Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hire wisely and stick to core values for a Quality Culture


Quality Culture is a complicated topic. Even more complicated than leadership. And I often say leadership is over-hyped. Is quality culture over-hyped then? No.

Earlier this month, Paul Borwaski asked some quality culture related questions. My only worry as I respond is – Is quality culture any different from a sound business culture or a customer focused culture? It surely is different from a cost-focused culture or a punishment oriented culture.

I am a firm believer in culture of improvement and a no-tolerance for poor quality mindset. This is to me is quality culture. I have written about excellent service and the need to recruit for attitude earlier last year.  I also wrote on the service and culture related troubles of Kingfisher Airlines earlier this year. Both these posts indicate the importance of a service culture. I would anyday hire for a service attitude over more than required knowledge. I have done this in the past and will continue to do so.

Hiring for culture has to include a lot of open ended questions in interviews and a thorough background check. What to look for?

Flexible approach while adhering to core values – many candidates are so eager to agree with whatever the interviewer says that they commit the equivalent of suicide – indicate that they will compromise on values.

Customer is important but we don’t have to say Yes all the time – in our pursuit to please the customers we run the risk of setting un-reasonable expectations. I have noticed that very often customers are unhappy because they did not receive a service that they have previously received. Everyone forgets that the earlier service was an exception.

Calm and composure compared to hyper-excitement. Just as reduced variance is a goal for Six Sigma, steady performance is the corner stone of a quality culture. We can perform steadily only when we are calm. Over excited candidates is high risk in a quality culture. Now, don’t get me wrong – I am all for cheerful and pleasant staff. I just avoid staff that would jump around.

Desire to diligence to learn – Knowledge gaps can always be addressed. When I interview candidates I allow them to decide the areas I should ask them the technical questions from. This tells me their comfort levels with the technical topics of quality and also about what is their self-awareness level. Some candidates say they know control charts well but can’t explain the Control Limits.

How to kill a quality culture? Like Integrity, while it will take years to build it, it will take only one incident to damage it. While management and staff build Quality culture together, it is killed by management not by staff. Management fails to take decisions when early signs of damage show up and then the tear just don’t stop.

When do you know when you are in a good quality culture? When you head your staff talking on behalf of the customer. If we fail to encourage this behavior we can say goodbye to quality culture.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Quality and Social Responsibility - Twins?



What does Quality and Social Responsibility have in common? Both have been around a while and both are often neglected. And companies that embrace them – Win.

Paul Borwaski, CEO of ASQ has posed an interesting question on his blog - tell me how you’re making the case for quality and social responsibility. And if you’re not—why?
I have often wondered, albeit in jest, that when we work for quality we are actually deploying a very strong social responsibility as citizens. I know most of us work to make a living and to take care of a family. But why did we choose quality (for those of us who did choose)?  

There is an inherent lack of immediate results in working for quality that is so similar to working for Social Responsibility. Also, even though very sound logic exists, professionals in both fields have to keep convincing the management of the longer term utility of these fields.

I have made a choice to make a case for quality by not (usually) accepting poor quality products and services and to make my voice (complaints) heard. I have made a choice towards Social Responsibility by devoting significant time to volunteer activities in quality and talking to young quality professionals. I am sure most of you do much more.

My belief is, and I could be naïve, if all of us make some simple but sustainable choices about our commitment to quality and social responsibility, the world could be a far better place than it is. Look for what you can commit to and then stick to the course.