Monday, June 13, 2011

The Improving Quality at Ford Motor Company

I wholeheartedly echo the observations of ASQ CEO Paul Borawski and Bennie Fowler, group vice president of quality at Ford, that quality must focus on more than product - it must focus on the entire customer experience  Like many Americans, I have experienced the cycle of quality doldrums and resurgence in the automotive industry; and in my case, particularly at Ford. My wife and I have been Ford owners ever since we first learned to drive – over 30 years ago. My first car was a 1970 Ford Torino; my wife’s first car was a Ford Maverick. We have owned Mustangs, Mustang II, Bronco IIs, Explorers, Ranger, Festiva, Aspire, Windstars, SportTrac, etc. We each, independently, made the mistake once of trying another brand, and we vowed never to repeat that mistake. My wife had purchased a brand new Jeep CJ7, and while it was fun to ride, a piston blew out at just 30,000 miles – and Jeep refused to cover the repair. I once owned a Toyota small pick-up, which I really enjoyed but had to give up as my family grew in size; and a 1/2 ton Dodge pick-up – that I absolutely hated. Today we own a factory-ordered windviel blue 2005 Mustang GT convertible and a 2008 Edge Limited (our second). We love them. Excellent design, styling, comfort, features, finish, and reliability.

Our lone complaint with Ford - all automotive companies really - is the lack of service competency and overall consistency among their dealer network. The service department at our local Ford dealer is deplorable. Very unpredictable. Rarely have they diagnosed and resolved a problem upon the first visit. They are just not customer focused. We have driven out of our way, to a different Ford dealer in another town, just to receive the level of service and customer focus we deserve.

I have the great fortune of having a neighbor who is the general manager of a car dealership for a competitive brand. His dealership is actually part of a network that owns car dealerships of just about every automobile manufacturer. Although I am not a fan of the brands at his dealership, my neighbor provides exceptional customer service – to everyone in our neighborhood. He cheerfully exchanges vehicles for a day, regardless of the brand, to take a neighbor’s car in for an oil change, warranty work (he drives the neighbor’s car to the authorized dealer), routine service, and even major repairs. Furthermore, all of his employees offer the same level of service for their family, friends, customers and neighbors.

We put our 2005 Mustang GT convertible in storage for the Minnesota winters. “Sally” (based on a 1966 song by Wilson Pickett) has never seen a snowflake. Every year for the last 6 years this same neighbor has provided me with a lease vehicle for the winter; sometimes new, sometimes gently used. Customer perceptions of quality are reality. While I am forever grateful to my neighbor for his creativity and resourcefulness to put me into these special lease vehicles, my experiences with the product quality of these other brands only further solidifies my brand loyalty to Ford Motor Company vehicles.

Now, please work on your dealer network performance to improve the Total Customer Experience!

Friday, June 03, 2011

Reflections on the 2011 WCQI

Though I was in Pittsburgh for the 2011 WCQI from Saturday, May 14 through Wednesday, May 18, I unfortunately was not able to attend as many presentations this year as I would have liked - but for a good reason - due to my involvement in a large number of other ASQ related activities and events. I have been a member of ASQ since 1985, and actively involved ever since that fateful night in the Statistics Division's hospitality suite during the 1989 AQC where I volunteered to serve as the division's Membership Chair. Since those early years I have gone on to serve two separate terms as Statistics Division Chair, ASQ Group Facilitator, MN Section Director, and for 2011-2012 the role of MN Section Chair-elect. My participation as a member leader in ASQ continues to be a very enriching and rewarding experience for my continued professional development, but also the opportunity to build my network of friends, peers, colleagues and global subject matter experts. My participation in ASQ and other professional societies has helped build my personal brand, "QualityBob".

I was able to catch several of the keynote addresses, and I offer here the nuggets that I took away from each of their presentations (Let me apologize in advance for any unintentional misrepresentations of the speakers' presentations):

Adm. Thad Allen, USCG (Ret.) -
Admiral Thad Allen served as the National Incident Commander for the unified response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (2010), was designated the principal federal official for Hurricane Katrina (2005), and coordinated the USCG assistance following Haiti's catastrophic earthquake and tsunami.

Allen employed many of the Baldrige Criteria in formulating his National Incident Response, and offered his perspectives of three recent catastrophic events. Below are my notes from his presentation.

Katrina -
  • Post-Katrina we got the problem wrong - all solutions were addressing the wrong problem... we were no longer battling a hurricane; rather, its after-affects.  We needed to treat Katrina's aftermath equivalent to a weapon of mass destruction having been inflicted on an innocent population unable to respond. Similar to a terrorist action - but with no criminality.
  • "No plan survives first contact with the enemy" - Eisenhower.  Lesson: Don't get stuck on stupid.
  • A major challenge was the temporary loss of government and lack of continuity. Everyone, every agency, was working independently.  Lesson:  We need teamwork, coordination and clear objectives.
Haiti -
  • Again, affects of the earthquake and tsunami were similar to having a weapon of mass destruction inflicted on an unsuspecting population without the means to respond.
  • Lack of processes to align all of the international support coming in.
  • Ports were damaged; needed to coordinate all traffic in/out of the lone airstrip, while respecting Haiti's sovereignty. Coordination increased in-bound flights from 16/day to 160/day.
Gulf Oil Spill -
  • The oil slicks were omni-directional and indeterminant
  • Highest priority was to cap the well to stop the flow of oil
  • Money was not the issue; rather, the allocation of supply-chain resources (e.g. booms, dispersants, volunteers, etc.)
  • Volunteers had passion, energy, vessels - but lacked an overall concerted plan.
  • Created processes to focus and coordinate the volunteers to go after the 10,000 oil patches.
In summary, Adm, Thad Allen reinforced that repeatable processes build competencies, capacity and organizational learning. With that said, Allen also pointed out that process and project improvement thinking alone will not solve all problems... consider "Black Swans" and "Wicked" problems. Black Swans - a theory introduced by Nassim Nicholas Taleb- are high-impact, rare events that cannot be predicted by past data. "Wicked problems" are complex problems for which solutions have not yet been developed, and are not susceptible to the normal software solutions.  To tackle such problems Allen suggests that organizations must develop clear objectives, develop emotionally-intelligent leaders and engage every team member.

J.J. Irani (Tata Steel) -
My main takeways were Mr. Irani's message concerning rewards and recognition to build a quality culture in Tata:
  • Financial rewards are given the the employee's spouse; and, recognition of the employee is public. (I did not hear any mention of how rewards are distributed to single individuals or non-married couples).
  • 'QUALITY ' = Quality Unites and Leverages Individual Talents,Year-upon-year.

Barbara Corcoran (Corcoran Group) -
A very high energy, enthusiastic speaker sharing her experiences while building a real estate empire.
  • Perceptions are reality
  • All the good ideas are on the outside [of the organization]
  • Don't under-estimate the power of recognition
  • "Shoot the dogs" early, but always value and respect the individual. Try to make the individual feel good about being let go.
  • Fun is good for business
  • Two kinds of people - "Expanders" and "Containers". Healthy organizations need both.
  • You have the right to be there. 

Rob Bryant (Computer Sciences Corp.) -
Master Black Belt and motivational speaker relating his personal triumph of overcoming paralysis after a 55-foot fall in 1982 to quality, safety and employee engagement.
  • Hard times do not dictate the outcome - you do.
  • Encourage people and replicate best practices, rather than punish
  • Don't cover-up mistakes; take ownership. Apologize.
  • Build partnerships.
  • 20% of employees are discouraged at work; the longer the employee service, the more/larger is the number of disengaged.
  • Build engagement through actions and deeds. Communicate, communicate, communicate.
  • Engagement = winning the hearts and minds of employee. 
  • Build employee esteem; best companies treat their employees like family.
  • Apply Lean first, then Six Sigma.  Lean gets rid of the junk. Six Sigma improves what's left.

The 2011 WCQI was another great event. I attended the Leadership Institute; tweeted about the WCQI for ASQ, participated in the Statistics Division's Tactical Planning session; delivered a paper at the ICQI conference-in-a-conference (on 3M's Process & Product Understanding - an example of statistical engineering); attended a few sessions, helped staff the Statistics Division booth, visited the STAT hospitality suite, and cheered on the 3M team in the International Team Excellence competition.

The city of Pittsburgh represented itself well.

I am looking forward to the 2012 WCQI - Anaheim, CA.