Posts Tagged ‘qaspire.com’

Quality #4: Simplifying Processes

by Tanmay Vora on November 12, 2009

keep it simpleWelcome to the fourth part of a 12-part series titled #QUALITYtweet – 12 Ideas to Build a Quality Culture.

Here are the first three 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

#QUALITYtweet Want to add complexity?

Get obsessed with a solution without

focusing on the real problem.

We love complexity because thinking complex solutions give us a false sense of achieving something worthwhile. Two questions to ponder:

1)      Is your complex solution accurately solving the problem?

2)      Is there a simpler way to solve the same problem?

Consider this story:

One of the most memorable case studies on Japanese Management was the case of the empty soapbox, which happened in one of Japan’s biggest cosmetics companies. The company received a complaint that a consumer had bought a soap box that was empty. Immediately the authorities isolated the problem to the assembly line, which transported all the packaged boxes of soap to the delivery department. For some reason, one soapbox went through the assembly line empty.

Management asked its engineers to solve the problem. Post-haste, the engineers worked hard to devise an X-ray machine with high-resolution monitors manned by two people to watch all the soap boxes that passed through the line to make sure they were not empty. No doubt, they worked hard and they worked fast but spent a whoopee amount to do so. Now, when a rank-and-file employee in a small company was posed with the same problem, he did not get into complications of X-rays, etc but instead came out with another solution.

He bought a strong industrial electric fan and pointed it at the assembly line. He switched the fan on, and as each soap box passed the fan, it simply blew the empty boxes out of the line.

Implementing complex review process or a complex workflow is relatively easy. Picking up an off-the-shelf best practice is easy too. Identifying the simplest solution that best solves the problem is difficult.

When you improve your processes constantly over a period of time, adding new steps to the process, it tends to get complex.  Simplification of process requires you to think with a fresh perspective (and may be a fresh set of people) and ask a simple question: “What problem is this process intended to solve?”

The answer often reveals that there are much simpler ways of solving the problem.

Quality #3: Great People + Good Processes = Great Quality

by Tanmay Vora on November 11, 2009

This is the third part of a 12-part series titled #QUALITYtweet – 12 Ideas to Build a Quality Culture.

Here are the first two 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

#QUALITYtweet No certification will

save the project if you staff it with

poor resources

Great quality is always a result of good people working passionately towards organizations goals. People can be your strongest (or weakest) link that has the strong influence in quality of your deliverable.

In the process improvement initiative, if due consideration is not given to the people aspect, processes manuals and specifications can easily give you a false confidence that everything will go as per the process. People form the core of any project because they write specifications, understand, design and develop your solutions.

I believe that organizations need good people to deliver quality – process acts as a catalyst to drive the success and manage risks. People are always the strongest or the weakest link in the success or failure of a project.

One of the key challenges for managers/leaders is to build a “quality aware” team where people know that quality is everybody’s responsibility.

For example, having a set of development guidelines or testing guidelines does not stop an individual from developing a bad product. Ability to develop a good product, associate it with business understanding and finding optimized ways of accomplishing things is an art – an intrinsic ability. Focus should be on people because they develop solutions with the help of a process (whether a formal or personal process).

Processes help you create a right management framework, manage risks, measure outcomes and take right decisions. Processes should act as a tool and help people perform better. Knowing the priorities, business model and having insight on what has really worked for you in the past is crucial to see that processes drive growth and not become an overhead.

Recipe for great quality is to have right people following right processes employing right tools at a right time.

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!