Posts Tagged ‘processes’

Quality #14: Process Improvement and 3E’s

by Tanmay Vora on January 25, 2010

The next installment in the QUALITYtweet series is: Process Improvement and 3E’s

Here are the first thirteen posts, in case you would like to go back and take a look:

  1. Quality #1: Quality is a long term differentiator
  2. Quality #2: Cure Precedes Prevention
  3. Quality #3: Great People + Good Processes = Great Quality
  4. Quality #4: Simplifying Processes
  5. Quality #5: Customers are your “Quality Partners”
  6. Quality #6: Knowing what needs improvement
  7. Quality #7: Productivity and Quality
  8. Quality #8: Best Practices are Contextual
  9. Quality #9: Quality of Relationship and Communication
  10. Quality #10: Inspection can be a waste if…
  11. Quality #11: Driving Change Through Leadership
  12. Quality #12: Middle Management and Quality Culture
  13. Quality #13: Reviews can be fun (if done right)

#QUALITYtweet Lack of 3E’s can be your biggest road blocks

in improvement journey. Empowerment, Education,

and Empathy

There are many reasons why a lot of improvement initiatives fail. However, top three reasons for most of the failures are:

1)      Lack of Empowerment

2)      Lack of Education and Training

3)      Lack of Empathy

Lets carefully look at each one of these culprits, and what you can do about it:

Empowerment

All improvement starts from the top. Most of the top leaders would claim that they want their processes to improve and efficiencies to increase. However, their best intentions to improve processes do not translate into actual commitment to improve. They assign responsibility of process improvement to a group but tend to bypass the processes themselves for short-term benefits. Worst yet, they assign responsibility of process improvement to a team and then reallocate the same team when faced with an immediate need of those resources. Leaders set a wrong precedence when they do this, and often create a culture where bypassing processes is considered normal. Lack of empowerment also means that people are not allowed to make mistakes. As a consequence, people responsible for or interested in process improvement initiative soon lose interest and move on and organization looses substantial time and effort already spent so far.

What can you do about it?

  • Map your intentions with your actions on process improvement.
  • Assign ownership and divert all communication related to improvement at one point.
  • Set expectations clear on goals and purpose of process improvement initiative.
  • Welcome innovation and let your improvement team make mistakes.
  • Announce your process improvement goals and track the progress.
  • Announce the results as well.
  • Periodically review improvement efforts and results.

Education

Either most people are not aware of the best practices or they don’t know how to apply those practices in given situations. Technology folks are deep into technology, but they don’t necessarily go deep into processes and practices. This is where continuous education is required. People need to be trained on processes and best way to implement them. When people don’t know the process, no wonder they will not use it optimally.

What can you do about it?

  • Set up a process training calendar throughout the year.
  • Ensure that all new processes, practices are propagated across the organization.
  • Set up a process advisory function for current/new projects.
  • Create best practices group and empower them to explore/share their expertise.
  • Have right knowledge management tools that help you in spreading process awareness.

Empathy

Process improvement can only be effective when process has an “empathy” element into it. If applied rigidly, processes can become your biggest barrier in solving your customer’s immediate problems. Empathy means accepting that processes may still not be able to solve all your/your customer’s problems. Empathy also means accepting that processes cannot be rigidly applied to all situations.

What can you do about it?

  • Understand the situation in which processes are applied.
  • Understand the larger context.
  • Assess if processes can be applied in an “as-is” state or would it need some tweaking.
  • Learn from unique situations and improve processes to include those scenarios.

As a first step to your process improvement journey, even if you focus on these Three E’s, your journey will become much easier and fun

Quality #1: Quality is a long term differentiator

by Tanmay Vora on November 9, 2009

This is the first part of a 12-part series titled ‘#QUALITYtweet – 12 Ideas to Build a Quality Culture’. This series will provide 12 relevant insights on how organizations can improve their quality culture through people, processes and leadership.

Introduction to #QUALITYtweet – 12 Ideas to Build a Quality Culture

Relentless focus on quality helps you build a sustainable organization that delivers value – to customers and people working with the organization. Quality is a long-term strategic differentiator.

Yet, most quality models heavily focus on methodologies, metrics and complex processes. This series is a collection of 12 chosen tweets from my upcoming book #QUALITYtweet – 140 Bite-Sized Ideas to Deliver Quality in Every Project” and ideas that expand 12 tweets from the book. These insights will help you frame your quality strategy by effectively leveraging processes, people and leadership to build a customer-centric organization.

Moving on to the first QUALITYtweet…

#QUALITYtweet Quality is never a

short-term goal. It is a long-term

differentiator

Quality is not a goal – it is a differentiator that can transform an organization into a remarkable one. If we study the anatomy of any process improvement or change initiative, it involves short term and long term objectives. Long term objectives generally map with organization’s vision and values while short term objectives are steps that lead to those long-term objectives. Yet, many organizations fall in a trap of setting short term improvement objectives that don’t map to any long term goals.

Here is a litmus test to identify if an organization’s quality goals are short term:

1)      Top management looks at processes as an overhead that can reduce overall efficiency of doing the “real stuff”.

2)      Quality Certification is seen purely as a tool to generate more sales, with no deliberation on how it can help improve efficiencies (and hence improve bottom-lines on a longer run).

3)      Quick and often unreasonable results are expected out of process improvement group.

4)      The question often asked is, “How can we correct this?” and not “How can we prevent this next time?”

5)      Process improvement exercise is triggered only when major problems are encountered.

It is said, “There are no shortcuts in life” – this adage aptly suits the quality improvement initiative as well. Process is a framework which people use to deliver quality products and services. Organization’s quality culture evolves when good people consistently follow a set of continually improving processes.

I have seen companies who perceive process implementation as a loss in immediate productivity because people will have to spend time in maintaining process artifacts. They miss a very important point that undefined and ad-hoc processes only lead to unpredictability of outcomes. It hurts organization’s brand. None of the process models including ISO 9001:2000 and CMM guarantees short term improvements. With a consistent effort and commitment from the top management, maturity of process happens gradually, just as we mature gradually as human beings.

Economists say that the best way to get good return from the stock market is to have an investment timeframe of a few years and not a few months. Short-term gains may be a stroke of luck – but luck is has never been a sustainable strategy! Same principles apply to your quality improvement initiative. Without a commitment to improve and long term thinking on processes, you may have successes based on individual heroism but never a sustainable model that delivers consistent quality.

Most successful organizations are built on a solid process framework. Companies that avoid power of processes soon hit the glass ceiling. People build the organizations and process helps organizations scale up smoothly.

Today’s marketplace demands that you consistently exceed customer’s expectations. You can run the organization on chaos or you can have systems that help you/your people become more effective. It is a choice that makes all the difference!