Posts Tagged ‘quality’

Thought Readership #20: The GOODREADS Challenge

by Liz Alexander on January 21, 2013

GaneshaWhen you get to a certain age you think you’ve seen everything, right? But no, I logged onto LinkedIn recently to find a “Can you recommend me?” request from an “award winning fiction author/top client” I’d never heard of (although I was obviously daft enough to accept a previous request to connect) whose 76-page novel was compiled by a self-publishing services entity called Infinity Publishing. Currently ranking 797,095 on Amazon, her various reviews point to the “terrible” writing, “disjointed” plot and a comment, from someone giving four stars, that “I wish it had been edited a little better.” So where did the “award-winning” part come in? (And, no surprise, I declined her invitation!)

In a world in which anyone can (and does) claim “best selling” or “award winning” status for their book I thought about how, when talking or writing about thought leadership, I remind people that this is a term that’s meant to be bestowed on you by others, not something you get to adopt just because it sounds cool. So in that vein I went searching for last year’s Best Books lists. Who gets on them, anyhow?

After giving up on the undoubtedly worthy but dull-sounding (and long!) lists of nonfiction books I’d never heard of, produced by the likes of Publisher’s Weekly, NPR, and the New Yorker, and stopping briefly by the business-specific books reviewed by strategy +business plus the December 2012 best-sellers offered up by 800-CEO-READ, I decided to wander over to Goodreads to see what had shown up in their Choice Awards nonfiction category for 2012. Why? Because what we want for our books (or, at least, I do) is approbation from a mainstream audience—people who typically read rather than get paid to review. And who do so NOT because of the “I’ll-offer-you-entry-in-a-drawing-for-a-free-iPad-if-you’ll-write-me-a-five-star-review” tactics of some self-published authors that increasingly taints the comments seen on Amazon.com; in genuine appreciation of good quality writing.

The following observations will (hopefully) spark some spirited discussion about what still constitutes successful nonfiction (at least as far as unbiased readers are concerned) in an era when it sometimes feels that we are being drowned in mediocre dross.

Among Goodreads’ Top Ten (books garnering 1,000 votes or more)

-          Despite (I’m assuming) no discrimination against self-published books, ALL of these books were published by major houses—Random House; Little, Brown; Free Press etc. Not a single CreateSpace original among them!

-          All were written by journalists or self-proclaimed professional writers (with a sprinkling of academics).

-          None was the author’s first book and several had appeared on the New York Times’ bestseller list.

Of Goodreads’ Top Three:

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg.

Common praise for these three very different books covered many of the themes I’ve discussed in this column over the past year:

-          Quality writing.

-          Well researched, providing not just the author’s experience and opinion but third party “science” or other content.

-          Entertaining, strong on storytelling.

-          Addressing topics that haven’t been done to death already.

-          Interesting conversation starters.

So what’s the point I’m making? Am I suggesting that, if you’re not already an award-winning, professional writer who has nothing else to do but research and write then you should give up the goal of ever crafting a book that could inspire readers to consider it (as one did for Boo’s book) “an impressive achievement”?

Not at all! But that’s where the bar is set, so it behooves those who are supporting the self-publishing revolution to rise to the challenge, not drag standards lower.

How?

  1. Stop thinking of your book as a spare-time project. Get into the mindset of a professional writer. Make regular “appointments” with your book when you do nothing but write it!
  2. Write every day—quality prose, not informal email exchanges, tweets, or stream-of-consciousness blog posts. Writing well comes from writing well a lot.
  3. Leave aside your opinion and personal experience and do some objective research. Who is supporting or rejecting the premise of your book? How can you weave this into your manuscript?
  4. Become a better storyteller. There are no end of books, articles, and blog posts (my favorite site being Copyblogger) on this topic. Take a screenwriting or novel-writing course to learn the rudiments of crafting a powerful, emotionally engaging story.
  5. Do your due diligence before you begin writing your book. There’s a reason why publishing houses (big and small) ask for a competitive analysis when you submit a book proposal: you need to be aware of what’s already been written about your topic (even tangentially connected topics) in order not to simply repeat what’s already out there.
  6. For goodness sake, hire a professional editor to help you craft a quality manuscript before self-publishing. At the very least, one who will help you avoid readers’ comments like: “terrible writing” and “I wish it had been edited a little better.”

Your thoughts?

Liz-AlexanderLiz Alexander is a prime example of how childhood passions are the best indicators of future careers. She’s been writing since she could pick up a pencil, was reading newspapers at age two, and Homer’s epic poems by the age of 8. As “Dr Liz” (granted after five years in the educational psychology doctoral program at UT Austin), she draws on 25 years of commercial publishing experience to transform subject matter experts into best-selling thought leaders. Instead of the usual bio blah, blah, you can find an infographic depicting her communications career here, as well as social media links. Liz loves mutually respectful, intelligent arguments; feel free to challenge anything she writes here, or on her website
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Project Reality Check #1: The Challenge!

by Gary Monti on December 21, 2010

“Challenging” summarizes project management well. This series of blogs will go into the day-to-day realities of project management as well as the theory and bring to light ways to deal with the challenges.

As the series progresses validation for what you already see and do will occur. So, why write this material if that is the case? The answer is simple: Validation is powerful. Projects require connectivity, which requires being seen and accepted – Validation.  Additionally, there will be a few new things that will prove to be valuable.

There’s Just One Project

Listening to students and/or clients from every continent except Antarctica (would like to go there someday) there is a common theme in the answers to the question, “What makes your projects so challenging?” It breaks down to the following:

  • Lack of clear requirements;
  • Being pushed to start, regardless;
  • Arbitrary end date;
  • Arbitrary budget;
  • Dictated resource pool comprising too few resources of adequate skill;
  • Multitasking.

The response is amazingly consistent and is independent of profession, field of study, market, etc. It has led to telling clients and students, “There is just one project in life and we all get a turn on it.” Human nature is the same everywhere. All that differs is the wrapper (culture). Don’t get me wrong, that wrapper can be quite significant. My point is once the effort is made to get beneath it you’ll always find the same thing, A human being.

The Path

This all can sound pretty bleak and make one wonder, “How does a project manager get the job done?” The answer is simple, “Stick to the principles.” As has been stated in previous blogs, simple is not the same as easy.  That simple path is grounded in the 9 areas of project management. By sticking to those principles and flexing them as called for in a given situation the odds of finding a path to success go up accordingly.

The Areas of Project Management

According to PMI® there are 9 areas of project management:

  • Scope
  • Time
  • Budget
  • Communications
  • Human Resources
  • Procurement
  • Quality
  • Risk
  • Integration

We will explore these 9 areas and see how they relate when working to find that path to success when thrown into a challenging situation.

A Key to Success

The word “challenging” opened this blog. To some extent, it is politically correct. “Nightmarish” might be a better word, when you get down to it. How to enjoy situations, stay sane and avoid project nightmares has been a quest ever since entering project management. The secret, which will be explored in this series, is completing a simple sentence.

If everything were okay I would see ________________.

It took most of the last 32 years spent in project management to get to that inquiry (proof that simple is different than easy).

A few things stand out with that statement:

  • It is an inquiry rather than a command. Why is that important? Leaders do better when asking more questions and giving fewer commands;
  • It is recursive. That one inquiry can be asked over-and-over as the breadth and depth of a project are explored.
  • It applies to both politics and technology. The stakeholder map should map isomorphically (clearly) and correctly into the technological map of the project.
  • Variance analysis is promoted. Using that statement promotes gap analysis, which is at the core of project management.

Variance brings us to the goal of project management, i.e., making sure we know what to plan, plan it, and execute within the time, money and resource constraints that fit with the project. In other words, get the job done. It gets down to two simple equations:

Cost Variance = Earned Value – Actual Cost

Schedule Variance = Earned Value – Planned Value

This series will explore what it takes to put teeth into those two equations. Fasten your seat belt!

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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Is your change leadership transforming your company into a front-runner in your market niche or turning it into aversion of Dr. Frankenstein’s monster? How do you even go about answering this question? What’s your reference point? Is it reliable?

Mary Shelley’s protagonist, Victor Frankenstein, combined with three project management principles, scope management, quality management and risk management, can help answer these questions and keep you and your organization on the right track. By following these principles your organization’s performance will have two important characteristics – Sustainability and Stability.

Frankenstein

Victor Frankenstein suffered from an extreme case of hubris. He was caught up in appearances. He wanted all the glory. He pulled pieces and parts together to create something that breathed and moved and ended up being a demented testament to his limited genius. The monster lacked human spirit. In the end, his creation was the source of his downfall.

Scope Management

The human spirit that was missing in the monster stands out clearly when examined in terms of leadership (see the Leadership post, the first in this series.)

From that blog you may recall the magnetic north for the executive compass comprises the leader’s beliefs and values. For Dr. Frankenstein they were ego, pride, and vainglory. The team (society) was shut out. His only worry was about what he would get from the situation. With that attitude no matter how hard he worked failure was certain.

To be successful the needs of all relevant stakeholders must be included when creating a scope of work that is going to transform your company. This includes competitors as well as clients. Knowing the competition is just as important as knowing your customers.  Success also includes your needs being met as part of the outflow of providing opportunity for others.

Quality Management

So how do you know if changes are moving in the right direction? The answer is simple. Your work must be sustainable. A synonym for “sustainable” is “quality management.” With quality management deliverables are defined in measurable terms consistent with the scope of work. This is the same scope of work that includes all stakeholders.

Going back to the Leadership post, the plan is the arrow on the executive compass that points the way. Quality underpins the plans credibility. It is incorporated into the overall change strategy as well as day-to-day management.

Dr. Frankenstein’s compass was useless. It was unable to provide meaningful direction. His plan was unsustainable.

Risk Management

The final component needed is stability. A synonym for stability is “risk management.”

Dr. Frankenstein’s work lacked stability. He worked in isolation. He lost his connection with society. All his work was self-referencing.

Why is this so important? Recall the dancing terrain from the Leadership post. Complex situations have a terrain that is constantly shape-shifting. There is too much for one person to map reliably and keep current.

Success requires everyone in the organization to be eyes and ears for new, changing information that can keep the map current.

With an accurate map the organization, under your leadership, can plan how best to deal with threats and opportunities present. This is risk management. Executing the risk management plans provides stability.

In the next blog we will look at process management’s place in change management. If this blog has been beneficial and you would like more information or care to comment send me an e-mail at gwmonti@mac.com or visit www.ctrchg.com.

Gary Monti PMI presentation croppedThrough his firm, Center for Managing Change, Gary Monti has over 30 years experience providing change- and project management services internationally. He works at the nexus between strategy, business case, project-, process-, and people management. Service modalities include consulting, teaching, mentoring, and speaking. Credentials include PMP number 14 (Project Management Institute®), Myers-Briggs Type Indicator certification, and accreditation in the Cynefin methodology. Gary can be reached at gwmonti@mac.com or through Twitter at @garymonti
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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

Tanmay VoraTanmay is a Software Quality Management professional based out of India. He hosts QAspire Blog and tweets as @tnvora. He is also an author of the book #QUALITYtweet – 140 Bite-Sized Ideas to Deliver Quality in Every Project
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Week In Review – Jan 17 – Jan 23, 2010

by Magesh Tarala on January 24, 2010

Learning without training

by Wayne Turmel, Jan 18, 2010

The traditional training model where companies identify competencies everyone across the organization needs is over. The audience for training is no longer the companies themselves, but the individuals in them. This has changed the way the players (Executives, Training Department, Training Companies and Individual Learner) look at training this year. In essence, training has shifted from a B2B model to a modified B2C model. more…

BLOGTASTIC! Help others succeed first

by Rajesh Setty, Jan 18, 2010

It is not a dog eat dog world in the blogosphere. If everyone thinks only they should succeed, then we’d be competing so hard against each other that no one will win. Instead, acknowledge the value you see on other blogs. The way you do it is by linking to their blogs on your posts. Don’t expect a reciprocal link thought – that ‘s not how blog links work. Focus on creating link-worthy content and your readers will link to you. First you give some and they you get some – in that order. more…

Quality #13: Reviews can be fun (if done right)

by Tanmay Vora, Jan 19, 2010

After 12 awesome posts last year, Tanmay is back with his first post this year and the 13th in the series.

Reviews are an integral part of product/service quality improvement. The purpose of a review is to make things better. Here are a set of common sense rules to adopt in the review process in the software world.

  1. Review early
  2. Stay positive
  3. Keep review records
  4. Review the work, not the person
  5. Train the reviewers
  6. Review iteratively
  7. Review the review process

more..

BLOGTASTIC! Avoid mudslinging

by Rajesh Setty, Jan 19, 2010

Slinging mud at other bloggers may help you generate traffic in the short run, but you won’t be able to retain quality visitors for your blog. You may be tempted to use your platform to vent your frustrations, but it is not a powerful move. You can demonstrate thought leadership without hurting anyone. more…

Measure for Success

by Guy Ralfe, Jan 20, 2010

Doing your best is not going to bring you success. It is at best a cop out. You may feel content about yourself. It is very difficult for humans to be objective for their own sake. What is needed is that you do what is right. Put in that extra degree, go that extra mile and you will see absolutely phenomenal results. Guy brings out this concept brilliantly in this post through a personal experience. more…

BLOGTASTIC! Earn links to your blog

by Rajesh Setty, Jan 20, 2010

A link is a give and treat it accordingly. Just like you would not approach a stranger and ask for a gift, you should not ask for a link from a blogger. Consistently writing compelling and link worthy content and providing a high “return on investment for an interacation (ROII)” will automatically get you links. So, focus on earning links rather than asking for them. more…

Take Care of your Top Employees

by Robert Driscoll, Jan 21, 2010

The worst economic situation in 70 years, has forced companies to do more with less. Employers have retained the top performers while eliminating the bottom performers. This has put enormous pressure on the top performers who cannot wait for the market to get back to “normal”. Companies should take action to identify top performers, define risks and take necessary action to mitigate the risk. more…

BLOGTASTIC! Don’t impose your rules on other bloggers

by Rajesh Setty, Jan 21, 2010

If you are getting something for free, then you lose your right to complain. Bloggers give away their knowledge and expertise and so they can set their own rules for their site. You can make up your own blog’s rules. Your rules can help you, or they can hurt you. Make sure that your rules help you gain more power. Don’t drive readers away with your blog’s rules. more…

Author’s Journey #5 – Choosing the right publishing alternative

by Roger Parker, Jan 22, 2010

Authors should not be carried away by the latest publishing hype. There are several formats in which to release your book – E-books, Trade publishing and Self-publishing. Each of these have their own pros and cons. Ultimately choosing the right publishing option boils down to just 2 issues: cash-flow and task preferences. Roger has created several worksheets to help authors realistically run the numbers and make the right decisions. more…

BLOGTASTIC! Don’t apply the rule of reciprocation for blogs

by Rajesh Setty, Jan 22, 2010

Just because you help your friend, it doesn’t mean they will help you in return. The same concept applies in the blogosphere. While there are no guarantees of reciprocation in the blogosphere, being nice on and off the blog really helps in the long run. more…

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Making Expensive Sales or Lucrative Relationships

by Guy Ralfe on December 30, 2009

Star-RatingsI have just returned from vacationing with relatives in Colorado. The vacation was great except for the frustration caused by one purchase over this festive season. Steve was due to take delivery of a new vehicle yesterday that they had ordered 3 weeks before.

Buying a car is likely the most expensive discretionary item most people purchase. There is often a lot of thought and time that goes into the purchase even if you are not a car fanatic. Whatever make, model, style and financial commitment you settle on, you have to live with for 3-5 years before you get to change it without incurring unnecessary cost.

During our vacation we got to hear a lot about this transaction… After a less than stellar sales interaction the paperwork was complete and the deposit paid. The expected delivery date was given with a 98% certainty. Steve requested weekly updates even if it was that there was no new information, to which the salesman assured him he would get.

After two weeks he had to call the salesman for an update. The salesman promised to get back to them, which he didn’t until they called back again a day later. Only news was that it still appeared to be 98% certain to be available on the promised date. On the promised date no call was received by 10 am, so a call to the dealership was made for an update. The salesman wasn’t available so the sales manager promised to get back with an update shortly. By 4pm still no response so another call was placed to the dealership.

On being put through to the sales manager and requesting the update, the sales manager said they had been extremely busy with a number of other customers and that Steve would have to wait. When Steve asked if he wasn’t also a customer having committed to spending more than $35,000? The sales manager  took everything to heart and rather than addressing his concern, attacked him and told him he could come to the dealership and collect the down payment for the vehicle if he was so dissatisfied with the service – which he could guarantee delivery of in 10 min!

Having waited 3 weeks already, he assured the sales manager he wanted the vehicle and was not concerned when it came, just that he expected some information so that he could plan around that. The sales manager then said the manufacturer was off and the systems were not updated so it could take up to two more weeks to get the vehicle. Steve was fine with that but upset he wasn’t told that initially when he called and said “… great then I will expect it in two weeks”. To which the sales manager then responded “…but I expect you to get the car in the next two days!” Steve then became frustrated as he asked the sales manager – how can you make that assurance when you have just told me the system is not updated? In frustration the sales manager then offered his down payment again, which Steve refused and responded that he will work to another 2 weeks delivery and maybe he will be surprised – and the dealership will call him early!

Based on this interaction (there is always two sides to every story and a lot more detail but…) Steve will wait out his delivery but as a consequence he has already made two commitments:

  1. He will not use the dealership for any service and maintenance
  2. He will post on online review forums about his experience

This is where the tragedy lies and so much damage is done without the salesman even being aware of the situation they have caused. Instead of viewing the transaction as a relationship where there could be ongoing goodwill through referrals and future maintenance of the vehicle this is now a once off transaction that is likely going to cost more than the expected sale. Secondly, this is the ignorance of a salesman/sales organization not yet accepting the power and influence of Social Media and the cost it can have on:

  • The salesman – any online post will likely name the individual and the power of Search Engines will quickly find that for future customers and employers
  • The dealership – also named in the online review will produce a negative customer valuation which can affect traffic to the dealership
  • The dealership network – often a dealership is an affiliate or part of a larger network (across multiple brands). Again the power of search engines will make the association of the individual dealership within the larger organization thus tainting their reputation.
  • The manufacturer – the dealership represents the retail storefront for a global manufacturer, who works hard to promote and protect their image. In the realm of social media they are dependent on their product and dealers to preserve this image.

As consumers this is the magic of Social Media – no longer are we told through marketing and advertising what our perceptions should be, our peers and fellow consumers tell us firsthand. Social Media has given us the power, we need to use it wisely, to both promote and demote based on actual interactions which helps everyone.

This is a simple illustration coincidentally involving the behavior of a stereotypical car salesman, but this applies in all transactions – Understand and engage at all levels as if you were in a relationship as Social is how the world moves today.

Guy RalfeThis article was contributed by Guy Ralfe, co-founder of Active Garage and co-author of the upcoming book ProjectManagementTweets. You can follow Guy on Twitter at gralfe.
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Quality #12: Middle Management and Quality Culture

by Tanmay Vora on November 24, 2009

Welcome to the final post in this 12-part series on QUALITY, titled #QUALITYtweet – 12 Ideas to Build a Quality Culture.

Here are the first eleven 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

#QUALITYtweet Middle management is the glue

joins long-term organizational goals with short-term

improvement actions.

Strategies for growth and improvement that take a shape in corporate boardrooms are implemented on the floor by people at all levels. Middle managers translate these larger goals and vision into actionable tasks that teams execute. Middle management of your organization plays a pivotal role in mobilizing people to execute tasks in line with larger goals and values.

Most “Quality Improvement” literature focuses on “commitment from the top”. That is the first step. I would also like to emphasize on “commitment from the middle management” because they are a very important link between the top and the bottom.

The primary focus of the top management should be on nurturing the middle layer of management, for they can make a huge difference in organization’s growth. They form the culture and set the tone and behavior for people who execute. A strong middle management means strong organization.

Typically, the role of middle managers in quality management is:

  • To ensure that all actions, tasks and behaviors are aligned to the broader vision and goals.
  • To build a strong customer oriented culture by setting right examples.
  • Not just to manage people, but truly lead them.
  • To have a strong business acumen to facilitate right decision-making
  • To be oriented to and driven by customer needs, hence building a customer-oriented culture.
  • To take accountability of culture-building and not always look at the top for directions.
  • To mobilize people to drive quality.
  • To involve people at all level in team in process improvement
  • To ensure right flow of information at all levels
  • To manage employee behaviors and focus on team effort to deliver quality

Top management should formally delegate responsibility of process improvement to a group or an individual. If quality improvement isn’t anybody’s job, it is not surprising that it doesn’t get done.

People look at their leaders as role models who are expected to be setting right examples. Middle management behavior and attitude ultimately ends up shaping the overall organization culture. If you want to get a pulse of an organization, just observe how middle managers communicate and the content of communication. With positive communication and motivation, employees can be truly engaged to the mission of the project and hence the organization. Quality of communication and leadership with internal customers (people) is as important as that with external customers.

Managers tell stories that people believe in and adopt. Challenge for people at the top is to ensure that middle managers tell right stories, which ultimately builds the right culture.

Keep your middle management focused, and rest of the culture building activity becomes much easier.

Tanmay VoraTanmay is a Software Quality Management professional based out of India. He hosts QAspire Blog and tweets as @tnvora. He is also an author of the book #QUALITYtweet – 140 Bite-Sized Ideas to Deliver Quality in Every Project
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Quality #10: Inspection can be a waste if…

by Tanmay Vora on November 20, 2009

Quality InspectionWelcome to the tenth post in this 12-part series on QUALITY, titled #QUALITYtweet – 12 Ideas to Build a Quality Culture.

Here are the first nine 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

#QUALITYtweet Formal inspections can be a

huge waste of resources if you have not invested

in getting it right the first time

The goal of any process improvement initiative is to prevent same problems from occurring again. New problems are an opportunity to identify areas of improvement but same problems occurring repetitively is a sign of stagnation.

As someone rightly said, “Quality can never be inspected in a product; it has to be built first.” Processes have to help identify the quality expectations from the customers and translate those expectations into a practical action plan to build/verify quality constantly.

Inspections done at the tail end of product life cycle can eat a huge chunk of your budget because later the problems are found, costlier the resolutions. On top of that, if you have not “engineered” quality in a product, inspections can be a huge waste. You can never verify something you have not built upfront.

In manufacturing world, it is very unlikely to find that a component is inspected after it is integrated in the product. The very idea of inspecting everything after completing all product development is a dangerous one – one that has many business and financial risks associated with it.

This is where “prevention” is always better than “cure”.

Don’t get me wrong. Inspections are still one of the best ways to find problems. The timing of inspection is very important.

When inspections are done earlier in development process:

  • Fixing problems is less costly
  • Early identification of critical risks helps you manage them proactively
  • Lower risk of failure at the end

Following are some very simplified guidelines on how inspection activity can be leveraged to generate value and lower risks for your customers. Each one of these points can be a process in itself.

  • Know customer’s quality expectations early and educate team
  • Clarify the exact customer requirements (and be ready for change)
  • Give thoughtful consideration to a robust product design
  • Plan actions to ascertain that quality expectations are built in the product
  • Inspect Early and Inspect Often in cycles
  • Each cycle of early inspection reduces risk of failure
  • With this, final cycles of inspection can focus on “value-delivered-to-customer” rather than “defects-found-at-the-tail-end”.

The process of inspection can be your biggest asset if you have invested early efforts in building quality and then inspecting it. Else, it can be a huge waste.  Reduce this waste and you will automatically start forming a culture where “building quality” always takes precedence over inspecting. Your journey towards a quality-oriented culture begins there

Tanmay VoraTanmay is a Software Quality Management professional based out of India. He hosts QAspire Blog and tweets as @tnvora. He is also an author of the book #QUALITYtweet – 140 Bite-Sized Ideas to Deliver Quality in Every Project
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Managing Your Identity – Telephone Etiquette

by Thomas Frasher on November 20, 2009

whats_in_your_telephone

A professional business people our identity in our marketplace is extremely important.  Identity or brand is an early indicator of the cost of doing business with us. A well respected identity results in lower cost to your marketplace, no matter what that marketplace may be.

Today’s article focus’ on a single aspect of identity management that has raised itself to me several times this week: Telephone Etiquette.

How many of us use conference calling and online meeting sharing systems (Skype, GotoMeeting, Meetingplace, etc) to conduct our meetings?  I have been in 8 conference meetings this week where 2 or more participants were not geographically located in the same area as the main meeting.

Given that we are more and more, required to conduct business in a more virtual fashion, identity management takes on a different complexion. With a virtual meeting, there is little if any visual cues to help people move the conversation along or not step on one another verbally.  Today’s article gives some simple guidelines for making conference calls work more smoothly and helping to build your identity as a competent business person.

1. Pay close attention to your proximity to the telephone or microphone.  Voices will be softer or louder based on this distance and can give the impression that you are either not paying attention or that you are otherwise engaged.  Remember people are "seeing" with their ears on a conference call.

2. Don’t tap the table that is holding the telephone or microphone.  While those in the room may not be able to hear it, the mechanical noise will be transferred to the phone or mic and it is very distracting on the receiving end. Likewise shuffling papers near the phone of mic can be inordinately loud and prevent others from actually hearing what was said.

3. No Side Conversations! This sends a clear message that you don’t consider others thoughts valuable, if a side conversation starts up, as a business leader you need to stop it or bring it into the main part of the meeting.

4. My pet peeve, make sure the other person has finished talking before making your contribution.  care must be taken to manage the meeting so that all the opinions are heard and all the information needed to be passed is passed. I personally must work to remember to not talk over someone. It is very rare when that is required, so be on the lookout for this one.

5. Pay attention to what is being said by others. You have no permanent lock on good ideas, so make sure you are open to the ideas of others, it will improve the quality of your own ideas.  Another peeve I have is when it is obvious that the other person is simply waiting to start talking and they are only gated by me speaking, they are not listening (I admit I’m guilty of this as well).  If you listen carefully to the other people on the conference call you may find the your opinions of them and their contribution may change.

Above all remember to respect your virtual meeting colleagues, which is what the list is all about anyway.

Thomas_Frasher This article was contributed by Thomas Frasher, co-founder of Active Garage. You can follow Thomas on Twitter at tfrasher.
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Quality #9: Quality of Relationship and Communication

by Tanmay Vora on November 19, 2009

Welcome to the ninth post in this 12-part series on QUALITY, titled #QUALITYtweet – 12 Ideas to Build a Quality Culture.

Here are the first eight 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

#QUALITYtweet How NOT to deliver total quality:

Focus on quality of product without focusing on

quality of relationship and communication

In an increasingly service oriented business environment, what you sell is not just a product but an experience. People may forget explicit details like specifications or price, but never forget the experience they had when they bought the product.

Experience extended to end-customers largely depends on attitude, values and behaviors of each individual who interacts with a customer. One of the most important challenges is to keep this group of people aligned to organization’s quality system and values.

Communication is the backbone of organization’s success in marketplace. Effective internal and external communication within an organization ensures that:

  • Your employees understand your value system
  • They understand what is expected out of them
  • They are motivated to walk an extra mile to deliver excellent service
  • Your customers know your value system
  • You build trust-based relationship with your people and customers with consistent communication
  • Manage expectations with your people and customers.

How can you motivate your teams to deliver excellent customer experiences through simple communication processes? Here are a few ideas to consider:

Train:

Training your internal team can be your biggest tool for clearly explaining the process of communication and how important it is for the business. Consistently train your people on value systems, leadership, quality management, effective communication, what works in customer management, what not, expectations management and cultural aspects of client’s location. Clients also need training on how best they can use your products. Companies organize client workshops to educate them about different aspects of product/service. Train consistently to streamline communication.

Support:

Once your people are trained, you need to support them in doing right things. Supporting can be a simple act of being there with your people when they talk to customers. Help them improve and share feedback on how are they doing. Some companies may see this activity as an “overhead” but it is an “investment” in your people.

Monitor:

Once you have confidence that your people will be able to do the right communication, monitor them. Take periodic feedback from them. Communicate consistently to ensure that they are motivated enough to continue doing it.

Delivering consistently superior experience to your customers (via quality of products and communication) results in a long-term relationship based on trust. In business, as in life, relationships are crucial. Quality of your relationships is as important as quality of your products, or perhaps, even more.

Tanmay VoraTanmay is a Software Quality Management professional based out of India. He hosts QAspire Blog and tweets as @tnvora. He is also an author of the book #QUALITYtweet – 140 Bite-Sized Ideas to Deliver Quality in Every Project
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