Step back so you can move forward

Quality & Me

Subir shares short stories about what people do to make a difference everywhere they go. We can make huge contributions to the way we function as a society by standing out as an example within our own community: at work, at our places of worship, among our colleagues, friends, and family. All it takes is the courage to step up and being straightforward, thoughtful, accountable, and resilient.

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Books by Subir

The Power of LEO
The Ice Cream Maker
The Power of Design for Six
The Power of Six Sigma
Organization 21c

Part of having a caring mindset is being thoughtful.

And you can’t be thoughtful if you’re overextended or overcommitted.

When I need to recharge my batteries, I usually go for a long walk. Sometimes by myself, sometimes with one of my kids. I always end up feeling refreshed and reenergized when I return.

It’s critical that you’re passionate about what you do—otherwise, what’s the point?

However, there’s a difference between passion and obsession. Let me explain.

A CEO I was consulting with was the classic overachiever—which included making everyone else around him miserable as a result. Ironically, everyone’s productivity was suffering, including his own.

I decided to take a different approach with this guy.

When I sat down in his office for our first meeting, I noticed some photos of his kids behind his desk.

I asked him about them and got a curt response in return. This guy was all business. I persisted.

I asked him about the last time he had spoken with them.

He flippantly told me couldn’t remember, and made it clear I wasn’t being paid for family counseling.

At that point, I informed him our meeting was ending because I wanted him to spend the rest of our scheduled hour reconnecting with his children. I told him the time we had spent together was gratis if he would call his kids.

To make a long story, short: The CEO cancelled our next scheduled meeting. Not because he was angry, but because he and his kids reconnected and ended up spending a week at a cabin creating memories a recharging.

When I saw him for our rescheduled meeting, he looked like a new man—excited, invigorated, smiling.

I told him a lot of other people in the organization were feeling the same way—those folks also needed to recharge.

Being thoughtful means taking an interest in yourself, your family, your employees. You need to take a step back, so you can move forward.

Transform Your Organization through Quality

I use word “quality” as a proper noun; quality with a capital “Q”; because the effect of quality should not be limited to a policy or a set of rules. When Quality becomes everyone’s business, we see the outline for a truly transformational experience that shakes the very foundation of our beliefs and behaviors.

Impact of Quality of Learning

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?

Maruti-Suzuki and the Quality Way

Quality is defined by the customer. It happens when we are willing to listen to each other, enrich our experiences, and optimize our opportunities to improve. Quality comes when we have a mindset for honesty, integrity, resistance to compromise, and ethical behavior. What we want is for quality to be an automatic response to everyday encounters. When this mindset becomes part of the organization’s DNA – its very essence – then we can say that Quality is everyone’s business.

Inspiring Talent

There has been a lot of media coverage about enormous salaries paid to top executives, including their mind-boggling “golden parachutes”. Primarily CEOs, these executives aren’t always paid based on their talents.




Have you gotten the “Wake-up” call to be straightforward?

Quality & Me

Subir shares short stories about what people do to make a difference everywhere they go. We can make huge contributions to the way we function as a society by standing out as an example within our own community: at work, at our places of worship, among our colleagues, friends, and family. All it takes is the courage to step up and being straightforward, thoughtful, accountable, and resilient.

BACK TO TOPICS PAGE>

Books by Subir

The Power of LEO
The Ice Cream Maker
The Power of Design for Six
The Power of Six Sigma
Organization 21c

A director I was consulting with always expected people to come to him.

This guy really believed that no news was good news. Like a lot of senior level executives, he expected people to come to him, not vice versa.

The problem was, no news wasn’t good news—it was the opposite. Problems weren’t getting resolved.

He asked me to help him figure out why the company wasn’t meeting its goals. Interestingly, he didn’t include his own team members in the discussion. Only me.

I told him he needed to spend more time on the floor–where the action was. Spend some time just listening to what is going on.

We joined a meeting already in progress. The discussion was heated; clearly people in the meeting weren’t happy.

When we walked in, everyone was shocked into silence—they hadn’t seen this director outside of his office in months.

After a few seconds, the director took my lead, and told everyone to pretend he wasn’t there, and to continue their meeting.

That’s when something really interesting happened.

Instead of ignoring the director’s presence, one engineer used it as an opportunity. He spoke up and out—in a refreshingly straightforward manner.

This engineer wasn’t concerned about what his response might mean to him personally—or professionally. It was unusual behavior in this company.

He told the director point blank that unless the organization invested in improving its products, two or three years down the road, the company would be dealing with recalls, or even lawsuits.

It took guts for this engineer to tell the director truth. It was, unfortunately, rare behavior in this organization.

In this case, the director responded positively, even thanking the engineer for being so candid. I think it was the “wake-up call” he needed. In fact, he told everyone in the room that “good enough isn’t enough.” They still had a long way to go, but it was a good first step.

If you want to make a difference, and be the difference, you cannot be afraid of the truth.




What does it take to be accountable?

Quality & Me

Subir shares short stories about what people do to make a difference everywhere they go. We can make huge contributions to the way we function as a society by standing out as an example within our own community: at work, at our places of worship, among our colleagues, friends, and family. All it takes is the courage to step up and being straightforward, thoughtful, accountable, and resilient.

BACK TO TOPICS PAGE>

Books by Subir

The Power of LEO
The Ice Cream Maker
The Power of Design for Six
The Power of Six Sigma
Organization 21c

One of the components of developing a caring mindset is accountability.

Accountability is taking responsibility for your actions. It’s the “A” in STAR, and acronym I developed for what it takes to have a caring mindset.

But first, we need to take a step back. You can’t be accountable if you don’t know what’s going on.

You can’t know what’s going on if all you do is sit in your office, review spreadsheets, and commiserate with your peers.

If you want to know what’s going on in your organization – really going on – take a walk.

I tried for weeks to get a manager I was consulting with to connect with his team—things weren’t going well, and no one was being accountable. There was a clear disconnect between himself and his team of engineers. The manager blamed the engineers and vice versa.

“Let’s take a walk,” I told him. “Let’s go and talk to your team.”

I then heard every excuse under the sun – meetings, reports, no time. He finally admitted he wouldn’t know what to say to them.

Can you imagine? A manager who doesn’t know what to say to the people who work for him!

I told him, it’s easy: “Be yourself. Relax, smile, ask questions, and refrain from judging.”

Here’s my point: this manager was focused on processes—what people were doing. He wasn’t focused on the people aspect of problem-solving. He didn’t even know what to say to people.

Achieving exceptional results requires commitment to both processes and people. That’s why you need to get out of your chair and meet with the people who report to you—on their turf, and not in your office.

What someone says in your office doesn’t always reflect what’s really happening on the ground. People are afraid to accept accountability because they become intimidated. Meet them half way, and you’ll see a big difference!

Encourage people to speak up and not be afraid. Not everything you hear will be good news—but if someone is afraid to speak up, they’ll never embrace being accountable. There is a big difference between the action on the battlefield and the action in headquarters, miles behind the lines.

If you want accountability in your organization, make sure your team knows you respect, trust and believe in them.

Make Quality a Lifestyle Choice

A few years ago, a colleague of mine was driving his car and hit a big pothole in the road. He stopped the car to make sure everything was okay. The car was fine, but at some point, he must have dropped his wallet, because when he got home he couldn’t find it. Sure, he had some money and credit cards in there, but he said that he also had some pictures of his family, and was devastated to think that he’d never get them back.

Empowering People Power

Several years ago, in an article entitled “In Pursuit of Excellence” for Personal Excellence magazine, Michael Jordan said that he always had the ultimate goal of being the best. “I approached everything step-by-step, using short-term goals. When I met one goal, I set another reasonable, manageable goal that I could achieve if I worked hard enough.”

What does your mission statement say about quality?

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.

Combating Fires

No matter where they occur, a fire can be a devastating event. When they happen around where we live, we rush to the location with manpower and equipment to extinguish the flames.




Do you work in a fake culture?

Quality & Me

Subir shares short stories about what people do to make a difference everywhere they go. We can make huge contributions to the way we function as a society by standing out as an example within our own community: at work, at our places of worship, among our colleagues, friends, and family. All it takes is the courage to step up and being straightforward, thoughtful, accountable, and resilient.

BACK TO TOPICS PAGE>

Books by Subir

The Power of LEO
The Ice Cream Maker
The Power of Design for Six
The Power of Six Sigma
Organization 21c

Ever heard of a fake culture?

If you are not being true to yourself in all aspects of your life, you’re living in a fake culture.

As a leader, a fake culture makes it impossible to develop a caring mindset.

Without a caring mindset, you’ll never make a difference, or be the difference.

Ask yourself the following question, “Are you your true self once you leave the office?” In other words, when you go home, are you a different person?

Your answer, I’m guessing, is “I’m more myself at home.”

If so, why are you allowing yourself to live in a fake world at work?

Think about it: When you are outside of the office, you probably treat other people differently than you do colleagues at work. My guess is you treat people outside the office with respect and consideration.

You understand they have families, they have dreams, and they have problems they’re trying to work through.

You empathize because you care about them as a fellow human being.

You know what? So, do all the employees you manage during the day!

For some reason, when we walk through the office doors in the morning, people become employees. I’ve even heard employees referred to them as a “bucket of resources” as if their value was nothing more than a fast-food meal.

Take a step back and remember that everyone you work with has a story. They have a family; they have dreams; they have challenges. Those things don’t end when they arrive at the office.

If you want your employees to care about you and your organization, you need to care about them—as individuals.

By the way, stop pretending that it’s okay pretend to be someone else at work. Employees will respect the “real you” more than the “fake you”.

When people can’t be their authentic selves, the result is a fake culture. Don’t let yourself be a fake person by treating those around you as if they do not matter.

If you treat the people around you as human beings you truly care about, others will follow your cue, and quality will improve dramatically. Both at work and at home.

A Moment of Truth for the Solar Panel Industry

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.

Abolish your Quality Department

For decades now, we’ve made the Quality Department the epicenter of our quality policy. But has this attention been misplaced? My contention is that the reason we have failed to deliver resilient and sustainable quality from American businesses is that we are too focused on the metric of quality. We have turned a qualitative question into a quantitative one, and that simply will not work.

Resistance to Compromise

In the food profession, Chantal Coady is a superstar. How did she get there? Chantel was never satisfied with anything until it was perfect—good enough was never enough. She was always passionate about chocolate, even as a child. When she was old enough to work, Chantel took a part-time job in the chocolate department at Harrod’s, the famous department store in London.

What is your difference?

In the past two decades, I have helped countless organizations improve their processes to find greater success. But over the years, something began to haunt me. I noticed that some organizations using the exact same process or methodology realized enormous savings, while others stumbled. I kept wondering, what is the difference?




Don’t be afraid of the truth

Quality & Me

Subir shares short stories about what people do to make a difference everywhere they go. We can make huge contributions to the way we function as a society by standing out as an example within our own community: at work, at our places of worship, among our colleagues, friends, and family. All it takes is the courage to step up and being straightforward, thoughtful, accountable, and resilient.

BACK TO TOPICS PAGE>

Books by Subir

The Power of LEO
The Ice Cream Maker
The Power of Design for Six
The Power of Six Sigma
Organization 21c

Let’s talk about the truth.

If you want your organization to succeed, you must encourage everyone – and I do mean everyone – to not be afraid of speaking up, speaking out, and speaking the truth.

I get that this can be hard, especially when you work in a corporate setting. Not everyone wants to hear the truth, let alone act on it.

Some people just don’t want to face the truth—after all, if you ignore reality, you won’t have to deal with it, right?

Wrong.

Even in the best organizations, politics that inhibit being authentic can permeate the air, stifle productivity, and prevent real and lasting solutions from being found and implemented.

Let me give you an example.

During a client meeting I sat in on, the COO encouraged everyone to speak the truth—to share openly and tell it like it is.

The problem was, no one did. You could hear a pin drop. It was clear they were terrified.

When a few people finally spoke up, they were quickly silenced by others in the room.

The COO continued to encourage people to speak up. He told them it was essential that they support each other, even if a problem affected someone else’s group or department.

It was clear to me as an observer that there was a big game of political maneuvering going on.

People were scared to speak up, speak out, or to tell the truth.

They feared for their jobs.

This company had a culture where people swept problems under the rug, even in front of their bosses, including the COO.

Fear and lying is an all-too common issue in organizations: people are afraid of repercussions, losing their jobs, being embarrassed—you name it. As long as your organization is operating in fear, you will never succeed. In fact, you will fail. Fear is a formula for disaster.

Encourage everyone – and I mean everyone – to be straightforward, to tell the truth, and to not be afraid. Without being straightforward, you can never make a difference.




How to make everyone a S.T.A.R.

Quality & Me

Subir shares short stories about what people do to make a difference everywhere they go. We can make huge contributions to the way we function as a society by standing out as an example within our own community: at work, at our places of worship, among our colleagues, friends, and family. All it takes is the courage to step up and being straightforward, thoughtful, accountable, and resilient.

BACK TO TOPICS PAGE>

Books by Subir

The Power of LEO
The Ice Cream Maker
The Power of Design for Six
The Power of Six Sigma
Organization 21c

Imagine the following scenario: Two companies are the same size in terms of organizational structure.

They have similar revenues, production facilities, and numbers of employees.

They are both in the same industry.

They have both implemented the same processes.

Yet, they each had vastly different results.

One company – let’s refer to them as Company A – had a return that equaled 5 times the cost of their investment in the program.

Not bad, right?

But the other company – we’ll refer to them as Company B – had a return that equaled 100 times the cost of their investment!

You heard me right—100 times!

It’s a true story. I know, because both companies were clients of my firm. Both companies got a return on their investment, but I still felt both frustrated and perplexed that Company B had done so much better.

The reason for the difference kept puzzling me—why would one company do so much better using the same processes?

I’ve helped some of the world’s best-known brands improve the way they do business, save billions of dollars, and increase their profits and revenues. I needed to know what was behind such a huge variation.

After studying the two organizations more, the answer finally became apparent to me: people.

The people at Company B had a workforce exhibited what I describe as STAR attributes: they empowered all their employees from the factory floor to the office of the CEO, to be straightforward about solving problems, thoughtful about how they treat each other, accountable to themselves and others, and resilient in solving problems and facing challenges.

Think about the power of what can happen when everyone in your organization is a STAR.