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.

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