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!