Sunday, December 18, 2011

2011: Quality in Review

In his year-end post, Paul Borawski offers his perspectives of some positive and negative events in the field of Quality and asks for your examples of successes and disappointments in Quality.

Like Paul, I am disappointed that the federal government chose to discontinue its funding of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Program. As a Baldrige Evaluator for the State of Minnesota, I have seen first hand how the Criteria have helped many diverse organizations - including manufacturing, healthcare, education, retail, banking and services improve their overall business performance results. Fortunately, the Baldrige Foundation and many state and regional programs will be able to transition the program to the private sector. In my view, the National Award is less important than continuing the application - review - visit process such as that which exists in the Minnesota state program where every applicant gets a site visit.

Other positive news on the Quality front is the movement to sustainability, corporate social responsibility and Total Customer Experience. These foci, along with Hoshin kanri planning, are successfully elevating Quality into the C-suites of businesses and organizations for truly impactful and differentiating performance improvement. Demonstrating the important role of repeatable processes for innovation and growth is another exciting opportunity for the Quality professional. I am extremely proud to see that my employer, 3M, long highly regarded for its unparallelled product quality, is once again recognized as one of the world's most innovative companies - ranked #3 in Forbes (April 2011) based on survey responses of more than 450 innovation executives at more than 400 different companies around the globe.

As the Chair-elect for ASQ Section 1203 I am also extremely pleased with changes the Executive Board and our committees are making in the MN Section.  A significant outcome of our 2008 Long Range Planning process was a redesign of our Board, strengthening our focus on member recruitment and development. And, the MNASQ website was recently redesigned to improve communications with our members. In July 2011 the MNASQ Board completed another round of Long Range Planning (LRP) where we incorporated several tools and approach that I brought from my many years of service to the ASQ Statistics Division (Chair 1999-2000 and 2002-2003). We also incorporated the Hoshin X-matrix, A3s and Bowler scorecard. The MNASQ LRP participants identified seven key strategies for the next 3-5 years, prioritized our annual strategies for the current fiscal year, and assigned project owners to our key tactics. The Section's Mission and Vision statements were revised to emphasize "community" and "total customer experience". I am very excited by the Program Committee's plans for the annual MN Quality Conference that has been re-designed and re-purposed as the Professional Development Summit. The MN ASQ Section is also sponsoring an invitation-only Executive Roundtable where local executives and senior quality leaders will discuss, in a non-competing peer-to-peer format, common challenges and solutions as per the ASQ 2011 Future of Quality study. The MN Council for Quality and Manufacturers' Alliance are co-sponsoring this unique event with MNASQ.

2010-2011 has been a challenging year for the US and global economies, but I am confident that the global Quality community's influence will only continue to grow in breadth, depth, and impact. I look forward to exciting opportunities in 2011-2012 and the years ahead.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Raising the Voice of Quality - World Quality Month

In his November 2011 blog post, ASQ CEO Paul Borawski states, "The biggest barrier quality faces is making people understand that excellence doesn’t just happen. Excellence isn’t good intent. Through quality, excellence is available to everyone." Paul asks every Quality professional and evangelist to raise the voice of quality during World Quality Month.

I have the distinct pleasure of working for a company with a solid reputation for innovation, quality and social responsibility. 3M and many of its brands like Post-it®, Scotch™, etc., are recognized the world over for quality products that help our customers succeed. Our corporate Quality Policy is "Deliver the Promise". We are well aware that today's sophisticated, savvy customer expects and demands quality; that is, quality is a given. Customer loyalty today is earned through an engaged customer - a customer that advocates and recommends your products and service.

3M's quality culture has been nurtured for over 109 years, born out of William L. McKnight's principles. More recently, James McNerney became 3M's CEO in late 2000 - the first 3M CEO from outside the organization. Mr McNerney is credited with bringing Six Sigma to 3M based on his positive experiences in GE, to enhance our already strong quality improvement approach and as a methodology to develop our future leaders. After leading 3M for a short while, and having met with many of our biggest customers, McNerney revealed a key learning of his own... that our customers genuinely like us!  Jim reinforced to 3M employees just how precious and unusual this level of customer advocacy is... and that it must be preserved and continuously improved for competitive advantage and performance excellence. 3M's current CEO, George Buckley is leading the resurgence of customer-inspired innovation, and 3M growth through customer success.

In recognition of World Quality Month, let's re-dedicate our commitment to customer-focused quality  to deliver Total Customer Experience. Experience Quality is the new frontier of excellence. A frontier ripe for the new generations of quality leaders to exploit for the benefit of humanity.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Celebrating World Quality Month

In his October 2011 blog post ASQ CEO Paul Borawski asks, “How is it that you came to be passionate about quality?” and “How will you help in your country to observe and celebrate the importance of quality?”.

I thought I would share my story in a home video created on my Flip Video™ Camcorder and edited using Camtasia Studio software.

ASQ recently announced the new World Quality Month website: November is designated as a worldwide celebration of quality – a time to showcase the advancements and valuable quality contributions in businesses, communities and institutions. Visit this site often to learn about quality tools and techniques, heroes and the stories of quality in practice everyday, and World Quality Month events.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Quality and Business Performance Achieved Through Constancy of Purpose

In the September 2011 posting to A View from the Q, ASQ's Managing Director Laurel Nelson-Rowe asks, "Do you think companies must sometimes (often? regularly?) undergo radical organizational change or substantial economic shifts to get back to the rigorous quality systems?"  I recently completed my annual Baldrige Evaluator refresher training for the MN State Quality Award. I believe that the Baldrige Criteria contain all the elements necessary and sufficient for sustainable organizational success. The Criteria are based on key learnings adopted and synthesized from role model organizations in the following 7 categories:
  1. Leadership (120 pts)
  2. Strategic Planning (85 pts)
  3. Customer Focus (85 pts)
  4. Measurement, Analysis, and Knowledge Management (90 pts)
  5. Workforce Focus (85 pts)
  6. Operations Focus (85 pts)
  7. Results (450 pts).
Rightfully, Results and Leadership are the two most important categories in the Baldrige Criteria. Results are the ultimate benchmark of organizational performance; Leadership is critical for sustained results.  Simply stated, leaders must lead.  The successful leader is able to create and communicate a compelling vision that unifies and aligns the organization to common goals. Authors Roger Conners and Tom Smith (Oz Principle and Journey to the Emerald City) state that leaders must create a culture and create the experiences (i.e. model the behaviors) that foster beliefs and drive actions to produce the desired results for competitive advantage.

During Laurel Nelson-Rowe's interview with Terry Woychowski, GM's VP of Global Quality & Launch, Terry shared the 3 P's of GM's emerging culture: Promise, Personal, and Performance. I agree that quality is personal. Personal accountability is enabled through an engaged workforce. Effective leaders understand the need to monitor and improve employee satisfaction and build employee engagement. Delivering the Promise is achieved through personal accountability, teamwork and aligned processes. One can often accurately assess process performance, product quality and organizational health by a site visit. For example, evidence of poor housekeeping or unsafe practices are often symptomatic of uncontrolled processes, lack of personal accountability and ineffective leadership. If an organization lacks respect for its employees, (or individuals for their peers and colleagues) then what am I to infer about its/their commitment to quality processes, products, or service?

Though I am an unabashed Ford man, I sincerely wish GM a successful comeback and sustained performance. The automotive industry is a bell-weather of the US economy.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Baldrige Blues

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science recently voted not to fund the Baldrige Program for fiscal year 2012. Everyone agrees that the U.S. Government must drastically cut its spending to reduce our national debt. However, not all spending is the same; not all dollar-for-dollar cuts are equal. The Baldrige Program costs just $10M per year; its return on investment is estimated at $25B in benefits to the U.S. economy. I agree with Paul Borawski that model programs such as Baldrige ought to be "showcased not eliminated."

The Baldrige Program is a proven systemic management framework helping organizations achieve performance excellence. Senior leaders use the Baldrige Criteria to build and sustain an organization focused on continual performance improvement, accomplishment of strategic objectives, innovation, and organizational agility. In today's world of a recessionary global economy, low growth and a highly erratic stock market many organizations lack the confidence to hire for growth. Spending is again significantly curtailed in order to preserve cash, similar to what we experienced in 2009 when Cash was King.

What is needed now is a roadmap to growth and profitability; a framework that is the Baldrige Program. Given today's economic environment, businesses need to remember the key teachings of the Deming Chain Cycle: do not pursue cost reduction for cost savings sake; rather, focus on delivering customer value through quality and productivity improvement. Institutionalize constancy of purpose and view quality as a competitive strategy. Customer-focused quality improvement will result in less waste and scrap, improved productivity, lower costs, increased customer satisfaction, more market share, more growth... and more jobs.

I encourage everyone to contact your elected government officials to save - and expand - the Baldrige Program.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Quality - Past and Present

In his latest blog post Paul Borawski asks two questions pertaining to the past and future of quality and ASQ.

Does the quality community bear some responsibility for making sure its philosophic foundations are not lost to history?
As a Certified Manager of Quality / Organizational Excellence (CQM/OE) and a Certified Quality Engineer (CQE), I always felt that ASQ over-emphasized the importance of being able to match the Quality guru with his contributions to quality philosophy in its certification exams. Quality philosophy, principles, tools and methods are bedrock. In this age of the internet, powerful search engines exist that provide almost instantaneous global access to man's acquired, accumulated knowledge. Social and professional networking tools such as wiki's, websites, webinars, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, microblogs, etc., offer unlimited access to case studies, best practices, benchmarking, discussion boards, tools, templates, and global collaboration with knowledge experts. In addition, there are numerous, prestigious awards that honor and perpetuate the memory and philosophy of the quality gurus. More important, I believe, is ASQ's role and value proposition to couple and disseminate quality theory, philosophy, and principles with continuous improvement methods and tools, organizational and project management skills, team dynamics and interpersonal communication skills, change management, leadership principles, and organizational design to empower individuals and organizations to achieve excellence. Knowledge of what to do, and how to do it are only part of any solution. A good plan poorly executed is no better than no plan at all. Flawless execution is what separates the winners from the losers; and, execution requires more than just an understanding of how to use a tool.

What do professionals under the age of 35 see as the future of quality?
I am not a member of this demographic, but my role in 3M has me teaching, coaching and consulting many younger professionals as well as seasoned experts. In more recent classroom discussions of "Quality" many of the younger professionals cite customer focus, defect-free features, entitlement thinking, reliability, speed, and end-to-end value stream performance. Definitions of Quality range from the traditional "Conformance to Requirements" (Crosby), "Fitness for Use" (Juran), "Delight the Customer", "Loss to Society"(Taguchi), etc. but on a more personal level I hear phrases like service, community, social responsibility and sustainability.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Creating a Culture of Accountability to Drive Statistical Thinking

Peter Drucker, famed management consultant, is credited to have been the first to say, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast". I frequently recommend the book Journey to Emerald City by Roger Conners in organizations I am involved with, to help the leadership team understand their role in driving change. This book was written in 1999 and is just as relevant today as it was 12 years ago. (

Albert Einstein stated that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. If we want to create a customer focused, statistical thinking, run-to-target culture, our leaders and key influencers ("key hubs" - the hidden organization - must not just give casual lip service to run-to-target expectations in presentations and reviews, but must model the desired behaiors. They must create the experiences that will change beliefs and actions (accountability) to deliver the expected results. For example, managers and leaders must end the practice of reacting to two data points; instead, look for patterns, trends and shifts in the data, then investigate for deeper root causes. Management, leaders and key hubs must model this practice in their day to day activities.

Roger Conners writes, "Getting people to take the right action is not accomplished by command and control, rather by engaging their hearts and minds in fulfiling the purpose of the organization... Ernest Hemingway said never to mistake motion for action. Motion produces activity. Action produces results... The distinction between motion and action underscores the need to have people assume accountability for producing results." Roger Conners further explains the four steps to accountability as: See It, Own It, Solve It, and Do It, and in his book Journey to the Emerald City, Roger Conners illustrates how the main characters in The Wizard of Oz apply the Steps to Accountability representing Above the Line actions and thinking versus Below the Line habits of thought and behavior.

Personal Accountability is the central message in John G. Miller's book QBQ! Question Behind the Question. ( Personal Accountability means avoiding the blame game and not playing the victim.

Miller offers three simple guidelines for asking better questions. He says that QBQ's:

  1. begin with "What" or "How" (not "Why," "When," or "Who"); 
  2. contain an "I" (not "they," "them," "we," or "you"); 
  3. focus on action.

Where have you seen good examples of managers and leaders modeling the behavior of statstical thinking?

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Do You Have "Good" Inventory, or "Bad" Inventory?

Imagine Glinda the Good Witch of the North (Wizard of Oz movie) observing your current value stream when she encounters piles of inventory. To each inventory bucket she would ask, "Are you good inventory or bad inventory?" Not all inventory is equally bad; some inventory is necessary given the current lack of flow and synchronization in your end-to-end value stream. Lean principles and industrial engineering tell us that inventory is an outcome of a lack of speed; and, eliminating inventory frees up cash that can otherwise be used more effectively elsewhere in your organization to generate growth. Unfortunately, many process improvement teams erroneously treat inventory as a critical 'x' in their Lean Six Sigma projects to improve value stream performance.  As a result many improvement teams focus on reducing the piles of incoming materials and/or finished goods inventory - by working with their supplier base to adopt vendor managed inventory, and/or working with their customers to try to improve forecast accuracy and/or extend the acceptable lead time. Unfortunately, the financial benefits are often short-lived because these improvements did not address the lack of stability and flow in the organization's value stream. Nor did the earlier changes address the culture of the organization that fundamentally accepts inventory as a necessary cost of business.

Instead, treat inventory is an outcome ('Y'). Speed - the lack of it - is a critical 'x'.  A focus on speed will transform the value stream. To become faster the value stream capability and stability must be improved. Flow cannot be sustained in an unstable, unpredictable environment. Increased speed results in increased productivity, yield, quality and reliability, improved product availability, predictable service levels, additional capacity for growth, and improved cash flow.

Speed can be improved through the removal of non-value-add work, fewer touches, elimination of waste, smaller batch sizes and shorter production run lengths, quicker changeovers. Inventory, when needed (e.g. due to lack of synchronization), now can be moved upstream where it is less expensive and more flexible.  So, if your value stream has excess inventory, Speed is the yellow brick road to your Emerald City.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Putting Quality in its Rightful Place

ASQ's Paul Borawski recently had the privilege of interviewing Tata Group's Dr. J.J. Irani about its quality journey to excellence. Tata Group's quality journey began in the late 1980's with the adoption of Joseph Juran's quality improvement methodology, then embraced the Malcolm Baldrige criteria in the 1990's. Dr. Irani states that every organization must have a Quality System - and it must be institutionalized throughout its operations. "A quality management system is the DNA of an organization; Quality is in everything we do.. it is our culture" states Dr. Irani. 

Paul Borawski asks, "I find hope in the wisdom of Dr. Irani , and ask myself—and you—how can we, you and I, and ASQ, raise the voice of Dr. Irani and other enlightened leaders to put quality in its rightful place in every organization and in our communities?

I attended the Pittsburgh WCQI and heard Dr. Irani's keynote address. To be honest, I was underwhelmed by his presentation.  While Dr. Irani brings solid credentials, and exhibited sincerity and genuine authenticity, his laid back style lacked that certain pizzazz - or what marketers call "Pop".  However, upon returning to my office and browsing the internet, I became very impressed by Tata Group. Tata's tagline is, "Leadership with Trust." Tata Group's website states their principle purpose is "To improve the quality of life of the communities it serves".  Dr. Irani stated that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is not a cost, it is an investment, built on trust, transparency, governance and ethics. Tata Group's quality philosophy is a model for every enterprise.

Which brings me back to Paul Borawski's question / challenge:  How can we raise the voice of Dr. Irani and other enlightened leaders to put quality in its rightful place in every organization? Tata Group's quality journey is on its 4th decade of continuous improvement. How many other organizations or communities have that type of staying power, that level of constancy of purpose? My initial reaction to Dr. Irani's WCQI presentation was rather subdued because I was expecting something more flamboyant, more polished, more entertaining. Yet Tata Group's quality story is very compelling indeed.  I posit that this need to be entertained, given our rather short attention spans are an indictment of our fast paced society, where change is accelerating exponentially. So, how do we capture the hearts and minds of the C-Suite to elevate quality?

First, we must always remember to speak the language of management... money. 

Second, we must demonstrate the direct relationship between quality and Social Responsibility - by focusing on the elimination of waste.

Third, executives learn best by collaborating with their peers and their bosses. The ASQ Executive Roundtable is an excellent forum that brings Enterprise member organizations together to discuss common challenges and share best practices.  The local MN ASQ Section recently completed its 3 year Long Range Planning session. One of its outcomes is to develop an Executive Roundtable of Quality Directors and leaders from all sectors of the local economy to collect VOC and match organizational needs with products and services - whether provided by ASQ or our partners.  In addition, we (quality professionals) must forge new alliances and partnerships with organizations that cater to the C-Suite; organizations like The Conference Board.  The Conference Board is a global, independent business membership and research association working in the public interest to help its member companies understand and deal with the most critical issues of our time.

Fourth, knowledge is increasing exponentially. C-suite executives do not have time to peruse all of the journals and other sources of knowledge sharing on their own.  The Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award showcases "role model" organizations in every sector of the economy.  However, recent budget discussions in the US Congress puts government funding support the Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award at severe risk. We must find new, innovative ways to keep the Baldrige Criteria alive, and increase its relevance to the executive.  Perhaps incorporate it into the MBA body of knowledge?

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.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

2011 Future Forces Affecting Quality

In his May 2011 blog ASQ CEO Paul Borawski introduces the 2011 Future Forces study, and asks how these 8 forces might already be playing out where you work or live, and what the most pressing questions might be regarding these forces of change. ASQ conducts this research every three years, employing the Delphi forecasting method to arrive at approximations of the most likely by successive rounds of interviews with over 150 panelists across 40 countries.

I work for 3M - a large multinational diverse manufacturing company.  Abraham Lincoln is attributed to have said, "The best way to predict your future is to create it." Like many successful enterprises we too conduct our own study of "mega trends". Additionally, I point the reader to The Conference Board's CEO Challenge.  Perhaps not surprisingly all three independent studies uncovered many of the same forces of change. However, awareness and knowledge of these trends alone does not necessarily guarantee future success; rather it is how we choose to respond to the possible combination of these forces that creates competitive advantage. The next step then, is to strategically plan against possible scenarios - some favorable, some not.

We had the distinct pleasure of inviting Mr. Paul Borawski to 3M's Global Quality Conference in April where the company's Quality Leaders discussed the impact of these forces of change on the quality community, and more importantly, to the enterprise. So, what are some of the trends I see emerging along the lines of these 8 forces of change?

Global Responsibility
Lean Six Sigma is a project-by-project process improvement methodology deployed to reduce waste and minimize defects by eliminating non value-added activities and building process capability and stability for improved flow and quality. Design for Six Sigma tools and methods are incorporated into New Product Realization processes as well as existing product change management processes to design and produce products that deliver optimized customer value while reducing environmental impact across the entire supply chain throughout the product's lifecycle. 3M's "Pollution Prevention Pays" program, launched in 1975, has prevented over 2.96 Billion lbs of pollution in 8,100 projects during their first year, generating over $1.37 Billion in savings. 3M executives, managers and supervisors constantly reinforce 3M's values and principles: every employee communication includes a discussion  of our values; on-line legal compliance, ethics and business conduct training is required of every employee - and participation is monitored and tracked. 3M's world-class integrity and brand reputation are definite competitive advantages in a global market. The challenge is to adhere, promote and live our values amid cultures and societies where graft and corruption is accepted.  Transparency in operations and decision making has a direct influence on shareholder value, employee engagement, community relations, and ultimately, economic growth. The World Bank estimates that over 10^9 US dollars annually are lost due to corruption, representing 5% of the world GDP.  A 2008 report issued in the European Physical Journal reported a direct correlation between the influence of corruption and the economic growth rate of over 120 countries.

Consumer Awareness
The advent of the internet, the emergence of social media such as facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.  and the growth of on-line consumer rating systems (e.g. Amazon, Trip Advisor, etc.) have given tremendous voice to consumers. It is increasingly more important that businesses develop new listening posts (e.g. CLO - Chief Listening Officer) to gather and respond to customer issues. The power is in the hands of the customer; they have become more savvy, sophisticated and resourceful. Today's customer defines the level of interaction and type of resolution he/she expects. Timely, effective resolution can turn a dissatisfied customer into a loyal advocate. In today's inter-connected world, news of any quality/reliability misstep can spread faster than wild-fire on the internet, and cost businesses millions of dollars in lost revenue and - if not resolved promptly and effectively - untold damage to its reputation.

The search for new suppliers, cheap labor, and new markets is not new. The famed travels of Marco Polo and other explorers were commissioned specifically to find new trade routes and expand the influence of western civilizations. In today's environment of global markets, off-shore outsourcing, and regional self-supply it is critical that Quality take up the banner of enterprise risk management and business continuity. Seek simplicity where ever possible; pursue the harmonization of quality management and industry-specific standards.

Increasing Rate of Change
As the internet has shrunk the world in terms of communication and increased the export of knowledge, and in response to global competition that has necessitated compressed product development cycles and shortened product life cycles, Quality needs to ensure the reliability, integrity, and security of data. Cloud computing is one recent example of the omnipresence of the internet and the need to better protect organizational intellectual property.

Workforce of the Future and Aging Population
While I cannot fathom zero unemployment as suggested in the ASQ Future Forces study, we are definitely facing the prospect of "brain drain" in the US.  In the 2008 Karl Fisch video "Did You Know 3.0" the growing economies of India and China are said to produce more honor students every year than the US has students. Whereas many of these students used to come to the US to study and seek employment to design and build innovative processes and products, many of them today return to their homeland where opportunities are bountiful. The US apparently has a shortage of skilled labor as well. In a recent presentation to the MN Council for Quality, a representative from the Manpower, Inc., staffing organization half- jokingly stated that they would bolt the door and hog-tie an individual with a welding certification walking into their offices looking for employment. As the Baby Boomer generation nears retirement age, given the shortage of skilled trades and knowledge workers, many businesses are adopting adjustable work arrangements in an attempt to retain existing employees and attract the younger generation. The US K-12 educational system needs a dramatic re-design; not minor tweaks and incremental improvement. It is said that the children of the Baby Boomers will not enjoy the same standard of living as their parents. Couples employed in the retail and service economies require two wage earners just to support their family.  Manufacturing creates wealth. We need to encourage individual expression and experimentation towards renewing America's entrepreneurial spirit.

21st Century Quality
Conformance to Requirements is no longer adequate to ensure competitiveness and success. (Has it ever been adequate?) In today's savvy consumer market, Quality is being re-defined as "Total Customer Experience".  More than ever, quality is indeed everyone's responsibility. Of course, if quality is everyone's responsibility then no One is responsible. The primary role of the Quality Leader in today's enterprise is to manage the white spaces in the organization (Rummler-Brache) to improve employee engagement and collaboration. The ASQ Statistics Division has long promoted Statistical Thinking. It is now on its continuing mission to educate and promote statistical engineering, which recognizes the importance of blending IT, HR, Finance, and other organizational functions in any continuous improvement journey.

As stated earlier, customers are more savvy and resourceful. Innovation is about finding new ways to combine existing technologies, products, processes, services. Example: wheels and telescoping handles on suitcases. The successful enterprise of the future will find new (better, faster, cheaper, novel) ways of capturing and translating the Voice of the Customer towards delivering a differentiated competitive advantage.

In conclusion, I choose to be optimistic about the growing role and relevance of Quality in any endeavor - business, healthcare, education, retail services, government, banking, etc. The challenge is ours. I choose not to play the victim, feeling sorry for myself and my trade, or to place blame. In the words of John G. Miller (author of QBQ!) I choose to accept and own personal accountability. Join me in the journey won't you?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Quality Tools and Education

In his April 5, 2011 blog post Quality Tools and Education, ASQ Executive Director Paul Borawski asks "How do we raise the voice of quality to capture the imagination of education leaders and support them in getting started? How can we encourage educators to join us in raising the global voice of quality?"

As I reflect on my 30 years of manufacturing quality, my training as an ISO-9001 Lead Auditor and more recently as a Baldrige Examiner, I keep coming back to Dr. W. Edward Deming's System of Profound Knowledge, ISO’s eight Quality Management principles, and the statistical thinking philosophy.

As a review:
Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge consists of four parts:
  • Appreciation of a system: understanding the overall processes involving suppliers, producers, and customers (or recipients) of goods and services; 
  •  Knowledge of variation: the range and causes of variation in quality, and use of statistical sampling in measurements; 
  • Theory of knowledge: the concepts explaining knowledge and the limits of what can be known;
  • Knowledge of psychology: concepts of human nature.
Statistical Thinking is a philosophy of learning and action based on the following fundamental principles:
  •  All work occurs in a system of interconnected processes,
  • Variation exists in all processes, and
  •  Understanding and reducing variation are keys to success.

The ISO 9000 series of standards align with eight key principles of quality management.  These principles facilitate the achievement of quality objectives and form the foundation for effective quality management. Per ISO-9001, "A quality management principle is a comprehensive and fundamental rule / belief, for leading and operating an organization, aimed at continually improving performance over the long term by focusing on customers while addressing the needs of all other stake holders".  The 8 Quality Management principles of ISO are:
  1. Customer-Focused Organization
  2. Leadership
  3. Involvement of People
  4. Process Approach
  5. System Approach to Management
  6. Continual Improvement
  7. Factual Approach to Decision Making and
  8. Mutually Beneficial Supplier Relationships.
Any discussion of improving America’s educational system has to take a systems approach, beginning with an understanding of customer requirements. Customers’ desired outcomes are then translated into a new educational model involving students, parents and all other stakeholders leading to a more robust system that delivers optimum value. So who are the customers of the educational system? Let us not confuse customers with suppliers, partners, gatekeepers, regulatory and government agencies, and other stakeholders.  Students, and parents of the students, are not customers – though the family unit plays a decidedly critical role in the education of the child.  Managing systemic variables such as nutrition, sleep, health, shelter and other human basic needs are all important elements to improving the educational system. Society at large benefits from a well-educated populace, yes, but employers and post-graduate Universities are the ultimate customer. Conversion of raw materials and other inputs into products and services that customers want and buy create wealth.  Innovation and creativity are the engines of economic growth. The USA is an aging population; as more and more Baby Boomers near retirement age there is a dire shortage of highly educated, skilled workers to fill the void. Furthermore, the US is experiencing a brain drain of new postgraduates as students from China, India and other developing nations - who typically remained in this country to apply their learning - are now choosing instead to return to their home countries where greater growth opportunities abound.  

Business process redesign is required to save and revitalize the American educational system, starting with the K-12 system to better prepare our children for college or trade schools. We need to encourage experimentation and discovery in the classroom to motivate curiosity and inspire lifelong learning. Evidence-based outcomes should be shared and replicated across school districts. How do we raise the voice of quality to capture the imagination of education leaders and support them in getting started? I would begin by asking our brethren in the quality community to volunteer on their local school board committees and PTA organizations to share your continuous improvement expertise in solving some chronic pain points. Start small and build on your successes. It should be noted that Baldrige Award recipients in the education sector use the Criteria to achieve superior results in the areas of:
  • student learning outcomes
  • student- and stakeholder-focused outcomes
  • budgetary, financial, and market outcomes
  • faculty and staff outcomes
  • organizational effectiveness outcomes
  • leadership and social responsibility outcomes
America’s future lies in our children’s capability and capacity to learn, adapt and thrive. Best wishes in your continuous improvement journey.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Impact of Quality on Social Responsibility

The guidance standard ISO-26000:2010 Social Responsibility was published in November 2010. In applying ISO 26000:2010, organizations are advised to take into consideration societal, environmental, legal, cultural, political and organizational diversity, as well as differences in economic conditions, while being consistent with international norms of behavior. As Social Responsibility becomes increasingly important in corporate boardrooms, many organizations will turn to the Quality professional for assistance linking sustainability efforts to the strategic quality planning process to deliver business results. It is said what gets measured gets improved. In his latest blog post, ASQ Executive Director Paul Borawski asks, "how do we measure return on investment in SR to assess business value?".

On a macro scale, rather than measure a country's economic output as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or as GDP per capita, a SR look at the relative output might prorate GDP by each country's area (sq miles). Such a measurement recognizes a culture of sustainability where resources are used more efficiently. For example:

Country          GDP               Area         GDP/sq mile
USA        $14.6 Trillion    3,717,792      $ 3.9M/sq mile
Japan      $  4.3 Trillion       145,883     $29M/sq mile

On a micro-economic scale, a SR measure of Return on Investment for organizations might be a mathematical equation describing Loss to Society, incorporating terms for materials efficiency, energy use, greenhouse gas and VOC emissions, water conservation, biodiversity, etc.throughout a product's life cycle.

As one example, my employer, 3M, has had a "Pollution Prevention Pays" program since 1975. Engineering, manufacturing, laboratory, quality and EHS personnel have participated in over 8,100 PPP projects that have prevented over 2.96 Billion lbs of pollution in their first year, generating over $1.37 Billion in savings. Nearly every 3M manufacturing facility, globally, is ISO-14001 registered. 3M leadership constantly reinforces its values, principles, code of ethics and business conduct in all of our operations worldwide.

Implementation of SR is best managed using traditional quality improvement and project management tools and techniques. Development of new SR metrics for the balanced scorecard will help organizations focus on the long-term objectives.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Flawless Execution - It's All About Leadership

In his latest "A View from the Q" blog, Paul Borawksi (ASQ Exec Dir) reflects on the goal-setting process and challenges leaders everywhere to not simply act, but to execute.

Why do so many well-formulated strategic plans fail to deliver on their promises? It's all about execution - or the lack thereof. Counter to a quote attributed to Edgar Whitney, "A good design poorly executed is much to be preferred over a poor design well executed", it is my experience that a great plan poorly executed is no better than no plan at all. Mark Fields (Ford) once said, "Culture eats strategy for breakfast." So true. Flawless execution requires diligence, accountability and a change acceptance strategy to assure organizational alignment. Human capital is our most important asset. Constant, consistent leadership communications, thorough policy deployment, an effective change agent, and a set of meaningful measures are required before any organizational change can be effectively implemented and internalized.

Having a clearly defined mission, compelling vision, shared purpose and an articulated code of conduct are a great start, but adopting an improvement framework such as the Baldrige Criteria brings a much-needed systems approach to achieve organizational performance excellence. Paul Grizzell (Core Values Partners, Inc.) - Baldrige consultant, Senior Alumni Baldrige Examiner, and previous Board member and judge with the MN Council for Quality - created this simple graphic demonstrating the improved organizational alignment achieved via the Baldrige model:

Finally, to drive effective execution we must stop the practice of 2-point comparisons and begin applying statistical thinking in the corner office and board rooms across America. Sustainable flawless execution requires real change with demonstrable new levels of performance with minimal variation. We must train ourselves to look for deeper root causes and not be satisfied with the quick fix, or be tempted to react to every undesirable data point as though it were due to a special cause. All processes have variation; effective leadership appreciates the differences between special cause, common cause; can distinguish trends and patterns; and, understands that management of variation requires systems thinking along with proper use of tools, methods and approaches. Flawless execution depends on it.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Business Conduct and Statistical Thinking in Commercialization

I had an interesting question posed to me the other day: Have I ever observed or perceived an instance of suspect integrity or questionable business conduct? And if so, what did I do about it? I thought this would make for an interesting discussion with respect to practicing more (better) statistical thinking and statistical engineering in one's new product introduction system and commercialization (NPI), and product management of change (MOC) processes . I offer two different hypothetical situations...

Scenario #1:
In an effort to be "first to market", a new-to-the-world product is fast-tracked through the organization's formal new product commercialization process. Early reviews from customers are favorable. Prototypes have been shown and customer orders taken early in the product development phase. Proper risk assessments have not been completed. Equipment, process and product validation studies have not been completed. Limited product has been made - maybe on the intended production line, but more than likely only on a pilot line. Just one "Qualification" run - a short-term "machine capability" study - has been evaluated... with acceptable results. The organization's operating plan has aggressive Top Line sales growth and Operating Income targets. The NPI Gatekeepers are deciding whether to go ahead with an accelerated "soft" launch in order to meet customer demand and generate revenue.

Sound familiar? What would you do?
Some questions for thought:

  • How might the industry you are in, or the markets you serve, play a role in your decision-making?
  • How much risk is the organization willing to accept? Have they even quantified the risk?
  • What do you know about the customer's needs? (Basic, Stated, Unarticulated)
  • How certain are you that tribal knowledge and presumed understanding of VOC have been adequately validated?
  • Are the test methods relevant to the customer... do they predict fitness for use?
  • Are the TMs adequate (Gage R&R, resolution, stability, etc.)?
  • Has acceptable process capability been demonstrated: Short-term? Long-term?
  • How were the product specifications established?
  • How / where will product be sampled for testing?
  • What do we know about the suppliers' process capabilities?
  • How rugged is the product design?
What other questions should be asked?

Scenario #2:
The manufacturing plant manager is facing factory cost challenges due to the triple threat of high waste, rising raw material prices, and lower than forecasted sales volume. A second source of supply for a key RM is being evaluated for reduced cost and improved availability. The customer contract (perhaps the blanket purchase order) has a boilerplate template stating that it must be notified by the vendor of any planned process or product changes. The producer's product maintenance engineer resolutely believes, based on analytical assessments and bench testing, that this RM substitution will be transparent to the customer. The business has a formalized product management of change process, but it is not consistently deployed nor executed.

Should the customer be notified?

What questions would you have of the RM substitution project?
Some thoughts:

  • Is this an approved supplier?
  • Is this supplier ISO registered?
  • Or, has a site evaluation been performed? Or, has a self-assessment been performed?
  • Have you assessed the supplier's process capability?
  • Have raw material - process interactions been modeled with this new supplier?
  • How many distinct lots of raw material / components have been evaluated?
  • What types of product testing have been completed:
  •       Standard battery of manufacturing tests only?
  •       Plus, product development tests (e.g. Consumer-use tests)?
  •       Plus, any stress testing or accelerated life testing?
  • When did we last we validate our customers' requirements?
Other thoughts?

What does it mean to apply statistical thinking and engineering? I don't think it has a lot to do with tools. We have the tools; and there are consultants who can teach us to use new tools. It comes down to leadership. Leadership and execution that integrates strategic quality plan deployment with effective and efficient systems and processes. So, how are you helping your organization to become more customer focused, apply statistical thinking for better decision making, and drive the right behaviors for sustainable operational excellence, growth, and customer satisfaction?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Raising the Global Awareness of Quality

In his January 2011 'A view from the Q' blog post, Paul Borawski, ASQ Executive Director, asks how we can raise the global awareness that Quality works. In my opinion, the best way to "engage" the C-Suite (i.e. win the hearts and minds of executives) is to move the dialogue from little q to Big Q - from quality control to strategic quality planning; from process improvement to business performance excellence.

How often have we heard the tired phrase, "Quality is a given"? What does that mean? More importantly, what does Top Management think the phrase means? Has Top Management truly embraced quality as a competitive weapon - a value differentiator - and a means to build sustainable organizational results? Or, does Top Management behave as though their organization's quality processes are working fine (e.g. on par with current competition) and therefore shift resources to the next big thing?

A common and all too frequently heard definition of quality is "Conformance to Requirements". I emphatically dislike this definition. It sets the bar at mediocrity and drives goal post mentality (in-spec is "good enough"). Where is the passion and vision for excellence? Then there is the argument that customer requirements are constantly changing; when was the last time we validated our customers' requirements? Are we just meeting requirements or are we delivering exciting quality? Meeting requirements may result in short-term customer satisfaction but does not address those value propositions leading to loyalty. Conformance to requirements evokes images of a statistical tool pharmacy - providing training to the masses and doling out tools and techniques of the month with little connection to what drives sustainable organizational success.

Success in an ever-increasingly competitive world requires enterprise-level strategic quality planning, structured quality management systems, and flawless execution. Top Management must champion investments and deploy visionary strategy that connect quality improvement to sustainable growth, meaningful results and customer satisfaction & loyalty.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Good food service is not a dish best served cold

It happens all too often...

I really dislike restaurants that use a server to bring you your food instead of the waiter/waitress who took your order. More often than not, the server takes your meal on a tour of the entire restaurant before finally finding your table, but not until after several other people have breathed on it and it is no longer at the desired serving temperature. The manager obligingly apologizes, offers a new meal - to be similarly delivered - or maybe even comp the meal, but the manager completely misses the point.

If the restaurant wants my repeat business, I am not interested in a quick fix or do-over. I do not want a 3rd party delivering my meal. I have established no rapport with that individual; whereas, the wait person who took my order knows where I am seated, and more importantly, has a sense of personal ownership to get my order right.

I assume the intent of the server position is to rush the meal to the guest's table. So when that does not happen I do not want to hear excuses or insincere, almost mechanical, apologies. I want to see evidence of customer focus and continuous improvement. Where is the root cause investigation? Why didn't the server take the few seconds to know my table number before leaving the kitchen?