationships both inside and outside of the organization.

When it is delivered to every member of the organization – from top to bottom – LEO becomes the trigger-point for high level communication skills that I found among the best organizations. When the leaders of the organization walk the talk, they are the example for everybody to follow. That’s how leaders engage every member of the organization and gain commitment to an unprecedented level of quality. 

When leaders walk the talk of Quality, the organization moves as a cohesive social group that is better equipped to solve immediate problems and long term ones, and they may prevent problems that you haven’t foreseen. When this level of communication is achieved, then it doesn’t matter when a problem eventually crops up (because we know they will), because now there will always be enough fire preventers ready to take action.
    [post_title] => Walking and Talking Quality
    [post_excerpt] => Is it culture, the weather, geography? Perhaps ignorance of what the right policies are? Simply, no. None of these factors is either definitive or destiny. Otherwise, how to explain why Botswana has become one of the fastest growing countries in the world, while other African nations, such as Zimbabwe, the Congo, and Sierra Leone, are mired in poverty and violence? 
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I used to open our management meetings with a simple question: “Which makes the better sense: invest time and energy to avoid problems or to solve them?” It’s not a...

Quality & Me

Impact of Quality of Learning

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    [post_date] => 2013-02-10 02:01:25
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    [post_content] => Modern economies depend heavily upon the distribution high quality education to members of our society. Without high-quality structured learning programs, not only are companies left without viable candidates to fill skilled jobs, society is often required to take care of the 'drop outs' one way or another.

The tragedy is that had these kids found something they liked about education, they might have stayed in school. They might have gone on to lead productive lives and avoided the blemish of a criminal record. But for many of them, education reminds them of past failure. Without guidance and mentorship, that's a very difficult (if not impossible) barrier to ask school-age kids to overcome on their own.

So I ask, who failed whom?

In 2007, I received a letter from the Orange County Corrections Department in Orlando, Florida that still amazes me. The letter described how Warren Kenner, a facilitator for a "youthful offender program," introduced my book, "The Ice Cream Maker" as part of the curriculum for an eight-week literature study class for about a dozen students.

If you have read this book, you know that it addresses concepts of deploying quality in a business operation. Mr Kenner saw another application of the concept; to offer it to his student as a model for injecting quality into their lives.

He wrote, "If you want to get ahead in life, then you've got to treat everyone with respect; not just the people you like. Most important, you've got to be thinking daily on how to improve yourself in service to others."

He also said that many of his students have been told all their short lives that they are losers; that they would never achieve anything in their lives. After a while, you begin to believe it. Most of them have such a low opinion of themselves that they lack the basic attributes of ambition and hope that you and I take for granted.

His goal is to keep the kids from internalizing the negative voices and reach out for excellence. "My whole thrust is to have them commit to themselves. The have to believe in themselves before they can help themselves or anybody else."

In Ice Cream Maker, one of the primary motivators for the fictitious business owner was recognizing the price of failure. For some of the students in this class, it was the first time that they had ever finished reading a book, yet remarkably, many came away from the experience recognizing the price of their own failure and fully comprehending that failure isn't final; that once you shed negative feelings about failure, you can begin working for total quality mindset in everything that you do.

Imagine what we might accomplish if more people understood this very simple concept. If these kids get it, why can't the rest of us?
    [post_title] => Impact of Quality of Learning
    [post_excerpt] => Is it culture, the weather, geography? Perhaps ignorance of what the right policies are? Simply, no. None of these factors is either definitive or destiny. Otherwise, how to explain why Botswana has become one of the fastest growing countries in the world, while other African nations, such as Zimbabwe, the Congo, and Sierra Leone, are mired in poverty and violence? 
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Modern economies depend heavily upon the distribution high quality education to members of our society. Without high-quality structured learning programs, not only are companies left without viable candidates to...