Sunday, September 23, 2012

Speed is Life

In this highly competitive global economy I believe that "speed is life". ASQ CEO Paul Borawski asks for some of the ways the practice of quality is changing to meet the needs of faster, faster, faster.

Now, certainly there are many, many instances in business as in life when, not executed flawlessly, speed can kill. In fact, there are numerous examples when tampering and knee-jerk reactions have resulted in undesired results. While "first to market" offers a distinct competitive advantage when done right, speed at all costs is not a successful long-term strategy. "Quality" processes must be designed to support agile business needs. The key is to focus on velocity, not speed alone. Velocity is speed with purpose, with aim, at the speed of the customer.

Velocity requires a thorough understanding of one's value proposition, and the elimination of non-value added activities and other forms of muda (waste) in your key value streams. Waste is in the way of your business success. Operational excellence is delivered through understanding and translating the voice of customer into high quality, reliable products and services, the elimination of waste, and standardization of the best known way as foundations for continual improvement. Organizations must adopt a learning culture where every employee is encouraged, recognized and rewarded for sharing their best practices and key success factors. Helping deploy a knowledge management system that supports the shift from "learn to know" to one of "learn to do" is another area where the Quality function can help drive business velocity.  Additionally, Quality can play an important role in helping to identify the hand-offs, document internal customer requirements, and manage the organizational white spaces in inter-departmental processes (value streams).

Last month I spoke to the role of trust in driving speed, employee empowerment and culture change. Trust and mutual respect are critical to fostering a safe environment that promotes healthy crucial conversations, welcomes experimentation and values continual learning. In business you get what is measured; measurements drive behavior. Leaders must create experiences and model behaviors to foster beliefs that will drive the actions necessary to achieve desired results. (Connors: Journey to the Emerald City). Here, Quality can assist management to adopt a responsive Lean Management System that transforms strategy into success.

Speed is Life, but speed can kill if not skillfully and flawlessly executed. Quality can be the agent of change in this cultural transformation.

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