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Quality & You

What does Quality mean to You?

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    [post_content] => When I ask people, “what does Quality mean to you?” I hear a wide range of answers. For some people, their answer is, “Quality means putting out the best product or service possible.”  Others may say, “Honesty and trust.” Many will tell you, “Quality means doing the right thing at the right time.” Still others will say, “Quality is a resistance to compromise.” However, more often than not, I still hear “ I have no idea, that’s why we have a quality department,” or “Hey let me ask my Vice President of Quality,” or even worse yet, “I’m not sure what quality means to me.”

[pullquote]I would like to see a day when we don’t hesitate about our response toward Quality.[/pullquote]

Ideally, I would like to see a day when we don’t hesitate about our response toward Quality; when everyone has a fearless reaction to Quality just like they do with everyday events.  Bottom line, everyone, needs make Quality a priority, and a part of everything they do.  When we all understand the impact of our actions, how even the smallest action may pay enormous dividends, then that leads to the path of true quality: preventing human error; possessing the kind of oversight and engrained thought that corrects misjudgments before they have a chance to trigger problems.

What a world this could be if we all were that much more attentive; that much more in tune, and truly understood and believed the dramatic impact that Quality can have on all of us!
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When I ask people, “what does Quality mean to you?” I hear a wide range of answers. For some people, their answer is, “Quality means putting out the best...

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.
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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

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...