Why Manage Better?

Monday, September 30, 2013

Quality must make money and not just be the right thing to do.

In a recent post on his bog, Paul Borwaski, CEO of ASQ, shared a fantastic turnaround story about Corning Glass. As usual Paul choses his subjects wisely and presents his thought crisply.

See the case study here.

Here are some key insights from Corning’s revival and dominance through Quality that I could summarize for you.

Winning the Baldrige is not enough
Wining the MBNQA takes a lot of doing. It needs passion, dedication, consistency, intelligence, and a lot more to remain on the path of excellence and lift the award. But we can’t rest after we win. New challenges emerge requiring new responses. Corning Glass’s case clearly demonstrates how quickly we can slip if we drop the ball.

Quality is a Board subject
J M Juran famously predicted that in the 21st century only two functions will need to report to the CEO. Finance and Quality. Finance has always held this place and will continue to do so. With Corning Glass’s case it is reiterated that once Quality slips lower in the organizational hierarchy, poor quality results follow quickly.

BigQ and Performance Excellence
Small Q and Big Q concepts were introduced by Juran years ago. Small Q is a reference to product quality and Big Q refers to an all encompassing view – quality of business processes. With dimensions such business processes and customer experience the quality field has evolved into Performance Excellence. Corning realized this and included all functions in their quality program. Rich dividends followed.

Don’t ignore Quality training
All change starts with knowledge. Without adequate knowledge of what to do we risk changing processes only to create more havoc. Corning realized the value of training before embarking on change and invested in Six Sigma and Lean training for over 1000 staff. Such training has multiple benefits. While it does create a skilled pool it also conveys the organization’s sincerity to the cause at hand.

Choose methods and tools wisely
Corning did not just pick every method available. They studied all and developed a framework and stuck to it. The Corning Performance Excellence model addresses collaboration, innovation, and improvement. Corning not only used DMAIC rigorously, it realized that DMAIC may be an over kill in some cases. It came up with iDMAIC for such project. I quite liked the application of quality tools to Sales and Marketing. This is often a missing link in most companies.

Quality must make money
Finally a Quality program must help make money. Quality is free but not charity. Juran was very clear that for Top Management to be interested in Quality, it must make money. And quickly. To quote the study: “In the past five years, Corning has generated more profit than the previous 155 years combined.”

Too often I find quality managers pushing the case for quality as ‘the right thing to do’. We must understand that on the CEOs table there are several such ‘right’ things to do. She has to pick a few which will make sense. And if you can’t help her pick ‘Quality’ you will lose.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

What, why, who, and when of doing training wrong!

Training employees for them to deliver better results has been a long standing principle of quality management.  Both Juran and Deming and later Ishikawa were very strong proponents of professional training. No one can really deny that training is important and must be done.  My issues are the what, why, who, when of training.

Paul Borwaski, CEO or ASQ, recently shared findings on professional training in quality as part of the ASQ’s Global State of Quality research. I am trying to respond here with my own observations (which is the my interpretation of research J )

What do we train about? And Why?

A lot of people I meet talk about strategic intent in training. We should train employees on what is strategic. It should be a strategic fit. You get what I mean.

We also want return of investment from training. While these are nice words to use, the truth is much more basic. Employee survey after survey shows that staff (the people who actually work!) are not happy with the training they get. While management teams keep arguing around strategic intent and return on investment from training, the recipient is actually worried about improving employability.

If we cannot improve employability of our staff then they will keep saying they need more training etc. Let’s face it. We all are interested in a better job. One way to get there is to be better trained for it. Most such training are expensive or just plain not available in the market. Staff depends on employers to provide this training. Obviously, no one is going to tell us this. They (just like you and i) don’t want employers to know that they are looking for a job. J

We train employees to get something out of them. A return. While this works with some employees (who are more reasonable) it does not work with most. Most employees would want the training they want first and then the training the company wants next. Now, I am not saying that all employees are unreasonable.

Also, I find it very amusing that almost all training these days are called Leadership something…Who is going to do the work? Who will follow if all of us become leaders?

Employers or management don’t train people for the right reasons. We just keep looking for return on investment.

Who gets trained and When?

I have seen a lot of people being selected for training and I notice two trends:

The same people get picked for almost all training

The best people seldom get picked (they are so busy!)

When a good training program is announced, invariably, we are not able to nominate our best people on it. Why? Because they are very busy running the shop. They are the ones who need training to progress in their careers but they won’t get it because they are working hard. Others, who are working lesser and are not as capable, keep getting nominated all the time.

Have you seen this happen? A training is announced and you look around – whom can I send? And the one who has no work gets selected. What is this person going to learn when he/she is anyway not working? They will only add this training on their resume and find another job. You are training your staff for your competition.

When do we train staff – at the end of the year when we realize our budgets are not utilized yet. Wouldn't it better to train employees early in the year? When they can use the training through the year and hopefully deliver results?

What can be done?

I have tried to stay clear of the above abuse of training. I select employees for training early and based on their merit and then ensure that they attend – even if they are busy. You could do the same and much more. If we all pitch in, training could be much more useful and strategic and it may well deliver a return on investment. And yes, our employees will be more employable.