Quality: To sell or to do

I am sure Paul’s March blog post has brought back some pleasant and not-so-pleasant memories to many quality professionals across the world, reminiscing just what made them click with quality in their respective organizations. Some had a dream run, while the remaining many are still pushing the cart at a pace not many would envy.

Over my professional experience as a Quality consultant in the past and now as a full-time in-house Quality practitioner, I realized the one single factor that drives Quality in an organization is – Top management leadership and commitment. If the quality belief exists at the top, it will reflect in the bottomline, by default. The point here is even if you make the most saleable pitch on quality to senior executives and public officials and they buy in, what is the probability that they would be committed to it in the long run?

I liked what square peg Scott Rutherford said in his post “Quality sells best when it is integrated or created into an organization’s culture” – I say if it’s integrated or created into the organization’s culture, I see it sold already!  HOW to get it integrated and created into the culture of the organization is the 70 year old question.

Paul says in his post, “I know this question has plagued the quality community for close to 70 years”. And we still don’t have a universal answer to this question? Its clear there is something amiss. One of the main reasons I stopped selling quality few years back, and started what we call the Lead by example’ methodology. My passion for quality has not waned, only that I believe leading by example has far more power than just a sales pitch. It plants a belief system in people around you. It works for me. Now, I try to DO quality.

That’s probably the only sales pitch I found sustainable quality in.

Ciao.

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STEM has no steam?!

The month of February is usually very uninteresting to me every year, however, in his recent blog post, ASQ CEO, Paul Borawski has brought up something that has been on the back of my grey cells since after I completed my engineering back in 2001. And what better way to make my February fabulous than to blog about it!

First, congratulations to ASQ and particularly to Mr. Paul Borawski and his team for completing one year of effective blogging through the Influential Voices program and View from the Q. I believe this is an awesome medium of spreading the word of quality simply through connecting peers. Yet, as Paul mentions ‘But there’s more work to do ….’!

Coming back further to Paul’s blog, Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics or STEM was one of the most sought-after fields for students all over the world since time immemorial. Don’t get me wrong here when I say ‘sought after’, it does also mean ‘time consuming and difficult yet extremely interesting, rewarding and highly respectable’. The way I see it, is just the new packaging. I like the term ‘STEM’ though, the main body of all the worlds fields of education.

I have always loved Science, particularly biology and maths. I had dreams of becoming a surgeon which were eventually thwarted due to my unexpected ‘low score’, despite a high score, and also the regular round of jokes that I would probably leave a towel or scissor inside a patient before stitching ‘em up! Back then (1994 is not even too long ago), it was not about getting high marks or simply cramming books, it was the natural love of science that overcame the requirement to getting high marks and reading more books! I doubt that exists amongst the large section of students today. And if it still did, there’s a lot of evaluation to the pros and cons and cost benefits in the long run than just the passion for it!

Very close to reading Paul’s blog, I also came across this article of 31st Jan 2012 on the ASQ website, where an almost equal percentage of U.S. students wailed over:

(i)                 the cost and time to get a degree in STEM (26%),

(ii)               grades in STEM subjects not being good enough (25%) and

(iii)             STEM degree careers involving too much work and studying compared to other careers (25%).

Closer home – INDIA – STEM education used to live (and probably still does!) in every parent who saw their children educated and self-reliant. Ask any Indian parent about what they wanted their child to become, and the ready-to-kill answer was ‘Doctor or Engineer’! This, I realized over the years, had nothing to do with pure interest of the child, or a mature thought process involved in taking up the vocation. The result of this was abundance of mediocre level engineers at the end of the course. Despite this, nothing worth noticeable has been done to change the way engineering is looked at. Take a look at this – from my class of 63 engineering students (year 2001), roughly 60% of them are today in a profession totally different from what they basically did. More than half have become IT professionals of some kind or the other. Despite these alarming figures, I wished there were more competent engineers in India than anywhere else in the world, merely due to its population! India currently produces an annual bulk of 400,000 engineers by statistics, a major chunk shipping themselves to greener pastures, including me.

After some googling, I came across this very interesting research conducted by the Department of Energy Science and Technology of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Mumbai in 2008. This research report gives some valuable insights into science education in India. In India, the problem in question is not the lack of students taking up STEM education, but more of its degree of sustainability towards the field of education they pursue. Something has to be done to change this before it is too late.

Ciao.

The not-so Economic Case of Quality

Cost of Quality (COQ) is a subject I have longed to master in order to present the most accurate scenario to my management, however with negligible success. Working in the Middle East, I have never got the liberal opportunity to understand the benefits that a US-centric Malcolm Baldrige National Quality (MBNQ) program has to offer, yet Paul Borawski’s take on the value of quality in his recent blog, after decades of efforts (and still continuing) to push the importance of quality even in the 21st century, is not only a matter of debate but a matter of deep concern.

To continue to convince a convoluted top management the benefits that implementing quality has to offer, after decades of doing quality in all sectors possible in the world, improving product quality to the 6th sigma level, streamlining business processes, developing works-for-all international standards, etc. and the most sought-after benefit — saving billions of currencies across the length and breadth of the globe, makes me point in only one direction – Lack of Awareness.

Paul’s blog on finding answers to justify the importance and value of quality through the economic study on Baldrige Performance Excellence program is a tip of the ever-bulging iceberg. Despite this, the MBNQA was discontinued by the ‘enlightened’ US government. This, from a nation where Quality is considered a healthy priority in doing business, comes as a lightning jolt to me. Where on earth stands the rest of the world then, it makes me think.

It made me recall an ASQ white paper I had read, ‘Making the Economic Case for Quality’ by John Ryan which recognized a groundbreaking research called PIMS linking quality and financial results going way back in the 1970’s! “In the long run, the most important factor affecting a business unit’s performance is the quality of its products and services, relative to those of competitors.” – Buzzell and Gale said from their findings. Of further significance is the histogram on Page 4 of the study comparing performances of award-winning companies to those of control firms. Please find the time to read this enlightening white paper. I leave the rest for you to ponder.

[P.S: I would like to know which year was this white paper published. If someone could apprise me, would be greatly appreciated]

Another abstract paper I read on quality costing is here done by Steve Eldridge and Mohammed Balubaid, for those interested. It provides insights into difficulties encountered during quality costing and the use of knowledge management tools as a possible solution.

Looking from Paul’s insights based on the social value study, the above two studies and the countless economic cases of quality worldwide, what made the authorities throw MBNQA out of the budget window? Probably the same reason why many top management of companies all over the world look at a QMS from a non-value adding perspective.

Its lack of awareness, my friends. Simple. And that is the single most difficult part.

Ciao.

Resoluteness of Resolutions with PDCA

 

I don’t make New Year resolutions, have never made. I found the concept too dilute to take it seriously. However, I do plan for the year and for some bizarre reason, I don’t see New Year resolutions and my plan as the same. I think its something got to do with the conceptualization. I take my planning seriously, yet I don’t achieve 60-70% of it by the end of the year! As I said, it’s the planning that I take seriously, implementation goes for a toss midway! While achieving 30-40% of my plan does not sound like a World Cup win, I can coax myself into believing I did. And why not – every single minute of those 40% has witnessed the best in me. We all should bring out the best in us, if we have to achieve substantial results.

I have a few acquaintances who have had resolutions running like local shopping mall receipts – long! At the end of the year, the same lists are carried over to the next year with renewed vigor! This begins to become so routine that they tend to forget the real intention behind a resolution – To become Resolute, self confident, to improve! It is a tool to get closer to the Plan-Do-Check-Act cycle, to utilize the power of PDCA to maximum effect. You could say that my friends are following the PDCA cycle every year – they plan for a better year, do nothing about the plan, check whether all the plans are still there, and act to carry them forward to the next year with renewed vigor! But hey, would you like to subscribe to them?

I have only one thing to say, two actually. One – If you ARE making resolutions, write them down and display them in front of you all year around. Maybe in the office dashboard, at home at the door of your closet or your bedroom door. TWO – swear to yourself, you would bend all bones (of your body!) to strive to achieve them. Document achievements and failures alike and at the end of it, review their effectiveness. Sounds difficult? Actually it is. But without trying, you cannot even say it’s difficult, can you?

Now go get a pen and paper to do some serious resolutions, while I go for a resolute cup of Cappuccino!

Ciao.

Rooting for Root Cause Analysis

Let me admit, most quality people in the industry fail to effectively close out a nonconformity or a potential one, due to (obviously) ineffective root cause analysis on the problem at hand. In fact, this term is even conspicuously non-existent in the major part of the Middle East, except in a few miniscule numbers of companies, where serious quality takes precedence, in spite of the situation in the country.

Many would argue root cause analysis is an art. Agreed! However, in the same breathe it’s not rocket science either to not be able to perform a systematic one. Effective solutions are a result of effective root cause analysis. Watch this educative video on cause and effect and enjoy the benefits.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Cause and Effect Analysis – Fishbone, posted with vodpod

My quality journey, my role with ASQ & why I chose to join ASQ Influential Voices?

Me, myself and ASQ! That’s what I would be talking today – my first official blog post for ASQ’s Influential Voices Program. Thank you ASQ for inviting me on this opportunity to express myself on quality issues to the world of quality. I’m thrilled to perpetuity!

If you think Quality is one of the easiest and THE ‘get away with’ jobs in the industrial world, go take a dip in the Ganges to wash this sin off your chest. It’s a sin to say that, think that! Think again.

But wait, I ain’t saying it’s the toughest job in the world either. It’s actually similar to a laughing gas kind of reaction when you are crying – you are forced to laugh when you are actually crying. In quality, you DO what no one wants you to do – check on other people’s crap. But then ‘you got to do what you got to do’, as they say! Throw some weight around, concoct a procedure, marinate with a quality form and serve it to the process owner!  Viola! You can’t stop flattering about your culinary skills.

The process owner? The least.

Quality is not about throwing your weight around, because you can! Quality is a lot of responsibility, needs a lot of ethical conduct and perseverance to see the results down the years! The Japanese are proud producers of the most economical yet quality personified cars in the world, because of their perseverance over a number of decades!  Toyota has gained iconic status in the quality world, and I stand by its ideals. Till death do us apart.

My Early Days

For reasons I realized over a period of time, I have always had a strong affinity for things quality. Things I did at a young age, like:

  • Ensuring a perfect hairdo at my hair cutter
  • Making all people in the house wash their hands before touching food
  • Giving taste feedback to my mom while cooking a delicacy
  • Suggesting my teacher to give ‘awake’ times during chemistry classes (half the class used to fall asleep!)
  • I couldn’t tolerate hair on the floor! I used to freak out if I saw long women’s hair on the floor. They look far more worthwhile on a deserving head!

Realization

Naïve I would say for most of the above, yet when I grew up and found ‘professional’ Quality, I realized I was already in touch with its basics at a young age; quite a few of us are! I think I was lucky to have been cultured since my childhood that way. All said, I had not the faintest clue I would be making a career out of ‘disturbing other peoples comfort zones’. It is true – when people are asked to do things a certain way to improve, its difficult from the word go. It’s their comfort zones we are messing with.

My earliest stint with Quality was in India (2003) where, while working as a Processing Engineer, I was asked to develop procedures for our laminated and insulated glass processing unit as part of our ISO 9001 QMS development program. While, I didn’t much enjoy the documentation, I realized how important it is to document processes in order to ensure standardization. This little experience laid the seeds of a career in a field I would want to spend the rest of my life in.

The following year I landed in Kuwait only to work on a QMS development-implementation project with on-the-job training. This in-depth experience with the nuances of the standards and the requirements of developing a good system reverberated my thoughts of a career in quality. From here on, there was no looking back!

ASQ and me

I have to proudly admit that ASQ is special to me. Throughout my progress and success as a quality professional, ASQ has been my greatest motivation. I still remember the day when my then boss (now ASQ Country Councilor for Kuwait) first gave me a copy of the Quality Progress magazine, which I read in its entirety in a few hours! Every corner of the magazine dripped quality and I am still relishing the merits of this ‘amrit! From being a follower of ASQ in 2004-2005 to becoming a member and now super-supporter of ASQ and its quest to spread the body of quality across the globe, it’s been a journey full of valuable experiences.

Today, after a good number of years of quality experience, to being honored as one of the ‘40 New Voices of Quality‘ and now as one of ASQ’s Influential Voices blogger, I owe the greater part of my professional success to ASQ and everything that it stands for. Thank you ASQ and its able team of professionals for providing me, at various points of my career, the light that I always look up to! I wish this light continues to guide me and newer professionals passionate about quality towards their own successes.

Why be an Influential Voice?

ASQ has always focused on permeating the essence of quality globally, and I believe this is one medium which can mass-contribute towards ASQ’s commitment to quality awareness worldwide.

Being in a region (Middle East) where people simply don’t get the basics of quality right, it definitely needs a greater push than the usual. And I am humbled to have been invited to this opportunity by ASQ to offer my sensibilities on quality and related issues. Plus, with adequate networking, we can reach the masses to greater effect.

With this as a midpoint, I am hopeful my journey of quality continues to grow longer and wider, and provide some perspectives to fellow practitioners and newbie’s.

Stay tuned.