Feeling the Culture of Quality

Feelings – I believe that’s something I so closely associate with! When you are with your family and friends, your practical approach to life takes a back seat and the emotional quotient takes charge. It’s very natural when you are out of your work place and relaxing at home. Having an emotional quotient in the workplace is something which needs to be worked on. Tremendously. And this requires the simultaneous buildup of feelings of employees within an organization.

Paul Borawski, in his August blog on A View from the Q, presents a ‘feelings and culture’ perspective to quality health in any organization. I’ve always stressed endlessly how senior management goals and objectives play a towering factor in almost all things desired to be quality. Even Culture.

I work in a very money-oriented organization where management emphasis on quality is nearly non-existent. What do you think is the quality culture here? However, thankfully our Quality department (which includes me, of course!) has always thought otherwise and has put sincere, clandestine efforts to continually improve the system in the organization. There, I believe, exist the feelings, the passion to do business, my business. Putting it bluntly – that does not or did not change the culture. For me, culture remains a top management vehicle which carries like-minded professionals on board through imbibing a ‘good to great’ culture of quality. I think low quality-cultured professionals would thrive within high quality-cultured organizations, while a high quality-cultured professional would deteriorate within a low quality cultured organization, especially where his/her efforts go unheard or unnoticed by the responsible management! This is the hard ground reality.

Coming back to Paul’s blog post, there is no dearth of good quality professionals in the world. If the focus is on sustaining an existing quality culture, one of the major criteria for hiring professionals is to gauge the teamwork quotientwithin potential candidates.  One of my best virtues in developing our quality department has been the consistent and persistent emphasis on working as a team. This works wonders for our department and is in my opinion one of the most important criteria for sustainable quality culture within organizations!

Recently, I had been on a flight to Dubai by Emirates Airlines on business class. My jaw dropped at the end of the awesome experience I had on-board. They are the first airline in the world to provide in-flight telecommunications! Their customer service levels speaks volumes of the quality culture built in every aspect, every employee within the organization. This is possible first through strategic alignment of corporate goals by top management to every quality-cultured employee for implementation. Second by working focused towards this goal as a wholesome team, eventually integrating individual performances into overall company results.

Quality culture attributes, though unique to an individual in a certain location, are universally spread within quality professionals around the world. While one cannot hire a candidate with all cultural attributes, a team of unique-attribute professionals hired for a quality oriented organization is what I envision within my own.

Finally, I would like to share histrionics of a professional friend, Dr. Dheeraj Mehrotra, who has dedicated himself to ‘Quality in Education’ through the path of feelings and culture, inculcating them in the future youth of India. I am a fan and follower of this quality human being who is also the recipient of the National Teachers Award 2006.

Ciao.

Happy in the Quality field – A reality check…

Happiness is a state of mind, and the human state of mind is never constant. Paul Borawski’s post asking whether Quality professionals are happy on the job is a partial reverberation of the preceding post by Paul and the subsequent responses by fellow Influential Voices. How well each one of every quality professional across the world is able to Raise the Voice of Quality is a direct indicator of how happy and content he/she is. However, it is never constant.

If Forbes named software quality professionals as the happiest on the job, I see that quality professionals in general are not far behind on the happiness quotient. There are many inherent reasons behind this – Paul used some parameters (Interesting, Frustating, Rewarding, Challenging) to present job happiness based on which I would like to rate mine on 10, where 10 being the highest/best:

I’d give ‘Interesting’ an 8.0/10.0 – This is the best part about a Quality professional’s role. Our jobs demand quite a lot of variation, from interacting with literally all departments, divisions, projects sites across the company including interaction with suppliers and subcontractors- to role change from ensuring basic document control, developing critical procedures, conducting a quality audit, detecting a product defect at the right time, applying simple yet effective quality tools, preparing and analyzing quality reports, taking process improvement initiatives, solving a customer complaint, measuring customer satisfaction or just ensuring business processes are running efficiently. There’s so much to do yet it’s never enough. Another important aspect which makes this job all the more interesting is, we as quality professionals, need to be constant creative thinkers in order to ensure that continual improvement is really continuous.

For me, Frustrating’ would take a 6.0/10.0 although it varies from time to time, depending on the nature of the problem and the willingness of the management to involve themselves in finding a real quality solution. Quite often, there’s disappointment, but then haven’t we all learnt to bite the dust….?

‘Rewarding’ is an 8.0/10.0 – There’s nothing more rewarding than receiving a pat on the back from your superior for an improvement well executed. The sense of achievement is tremendous when fellow colleagues, managers and superiors look up to you for a sensible discussion to find a healthy solution to a particular quality problem at hand. Like I’ve always said to all newbies and professionals alike, money comes for those to work hard, smart and with sincerity, so I will not delve into it here.

A true quality professional would be one who stood ground on his beliefs in the most hostile situations. Whether he overcomes it or ‘bites the dust’ is secondary. Hence, Paul’s last parameter ‘Challenging’ goes for a 9.0/10.0. I take every quality problem as a challenge that needs to be overcome – this is in principle.

Realistically speaking, although I enjoy my job because I am extremely passionate about it, there are more occasions than one when I go into de-motivation mode. I think it’s the passion for the job that pushes me to take a step further and continue my journey of quality. And then there is Quality itself.

I have colleagues who have told me stories of blunder and the complete and continuous lack of commitment of the management to raise the bar of quality. I have told them one thing – ‘whether we remain or not, either now or 5 years down the road or 10 years down the road – Quality is Inevitable’. That’s my belief and that’s what makes me happy. The happiness of seeing the future around the world – A Quality world.

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.

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.

Scraping off the rough edges…

As we all enter into the new year, we strive to visualize a clearer, sharper future depleted of unpleasantries. Processing work 5 seconds faster, not devouring that one ounce of delicacy, spending 25 words more with family, etc – all minor adjustments to your KPI but having a telling effect on the results!

This new year, I would strive to perform better by visualizing every new problem as a window of opportunity. Major issues to focus on are:

1. Bringing quality to the Top Management

2. Building the Local Member Community

3. Learning from fellow quality professionals and vice-versa

4. Kaizen of work, home and life in general.

I am probably promising myself the same old resolutions of the past years, however the idea is to scrap off the rough edges, where they can be improved.

Happy New Year to all ASQ followers, particularly to all Influential Voices! Let us together strive to spread the essence of quality.