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Showing posts from 2012

Deliver more for a Raise

Writing about what we get paid or should get paid is a tough ask.  If I argue for a raise, I could be called unreal in tough times; if I argue about no raise, I could be called insensitive to my team; if I ask for a reduction, I am plain mad. Inspite of these risks, Paul Borwaski, CEO of ASQ, has asked this question on his blog. It is possible he has been in a Christmas mood a bit too early. Jokes apart, talking about salary is sensitive and best avoided. But I will take the risk. Our salaries increasingly depend on what quality function we manage and what outcomes we deliver. Also, how tough are we to replace? Demand and supply law of economics works almost everywhere, and I think it does perfectly well for us as well. Firstly, I believe there is no longer a shortage of qualified (read certified) quality professionals and this reflects in stagnant wages for the last year. Black Belt certification is now a commodity and Lean is seen more as a sub-set of Six Sigma than a separate improve…

Right to Quality

We are in the World Quality Month. Earlier this month, I had written to ASQ India members encouraging all of us to take a further step in raising the voice of quality. My mentor and a Quality Guru, Suresh Lulla wrote back challenging me to do something special this month.
In response, I decided to act on my long standing desire to ‘talk’ quality to school students. I was able to convince two schools to let me conduct a session for senior (grade 11 and 12) students.
The talk was titled ‘Right to Quality’ and was delivered to 41 very patient students on 24 Nov 2012 in Bangalore. The participating schools were Presidency School and St. Paul’s School.
So, what is Right to Quality?
The core message of my talk to students was – If you want good quality delivered to you; begin by delivery good quality in whatever you are doing. It is only through this dedication and action for excellence that we can progress as a nation.
I included basic information on Juran, Deming, and Ishikawa in an effort …

Applying Quality Improvement to Quality

Firstly, I hope you are celebrating World Quality Month in November. I know, some will argue that Quality should be celebrated through the year and not on a day or in a month. I normally see that as an argument for not doing anything. I would rather use this month to raise the voice of quality than argue over a utopian scenario. Please go ahead and try to raise the voice of quality. We need a lot more voices than we have.
Paul Borwaski has this month posed an action oriented question – What can we do to accelerate the rate of adoption of quality?
This is a global priority and Paul has rightly indicated that instead of waiting and praying it will help if we do something about it. Here are some thoughts I have and I am sure you all have many more.
Have more Quality Heroes (mini-gurus)
There won’t be another Juran or Deming. Period. But there can be other lesser gurus or heroes. What are we doing to discover, encourage, and promote these heroes. ASQ did an interesting study in 2010 on New V…

Quality of Design - The Holy Grail of Quality

Paul Borwaski has asked a question - how well understood and embraced are the contributions of the quality professional beyond what is traditionally thought of as the quality function? 
Expectation vs Reality Let’s try to encapsulate how the quality function is understood ‘traditionally’. The lack of attributable empirical evidence allows me to rely on conversations with veterans in the quality profession and on my experiences gathered over the years, these seem to suggest that a quality function is expected to be – Proactive but is perceived as reactive Quick as a hare but is considered to be slow as a snail  Pragmatic but is often accused of being riddled with theoretical ideologies Quality function is expected to be forward looking but is usually found looking in the rear view mirror.
Although a quality function is most active within mainstream activities in either manufacturing or service provisions, inherent practices are agile and adaptable.
Common knowledge clearly shows that …

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 pro…

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 i…

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…

Juran Trilogy in Service Quality

How often have you not purchased a product when the accompanying service was not upto your expectations?  I am sure, several times.  As a keen observer of how I, my family, and others purchase products, I am convinced that increasingly we purchase a product as a package – with the accompanying service.  To add to this we buy a range of services regularly.  Are we then primarily buying services of products?  While writing about quality at Ford, in June 2011, I asked if Ford was a Service company or manufacturing one
This month Paul Borwaski, CEO of ASQ, highlights this question as well.  His question is inspired by a recent Conference Board paper on Answering the Conference Board CEO Challenge. While some wonder if we are predominantly a service economy, I think we are already in one. Unless we are buying iron ore or defense aircrafts.
So what are the things we buy? Groceries, Utilities, Clothing, Food, Entertainment, Phones, Cars… You get the drift.  Most of these products are si…

Quality in Government Services…Need for A National Quality Mission

I am certain all of us have had mixed experiences with government services.  Mostly poor experiences.  I am not even talking of the roads built, the schools it runs, or the hospitals it manages. Services that have a government monopoly (or near monopoly), such as electricity distribution, municipal maintenance, land records, vehicle registration, passport, identify related services etc, are ridden with very poor levels of services and often high levels of corruption.
Paul Borwaski, CEO of ASQ, has used his powerful pen (in this case keyboard) to highlight this issue of poor quality in government service. He has given voice to what we all know and feel on a regular basis. In most developing countries (including India) we see this poor service and corruption in a more brutal and magnified way. While I am least qualified to try and understand what causes corruption, I surely can have a view on poor processes in government services.
Lack of competition. This, in my view, is the single mo…

Quality professionals and Happiness at Work

As always, Paul Borwaski came up with an interesting topic for discussion this month. Are Quality Professionals happy on the job?  This is a question that psychologists and researchers would love to address. I don’t have such skills and don’t even want to try a research based approach to this question. However, what I do have is some observation and conversation skills. That’s what I did and here are some key points I noted, in no order or priority.
Happiness is a complicated topic and this complication applies to people in the quality profession the same way as it does to others. We have no reason to believe we are either blessed or disadvantaged. I find almost the same proportion of people happy (or unhappy) in quality as I find in others.Quality professionals appear to be happy when they are involved in improvement projects and their inputs are valued and appreciated. I have come to realize that a quality professional generally is more emotional than the ones in sales and operation…

What can Apple and a Street Vendor teach us about selling Quality?

While trying to answer the question, How to Sell Quality? I looked around me for examples of how other successful sellers sell their wares. Wait, this is not very creative and I have never made any claim whatsoever that I am a creative person. In most cases it is sufficient to learn from what is already being done.
In recent years one of the most successful sellers has been Apple with its range iEverything. What do we learn from Apple? Many things. But, the most fundamental lesson is – have a real good product, which is really well designed and addresses a need that even the customer may not be aware exists.
At the other end of the spectrum are fruit and vegetable vendors down the street who do a marvelous job of selling. They stock their wares in a way that is attractive and remember the specific needs of regular customers. And most such vendors have never gone to school!
So, how do we sell quality? Let’s look at some lessons from Apple and a Street Vendor.
Know who your customer is…

Kingfisher Airlines: You can have fun IN business but not make fun OF business.

I know it is easy to be prophetic in hind sight but in Kingfisher’s case symptoms of troubled times have been around for over a year. And this has nothing to do with government policy and everything to do with poor management and even poorer leadership.  An indicator of all this was how Kingfisher responded to my complaint about baggage damage last year.  It was a small incident but it clearly conveyed to rot that had set in.
So, what can we learn from this debacle (though I sincerely hope Kingfisher roars back soon)?
Don’t have fun all around when your business is bleeding. Kingfisher went around buying F1 team and IPL teams when their airline business was bleeding. I know Vijay Mallya will say these are separate business but employees and customers don’t see it this way. You can’t be attending parties and having a gala time and let your business bleed. Get up and do something about it.
If you have to trust your son with business, please check for competence first. Clearly, Mallya sen…

STEM Education for Better Quality of Life

Paul Borwaski has an amazing talent to pop the right question at the right time. Being CEO of the American Society for Quality (ASQ) does help, I guess. This month, on his blog, View from the Q, Paul has posed a very timely question around education in STEM – science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. This is timely because across the world young students appear to be moving away from STEM to counting money. Not realizing, it is more fun making things that make the money than counting them!
There is no greater thrill than building that bridge across the river that will help 1000s reach their villages faster, building that spaceship that will explore our galaxy, develop that medicine which will cure cancer and AIDS, solving age-old mathematics problems that may pave the way for lightning fast communications, building the technology that will make the next Avatar movie, building the next ride at Disneyworld. And the list is endless.
Why are students moving away from STEM? Or wh…

Qimpro Platinum and Gold Standards – Each winner is a story of selfless service and commitment to quality

How would you react if you saw the following awarded for their commitment and leadership towards improving the quality of life:
A committed soul who quit his job to start a university for tribal and has built it into the world’s largest such institution for tribalsA doctor who could not see the pain of the hundreds of terminal cancer patients whom he had to send back home and will set up a hospice to help such patients die with no pain and more peaceA business leader of an Indian business group which has deep roots in business that change lives of customers and employees, a business that invests in education and is a pillar of trust
The leaders mentioned above are Dr Achyuta Samanta, Founder, KIIT & KISS (Kalinga Institute), Dr L J de Souza, Managing Trustee, The Shanti Avedna Sadan, and Mr Adi Godrej, Chairman, Godrej Group, winners respectively of the Qimpro Platinum Standard 2011 for Education, Healthcare, and Business.

Qimpro Gold Standard for 2011 was awarded to Prof M S Pillai,…

Proposing: A marriage of Quality and Finance

ASQ’s CEO, Paul Borwaski, has posted a very interesting piece on his blog this month. I won’t steal his thunder. Read it here…
While Paul has anchored his post on his favorite (and mine too) Baldrige program, the point he makes is far-reaching.  If quality is valuable to a company, what is this value? Unlike, usual responses which use twists of the English language to try and avoid answering what this value is, there are a couple of economists who have ascertained that the Baldrige program returns upto 820 times to one! If you don’t believe me or Paul, you are welcome to check the study here.
Honestly, I am not surprised at the magnitude of returns Baldrige provides, what is interesting is that finally there is interest and action on bringing Quality and Finance together. Dr. J M Juran was right (as he was on whatever he said!) when he said quality needs to speak the language of senior management (money) to succeed.
As a quality professional and assessor of business excellence programs …