Why Manage Better?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Right to Quality

We are in the World Quality Month. Earlier this month, I had written to ASQ India members encouraging all of us to take a further step in raising the voice of quality. My mentor and a Quality Guru, Suresh Lulla wrote back challenging me to do something special this month.

In response, I decided to act on my long standing desire to ‘talk’ quality to school students. I was able to convince two schools to let me conduct a session for senior (grade 11 and 12) students.

The talk was titled ‘Right to Quality’ and was delivered to 41 very patient students on 24 Nov 2012 in Bangalore. The participating schools were Presidency School and St. Paul’s School.

So, what is Right to Quality?

The core message of my talk to students was – If you want good quality delivered to you; begin by delivery good quality in whatever you are doing. It is only through this dedication and action for excellence that we can progress as a nation.

I included basic information on Juran, Deming, and Ishikawa in an effort to introduce students to these stalwarts. Surprisingly, students were very interested in knowing more about them.

We also conducted a quick brainstorming and fishbone on why some students secure low scores. As expected, this was a fun session.

5 S was very well received as most students said they could use this straightaway.

Here is a copy of the presentation. Do let me know if you are using it. Right To Quality ppt on SlideShare

What next for Right to Quality?

I am currently approaching schools in Bangalore to conduct this session and am hoping for some support in this effort. If you are reading this and can help by reaching out to administrations of some schools, I will be grateful. I am trying to take small steps in this journey but am aware of the potential of this idea.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Applying Quality Improvement to Quality

Firstly, I hope you are celebrating World Quality Month in November. I know, some will argue that Quality should be celebrated through the year and not on a day or in a month. I normally see that as an argument for not doing anything. I would rather use this month to raise the voice of quality than argue over a utopian scenario. Please go ahead and try to raise the voice of quality. We need a lot more voices than we have.

Paul Borwaski has this month posed an action oriented question – What can we do to accelerate the rate of adoption of quality?

This is a global priority and Paul has rightly indicated that instead of waiting and praying it will help if we do something about it. Here are some thoughts I have and I am sure you all have many more.

Have more Quality Heroes (mini-gurus)

There won’t be another Juran or Deming. Period. But there can be other lesser gurus or heroes. What are we doing to discover, encourage, and promote these heroes. ASQ did an interesting study in 2010 on New Voices of Quality. Something similar could be done annually.

ASQ Fellows are still primarily from the USA. I am sure there are many quality professionals around the globe who deserve this honour. Heroes drive followership and it is important that the world of quality finds new heroes.

Apply The Juran Trilogy to Quality

Juran left for us a classic process management paradigm. The Juran Trilogy of process planning, process control, and process improvement. Are we doing this well? Planning is about developing a standard and setting baseline and target performance.
How many quality programs and professionals think and develop a process to deploy quality. Very few. When we follow the ‘Just do It’ philosophy blindly in quality deployment we don’t win fans. We invite ridicule and brickbats for poor planning and inability to take the medicine we preach.

What do we do control a quality program. I have reviewed 100s of quality programs and find a control mechanism missing most of the time. Most quality professionals live in the delusion that it is the job of Senior Leaders to monitor and not ours. Please remember, Senior Leaders has several other headaches and it helps us if we make their job easier.

Finally, how often do we improve a quality methodology? Not very often. I have reviewed Six Sigma programs in organizations which are run the same way as they were run five years ago. This may be good consistency but it closes our eyes from learning from our processes. Also, it is plain boring.

Globalise Quality

Taking quality to different countries, different industries, and demographics could be the key to accelerate its adoption.

There is a strong need to develop a project management discipline within quality. I can see most quality professionals lacking in project management skills. We do projects at our pace and ultimately allow business leaders to draw negative conclusions about our ability to finish things off. These two disciplines need some convergence.

Having an agreed quality curriculum is an increasing necessity now. There are way too many interpretations floating around and this distracts new-comers to the subject. I understand that a subject like quality cannot have ONE definition, but we could atleast have some beginner’s kit from a body like ASQ.

Quality is still not integrated with most engineering and management curricula. I have been trying to convince some schools to allow ASQ Bangalore to conduct sessions on problem solving and basic quality tools and can tell you this is not easy. But it needs to be done.

In summary, if we don’t take the bitter pill we want others to take, we will soon need surgery. 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Quality of Design - The Holy Grail of Quality

Expectation vs Reality
Let’s try to encapsulate how the quality function is understood ‘traditionally’. The lack of attributable empirical evidence allows me to rely on conversations with veterans in the quality profession and on my experiences gathered over the years, these seem to suggest that a quality function is expected to be –
Proactive but is perceived as reactive
Quick as a hare but is considered to be slow as a snail
 Pragmatic but is often accused of being riddled with theoretical ideologies
Quality function is expected to be forward looking but is usually found looking in the rear view mirror.

Although a quality function is most active within mainstream activities in either manufacturing or service provisions, inherent practices are agile and adaptable.

Common knowledge clearly shows that companies that win apply quality to all functions. Both Toyota and General Electric are examples of larger all encompassing philosophy
Applying quality to only specific functions is the equivalent of working only on one muscle of the body, the result of which are just as narrow as the effort expended  

Quality in All Functions
If quality can be applied to all functions, who then is a quality professional? Aren't managers in all functions also quality professionals? 
Tough one – if quality professionals give up their knowledge and skill and let everyone become a quality professional then we are no longer required or important. If we don’t do this, quality doesn't become all-pervasive and we will anyway be no longer required.

Can/ How is quality be applied to more functions than production or service provision? Let’s look at some of simple and fairly easy to recall examples from various industries -

Apple - A company known for this excellence in design apply principles of quality function design (without probably using the tool) which has taken their design to a new high.
Several organizations have cut recruitment cycle time using six sigma projects.
Vendor Management –
Companies are reaping benefits of paying vendors on time as a result of improvement projects
 Companies have used FMEA to assess what can go wrong with a product launch.

Making Everyone a Quality Professional
Toyota and GE did a brilliant job of making everyone a quality professional. They still have a quality function – which specializes in the subject, manages projects/programs, and pushes the envelope on knowledge and skills. The regular knowledge and skills are transferred to staff. GE popularized the 18-24 month Black Belt role which resulted in building a vast pool of quality-enabled senior professionals.

While I agree that quality is a specialist function, it is important for all functions to have quality specialists. If structured and documented quality tools and methods are moved to the quality professionals in other functions, the core quality function can raise its own game. In other words if the core quality function continues doing auditing and improvement projects only, I don’t see the function breaking any fresh ground.

What’s Next - The Holy Grail for Quality
With an army like that, there are only greater heights to conquer.
Less glamorous challenges confront quality professionals – managing the tail ends of the distribution and exception processing. Straight through processing will be enabled by technology and will become faster, cheaper, and better. It will be the exceptions and tail (of distribution) that will increase processing costs.

Quality in design, I believe, will be the Holy Grail for quality professionals in future. Customers will have little patience to get products repaired. They will want quality built into the process. The more you embed you quality in the process the better the rewards. Reactive repairs and fixes might not be an option in the future.

Of course Dr. Deming would have said – you don’t have to do all this, survival is not essential.