Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A slow and steady Tortoise won’t win the Quality race today


We all would have read the story about slow and steady Tortoise racing with the fast and energetic Hare/Rabbit. Who won?
It is time to revisit this story.
When Paul Borwaski, CEO of ASQ, posted earlier this month about the speed of change and the need for quality profession (and professionals) to respond I could hear my smile, loud.
What business expects from the quality profession is changing, if not already changed. Improvement cycles are much shorter and quality professionals who want to remain rigid about an established improvement methodology are soon finding themselves alone. Painfully alone.
In the last few weeks I have been involved in discussions around number of improvement projects and the duration of these projects. Where is the discussion headed?
2-4-12
So what is this 2-4-12? Quick improvements must be in place within 2 weeks, if not earlier. Improvements that need some analysis and change or stakeholder management have the luxury of 4 weeks. The truly unknown-solution projects that need using a structured DMAIC or A3 methodology will have 10-12 weeks. Anything beyond this is a dream.
Over the last few years I have spoken and written about the slow speed of quality professionals and how this leads to disenchanted Operations/Business managers. In my recent (Aug’12) article in Quality Progress I have highlighted how operations and quality are at ends of a spectrum when it comes to closing improvement projects. Operations would want improvements today (if not yesterday) and Quality professionals would want to do a thorough analysis at their own pace. The truth, of course, is somewhere in the middle.
So, is project speed the only response to the incessant demand from Operations/Business. NO.
I recently visited a Toyota plant near Bangalore with my team (banking operations). Our intent was to see a world class operation and bring back some ideas. Among the several questions we asked, one was – How do you manage your Six Sigma projects. The answer was something I won’t forget all my life.
The Head of Quality, V Ramesh, said – We have internalized Kaizen and PDCA to such an extent that we rarely need a long duration Six Sigma like project!
To the uninitiated – Kaizen is continuous improvement through small incremental change and PDCA (Plan – D0 – Check – Act) is a philosophy of reviewing all products and processes to keep improving.
The modern day Quality Hare/Rabbit has to be fast and never stop.  Bye bye Tortoise!

4 comments:

John Hunter said...

Visiting Toyota is a great idea. They do so many things so well. One thing that can confuse people is that they have a huge system (culture, training, tools, processes) build up that allows them to operate the way they do. It isn't as simple as copying what you see. You can learn from them but then need to adapt to where your organization is today.

Haresh Amre said...

A slow and steady tortoise may still win the Quality race today!

I would like to share few pointers on 2-4-12 weeks improvement perspective, as I find it incomplete.

I agree that meaningful quarterly progress is essential to verify effectiveness of any improvement projects; however it may not be feasible to achieve all the improvements within 12 weeks.

2-4-12 is a ‘sprint’ way of improvement. It can accommodate limited investment in the improvement project. Returns of improvement will be incremental by design and may be breakthrough by exception. There are improvement projects which will require ‘marathon’ approach considering scope, complexity and impact of change. One, who advocates PDCA and Kaizen, will explore DFSS when it comes to new product development. She won’t rush into releasing pre-mature products.

Every system has defined capability to absorb the rate of change along with its momentum of service delivery. This creates interference among the components of systems. Very simple example - a crash diet of 12 weeks can’t lead to sustainable weight loss, as certain threshold of energy is essential for living. There are ‘n’ numbers of examples where in spite of having new system in place organizations are still continuing with older systems.

Enemy of fast is not ‘slow change’ but ‘ineffective change’. It can be conqured thru ‘appropriate pace for effective change’. Appropriate pace for effective change depends upon systems ability to absorb change and run the operations simultaneously. Appropriate pace requires slowing down as well as moving fast as situation demands. Ask any marathon runner. As a process improvement & change management professional we should examine rate of change. Primary focus should be on identifying effective change opportunity and then setting appropriate pace of improvement.

TEXTILE CHAPTERS said...

Actually with fast changes in technology some industries required instant effective modifications for market shares, but it is not necessary every organization move forward and without estimating their demand and process capability. There are management tools for fast track movement, Being a textile and quality student I think same methodology addressed by author difficult to put on textile manufacturing industries with respect to their working environment. Automotive and Mobile, Computers are highly affected by tortoise behaviour.

Vijay Verma said...

2-4-12 way of improvmenet is ideal and we should try to achieve it; however it doesn't mean that Project with Long term and wider scope will not be a success. As per my understanding Project with wider scope and more than 12 weeks project need to showcase some Quick wins which will ascertain the sponsor to sell the project to the Top management. Now a days No one is interested in the project where all the results are realized only at the end of the project. Quick win deliverable are Key to the Continuous Improvement.