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Quality & You

LEO Revisited: The benefits of “Listen, Enrich, Optimize”

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    [post_content] => I have mentioned “Listen, Enrich and Optimize” in previous articles and I'll probably mention them again. They are the main principles of my LEO methodology and they are integral to "Quality is Everyone’s Business” (QIEB) philosophy.  We use QIEB to ensure that everyone in the organization is driving toward the same goal of Quality. LEO helps ensure that this transformation is sustainable.

Why must we as individuals “listen” better to our customers, suppliers, co-workers and our competition? All too often, we dedicated ourselves to collecting data associated with a problem without asking deeper questions like “why” and “how” that might give us better clarity about the processes behind the data. Watch and observe what works and what doesn’t.  Understand and empathize with all your stakeholders until you “get it.” How they express what they need; how they define their expectation of Quality; what it takes to make them delighted and enthused with you, your employees and your company – these are the realizations that will ultimately redefine the level of service you offer and provide.

[pullquote]We use QIEB to ensure that everyone in the organization is driving toward the same goal of Quality. LEO helps ensure that this transformation is sustainable.[/pullquote]

When I say “Enrich,” I mean to point out a process that guides us toward what we should do once we have full knowledge of the situation. In other words, if listening leads us to lessons of how we may improve, then enriching means putting those lessons to work thereby increase our potential to achieve a successful solution. Here we apply some logical organization to how we are going to use our data. What does the data tell us about how we currently do things? How can we implement the data and when? If this sounds somewhat familiar, it should, since it echoes many of the aspects of the Quality Mindset that we constantly refer back to in QIEB: Honesty, Integrity, and Resistance to Compromise.

Ultimately, once you and your entire organization have gotten the processes and procedures honed down and working to meet and exceed the needs, wants and desires of your customers, both internal and external, then you must keep raising the bar. That’s the point of “Optimize.” The goal is not just to put out a fire but also to prevent it from happening again. We can challenge known solutions and compare them against other solutions you have discovered; select the best ones and constantly subject them to every situation they may encounter. When you have corrected for any and all possible shortcomings, start the process over. Ultimately, we will never settle for just “good enough” again.

We can spend quite a bit of time on sharpening our LEO skills. By Listening, we don’t get complacent. By Enriching, we strive for perfection. And by Optimizing, we look at Quality as a universal, everyday goal, not an exception that rests with a few people. Ultimately, to be successful, quality must be “everyone’s” business.
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I have mentioned “Listen, Enrich and Optimize” in previous articles and I'll probably mention them again. They are the main principles of my LEO methodology and they are integral to...

Quality & Economics

A Moment of Truth for the Solar Panel Industry

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    [post_date] => 2013-06-01 06:47:36
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    [post_content] => I recently read a commentary in the New York Times (“Solar Industry Anxious Over Defective Panels”; May 25, 2013, link), and something sounded familiar.

Solar panels that are expected to have a 25-year life span are failing. Coatings are disintegrating and other defects have caused fires. Worldwide, the reports are coming in. The $77 billion solar photovoltaic industry is facing a quality crisis.

This is a moment of truth for the solar photovoltaic industry, and yet, many manufacturers will chose to ignore the opportunity and instead repeat the same mistakes that the American automotive industry did in the 1970s.

Remember the Ford Pinto that could explode if was hit from behind? What about Chevrolet's Vega that was rusting before it left the factory floor? There were other spectacular flops like the Cadillac Cimarron, Plymouth Volare, Dodge Aspen, all Oldsmobiles, and GM diesel engines: all self-inflicted wounds that damaged once sterling brands for decades and drove sales into the laps of their international competitors.

Then, as now, assumptions are percolating among solar “PV” industry leaders about the “cause” of production problems they obviously do not understand. Is it really just cost-cutting in manufacturing materials that is causing 5.5% to 22% defect rate in solar modules?

I was struck by the comment from Dissigno CEO, Dave Williams: "Quality across the board is harder to put your finger on now as materials in modules are changing every day and manufacturers are reluctant to share that information.” This is the type of thinking that will cost the industry (and their customers) billions of dollars before they resolve this crisis. In fact, isn’t it time to set a firm finger on quality and hold it there until there until something positive happens?

American auto manufacturers learned three valuable lessons from their quality crisis:
  1. “Problem solvers” will solve nothing but they will drill through wads of cash with very little to show for it;
  2. Nearly all product quality failures begin at the design stage with inadequate specifications, standards, expectations; and
  3. No amount of correction at the production and service end will ever adequately “solve” anything; that’s like trying to put out the fire after the barn burns down.
The solar industry must do as the auto industry has done: they must go all the way back to the design stage, dump their assumptions, check all processes, and re-examine everything right down to the basics of how they envision how their customers will use their products. They must deal with the physics involved, even the markets. Late in the 1980s, the auto industry adopted the practice of "robust engineering" - using extreme conditions of operations the basis of design and engineering. Adding to the quality process, they also considered how people work together and how they discuss and formulate solutions. For the first time, designers, engineers, production managers and marketers got together and discussed not only what the product had to do, but how it might fail. When you design for the two most extreme operating conditions that your product will experience, you eliminate 95% of the potential cause for failure. If your product must operate in a particular temperature range, you must ask, "Can we add 10 degrees either way to our operating design?" In the same respect, consider also how the product will be manufactured and sold. In this case, designers did not take into consideration possible price competition. Haven't we learned that cost-cutting is a reality for commerce and therefore qualifies as a "condition of operation"? This crisis of quality is not, as the writers of the story suggests, China's problem. While true that Chinese manufacturing has supplied many panels, it is up to the world industry to set the standard. The companies that purchase the modules must set the quality process, be honest about the product design, and resist any compromise. I appreciate Suntech CTO, Stuart Wenham's commentary that "we need to start naming names." In my book, those names should include the engineering directors and executives who missed the big cues and forgot the important lessons of what it means to adopt and maintain a robust and sustainable quality process. [post_title] => A Moment of Truth for the Solar Panel Industry [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => moment-truth-solar-panel-industry [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2013-09-01 07:00:17 [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-09-01 07:00:17 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=1239 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [format_content] => )
I recently read a commentary in the New York Times (“Solar Industry Anxious Over Defective Panels”; May 25, 2013, link), and something sounded familiar. Solar panels that are expected to...

Quality & Process

Meet Your Future

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    [post_date] => 2013-03-01 21:04:20
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    [post_content] => Change is everywhere. In nature, change is an undeniable force. Even mountains succumb to the ever present, never diminishing force of change.

Why in business should we expect any different?

The fact is, change is hardwired into human nature. Individuals and society as a whole enjoy change – like the changing seasons. And there are other changes – changes in taste, changes in lifestyle, changes in expectations and aspirations. Therefore, any effort to push away change and hold on to the present—to maintain the status quo indefinitely—is a waste of energy and resources, and ultimately leads to failure.

This is why companies that do not adapt to new trends and ideas will eventually see their markets dry up and wither away. This is the fate of organizations, large and small; from large multi-national corporations to mom-and-pop shops down the street.

[pullquote]We must embrace change as though our future depends upon it.[/pullquote]

And let’s be clear. When I say “change” what I mean is “future.” In business, change is opportunity. Therefore, we must embrace change as though our future depends upon it. Among forward-thinking and successful companies that I have examined, change in the marketplace is no more difficult, no more traumatic than changes in the season. And how does that happen? Because they have adopted change into their management process:
  1. They have built flexibility into the organization. They possess a culture and mindset that can easily adapt to marketplace demand.
  2. They actively look for ways to improve products and services. Since the shelf life of goods and ideas is so short, they always live in the future.
These are the lessons that the top executives at a particle board manufacturer learned one year. They received several complaints that desks and tables made from its boards were breaking under heavy loads. When the complaints grew in number and urgency, the vice-president of the company – who also led the production unit – took his managers along on a fact-finding mission. Their original goal was to gather as much data as possible from furniture builders and customers and to solve what they believed to be an easily solved manufacturing problem. Their first stop was a furniture builder and their largest customer. There they learned that people do not just write on their desks, they sit on them and place heavy objects on them. The president of a furniture company gave them a demonstration. The management team watched in horror as their client leaned on the edge of a newly completed conference table and the corner cracked and broke away. The team saw numerous other failures; more than they ever imagined; and returned to their offices charged with a sense of urgency. Their first realization was that they never fully understood how their boards were being used. Their product was not flexible – both literally and figuratively. This was no longer a small problem; it threatened their position in the marketplace. That’s when the fault discovery process became an innovation process. They analyzed the strength of the boards in different situations and began a detailed research on the manufacturing process itself. Their goal was not to fix what they had but to make their product stronger than ever before. They tested composites, glues, wood chip sizes, and pressurization techniques. After about a year of work, they optimized their entire manufacturing process. Not only did they improve board strength, they also decreased manufacturing cost. They ended up with a stronger product that was a higher quality and priced competitively. Dealing with the rapid-fire changes in the marketplace requires that businesses possess a built-in survival process that allows them to be innovative and operationally flexible. Changes happen. If you are not prepared, you will meet a future – but it may not be the one that you expected. [post_title] => Meet Your Future [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => meet-future [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2013-04-16 11:28:36 [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-04-16 11:28:36 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=175 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [format_content] => )
Change is everywhere. In nature, change is an undeniable force. Even mountains succumb to the ever present, never diminishing force of change. Why in business should we expect any different? The...

Quality & Me

Global Quality Awareness (GQA) Initiative

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    [post_date] => 2013-01-07 17:59:56
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    [post_content] => The Global Quality Awareness (GQA) Initiative is a non-profit initiative of the Subir & Malini Chowdhury Foundation created to improve the lives of individuals and their communities around the world by promoting a personal understanding of, and commitment to, a "Quality mindset.”

The plan for GQA is simple - effect positive global change by getting people to make a personal commitment to a simple daily practice. The practice of GQA is centered on Subir Chowdhury’s “LEO” (Listen – Enrich – Optimize) process, which has transformative results—these same principles that when practiced, will generate vast improvement in people’s daily lives.  Subir believes that most of the world’s problems are caused by people who stopped caring about quality or don’t understand the significance of it. Supporters of GQA want to inspire global improvement by first practicing quality as an individual. In essence, Quality starts with us and must be everyone’s responsibility.

Daily GQA practice requires people to follow three simple steps:
  • Listen hard to others and to yourself to seek understanding
  • Enrich the lives around you by giving a little more of yourself every day
  • Optimize everything you do by setting your mind to excellence and refusing to “settle”
The essential teaching is simple. When you embrace quality in your own life, life all around you becomes better. Your actions empower others to embrace positive change. They see the benefits in their own lives. Quality becomes contagious. The initiative spreads. Quickly. Spontaneously. And as more and more people work to improve their corner of the world, the world is transformed. It becomes a better place… because its citizens won't accept less. The GQA initiative is working with schools, from elementary to higher education, businesses, leaders and employees, the employed and unemployed for a total transformation of quality improvements with the vision of inspiring the Initiative around the world raising Global Quality Awareness. According to Subir Chowdhury, “I believe that the ultimate goal of the GQA Initiative is to ensure that “Quality is Everyone’s Business” – ideally I am of the firm belief that to be a Quality person, and live a ‘Quality’ life, Quality must become a part of everything we do, what we leave behind every day of our life, until it becomes a lifestyle choice, not just an afterthought.” [post_title] => Global Quality Awareness (GQA) Initiative [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? [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => global-quality-awareness [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2013-05-16 23:04:05 [post_modified_gmt] => 2013-05-16 23:04:05 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://subirchowdhury.com/?p=813 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [format_content] => )
The Global Quality Awareness (GQA) Initiative is a non-profit initiative of the Subir & Malini Chowdhury Foundation created to improve the lives of individuals and their communities around the...