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.

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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.

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 Cost of Quality’ Disaster Stories

I wanted to follow up my latest post on ASQ CEO, Paul Borawski’s blog, with a compelling video. After some searching, I came across this very inspirational video giving a snapshot of the gigantic amounts of loss caused due to that one single ignored quality process. Do take a look, and post your thoughts in the comments box.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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.