Saturday, November 22, 2008

Quality is about People

My passion is Quality. I started my 3M career 27 years ago as a Quality Assurance engineer. Early in my career I understood the need for data-based decision making, and the power of Statistical Thinking to ask the right questions to gain insight about the context by which the data were collected. The fundamental concepts of Statistical Thinking, as defined by the ASQ Statistics Division, are:
· All work occurs in a series of interconnected processes
· All processes have variation
· Knowledge and proper management of variation are keys to success

Early in my career Quality was all about the tools – the technical side of change; whether the program of the year was TQM, COPQ, SPC, ISO, MBQNA, Six Sigma, Lean, etc. However, through the years I have come to appreciate that while stable processes are indeed important to predictable, repeatable results, Quality is fundamentally about People. Employee engagement and customer focus are the real drivers to continual improvement, innovation and growth for sustained business success. People must commit to and be involved in the change process; an organization must mobilize their employee’s hearts and minds in order to embrace change and become adaptive and nimble.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

COPs, MOPs and SOPs

In my previous blog I introduced the topic of a Quality Management System. A "system" is comprised of a series of interconnected processes. A process is an activity that converts inputs into outputs. Processes have suppliers and customers - they may be internal or external to your organization. This week's blog introduces the concept of "key" business processes that comprise an effective Quality Management System.

Generally, we classify our business processes into three major categories: "Core" processes (also known as Customer-Oriented Processes - 'COPs') are the major processes that represent the core work of the organization and have a direct impact on the customer. Examples of core processes include:

  • Design & Development
  • Order Management (order entry and fulfillment, forecasting, Demand Planning)
  • Production (manufacturing, outsourcing, assembly, testing, etc.)
  • Invoicing
  • After the sale Service

The Lean philosophy introduces the concept of a Value Stream. Value Streams can be thought of as the key business process of a product/service; that is, a map of all the required processes to manufacture and deliver a product to the customer.

"Management" processes ('MOPs') are management areas of responsibility that enable core processes to be performed and have an indirect impact on the customer. Examples of management processes include:

  • Quality policy and objectives
  • Planning (Strategic, Operational, Tactical)
  • Resource management
  • Customer focus
  • Management reviews

"Support" processes ('SOPs') are all other processes that enable core processes and have an indirect impact on the customer. Some support functions, and examples of their processes include:


  • Supplier management processes
  • Requisitions
  • Request for Quote


  • Accounting; cost estimates
  • P&L analysis


  • Quality
  • HR
  • IT
  • Legal
  • Engineering

In its most basic definition, a "Key" business process is one that influences customer perception of our business. A "key" business process or Value Stream assures your business its competitive advantage. To be most impactful towards our strategic plan, Entitlement Quality and Lean Six Sigma must work synergistically to continually improve our key business processes and value streams.

The Role of Quality

Frequently heard questions these days of Six Sigma and Lean are, "What is the role of Quality? We already have a very active Six Sigma process - why do we need a Quality function? What is the role of a Quality Manager?"

These observations have very good merit, and evoke strong emotions. I have 27 years experience in product and business process Quality in a large, multinational US corporation, including 7 years manufacturing experience, manager of the Statistical Consulting center of excellence, Staff Quality Manager in Corporate Quality Services, Division Quality Manager for two different business units, and Senior Manager of Lean Six Sigma Operations. At it's most basic implementation Six Sigma is a problem solving methodology for breakthrough levels of improvement. Six Sigma is a project management system, a quality metric and a goal. In some applications, Six Sigma is also used to develop leadership - teaching future leaders how to use statistical-thinking when making data-based decisions. It is the way we get things done.

Whereas Six Sigma DMAIC and DFSS (DMADV) require the use of statistically-trained project managers / specialists (e.g. black belts, master black belts, etc.) to deliver breakthrough levels of improvement, these specialists typically account for less than 1% of the enterprise's total employees. DMAIC projects tend to focus on eliminating defects in a process; DFSS is a methodology to create new products and services. It is said that DMAIC can achieve up to a 5-Sigma level of quality for existing processes; Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) is used to create new products and services that deliver 6-Sigma, or better, levels of performance.

Lean is a philosophy of eliminating waste; it delivers incremental improvement by engaging every employee to continually improve his/her process. Eliminating waste and non-value add activity reduces cycle time, improves quality, eliminates inventory and improves business results.

Quality is the business process of managing variation around the expectations of our customers. Quality is often measured by business process excellence and product (service) performance as measured against tolerances and specifications. The producer may define Quality, but Quality is ultimately judged by the customer.

The role of a Quality Manager is to promote the process approach in facilitating the design and implementation of an effective Quality Management System to enhance customer loyalty and deliver expected business results. Key business processes and Value Streams need to be documented, understood, measured, and tracked for purposes of identifying strengths and weaknesses; gaps and opportunities. These opportunities should then feed the business improvement project hopper. Increasingly, the role of Quality is to protect the enterprise by assuring compliance to regulatory and statutory requirements, including industry-specific standards, Sarbanes-Oxley, safety, health and environmental. Quality works horizontally across an organization serving as the customer advocate, to protect the brand, and build customer satisfaction.

A critical success factor in any change initiative is frequent and open communication. Adoption of a Quality Management System is a strategic business decision by the Leadership Team. Constant communication to the employees about the status and progress towards the fusion of QMS with Six Sigma and Lean is important to setting goals and deploying objectives within the new business model.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Entitlement Quality

I define Entitlement Quality as the integration and fusion of several business and process improvement methodologies: ISO, DMAIC, DFSS and BPR (business process redesign). The goal of Entitlement Quality is to consistently deliver value as perceived by the customer, with zero waste or loss to the producer.