Posts Tagged ‘quality’

Quality #7: Productivity and Quality

by Tanmay Vora on November 17, 2009

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

Here are the first six 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

#QUALITYtweet Tracking productivity without

tracking the quality of output is like tracking

the speed of a train without validating the direction

In F1 racing, one of the primary challenges for a driver is to keep a close eye on speed and direction. One wrong move at a high speed and car bumps with the edge of the track.  “Speed” when combined with direction is termed as “velocity”.

One of the rules of management is, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” But an obsessive focus on metrics can prove harmful for organization’s health because:

  • You may be measuring wrong things that do not directly relate to organization goals
  • You may only be measuring outcomes without focusing on qualitative aspects.
  • You may be using measurement as a sole base for decision making without considering the variable/unknowing aspects of your business.

A lot of resource managers in technology and business area narrow their focus on hardcore metrics that reveal volume but not quality. Examples could be number of hours logged during a day (versus tasks achieved in those hours), number of modules completed in a day (versus quality of those modules), number of cold calls made during the day (versus quality of research and depth of communication in each call). This list can go on, but you get the point. More, in this case, is not always better.

Metrics are important to evaluate process efficiency, but not sufficient. Quality system of an organization should have processes to assess both qualitative and quantitative aspects of work. How can this be achieved? Here are three most important pointers:

  1. Hybrid approach with focus on good management: Measuring productivity solely by units produced could be a great way to manage in manufacturing world. In knowledge world, where the raw material for products or services is a human brain, qualitative approach combined with common-sense metrics is a great way to ensure balance between quality and productivity. Key to higher productivity in knowledge based industry is ‘good management’.
  2. Quality as a part of process, rather than an afterthought: Quality is not an afterthought. Quality has to be built through process by people. Process should have necessary activities defined at each stage of product to ensure that a quality product is being built. These activities can then be measured and improved upon. Process also shapes up culture of an organization and hence due care must be taken to ensure that quality system does not form a wrong culture. Process has to take care of softer aspects of work including trust, commitment and motivation levels of people.
  3. Measure to help, not to destroy: Metrics are like a compass that shows direction. In order to move forward, you have to walk the direction. Metrics can give you important trends, but these trends need to be analyzed and worked upon. Key challenge of any process manager is to ensure that metrics are used to evaluate process and not people. If you start using metrics as a base for rewards, you are not allowing people to make mistakes. When people don’t make mistakes, they don’t grow. As an organization, you don’t grow either.

Process can be used to gain “speed” or to gain “velocity”. The choice is yours.

Quality #6: Knowing what needs improvement

by Tanmay Vora on November 16, 2009

Qualitytweet_6Welcome to the sixth post in this 12-part series on QUALITY, titled #QUALITYtweet – 12 Ideas to Build a Quality Culture.

Here are the first five 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”

#QUALITYtweet The first step of your

process improvement journey is to

know what really needs improvement

In modern day sports, players and their coaches have sophisticated facilities to learn from recorded versions of the game with some great analytical tools. When reviewing these recorded versions with the team, an important job of a coach is to tell the player:

  • What is going right? How can we consolidate that?
  • What can be improved further? How will it help the game?
  • What needs to change?

Process improvement is all about improving your game with a thoughtful consideration to critical aspects of business.

You can do a lot of improvement in non-critical areas (and feel good about it). Just because you are improving something does not mean you are improving the right thing. The key to success of any improvement initiative is to pick the right areas. To get driven by operational nitty-gritty is one of the biggest mistakes most improvement managers commit. Process improvement can become an important business enabler provided all improvement initiatives are business oriented.

Do a quick reality check by answering following critical questions to gauge return-on-investment of process improvement initiative:

1) If a particular area of operations is improved, will it have a direct impact on customer’s satisfaction level or customer’s experience? (Focus: External Value)

2) Does the improvement in a particular area directly improve the productivity of team and enable them to execute faster? (Focus: Productivity)

3) Does improvement in a particular area directly have impact on revenues and business? (Focus: Revenue)

4) Does improvement in a particular area make it easier for people to generate qualitative outcomes and improved job satisfaction? (Focus: Internal Value)

How do you find out what “really” needs improvements? The answer is – by collaborating. You can never identify broader improvement areas by isolating yourself in a comfortable cabin. You have to actively collaborate with the following stakeholders:

1)      Customers : In a customer-centric process culture, feedback from customers are carefully assessed to identify customer’s expectations on what can be improved. Your customer can be your strongest ally in improvement journey. Seek feedback.

2)      Business Development Folks: They are the ones who have maximum face time with customers. These could be project managers, account managers or client relationship managers. They can give improvement areas that directly map with business.

3)     Middle managers and team: They are people on floor who get things done. They are best candidates to give suggestions on what can be improved operationally to deliver quality upfront and improve productivity.

The famous 80:20 rule applies to process improvement initiative as well. 80% of improvement happens by focusing on continuous identification of 20% improvement areas. It helps to adopt a clinical approach in identifying the 20% that really matters – yes, that much (20%) does make that much (80%) of a difference!

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 #2:“Cure” precedes “Prevention”

by Tanmay Vora on November 10, 2009

Cure or preventionThis is the second 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.

#QUALITYtweet Never let your processes

come in the way of solving your

customer’s immediate problems

I recently saw a very popular and award-winning Indian movie where a goon decides to become a doctor to fulfill his father’s dream. He cheats in entrance test and gets into a medical school, only to notice the impersonal attitude of doctors and their bureaucratic relationship with patients.

On the first day of his college, as he walks towards the class room, he notices a patient in critical condition waiting to get admitted to hospital. He is in a critical condition and his relatives are struggling to get the admission form which needs to be filled as a mandatory process for getting admitted. This deeply annoys the protagonist who then proceeds to the induction session. When the Dean’s introduction lecture gets over, the protagonist asks him in front of all other students, “When a patient is in a critical condition, is it necessary to fill up the admission form? If the patient lost his life, who will be responsible?” This agitates the dean who walks out of the room without giving any answer.

This movie sequence contains a great lesson for the organizations – “Never let your processes come in the way of solving your customer’s immediate problems.”

Your processes should have flexibility to allow your people to solve customer’s burning problems. “Cure” precedes Prevention”. You can think of prevention after you have learned how to solve immediate problems of your customer.

How do we achieve this? Here are some pointers:

  1. Constantly review processes to identify redundancies that can be removed to simplify the process.
  2. Identify processes that are designed to “save the turf” but not related to actual customer service or value.
  3. Create an action plan of how these processes can be changed to simplify.
  4. Automate critical processes in form of applications that are easily accessible and easy to use.
  5. Train middle management to develop a customer-oriented mindset.
  6. Lead the team from front and set right examples of what customer-orientation looks like.
  7. Once immediate customer problem is solved, assess the opportunity to improve process and prevent similar occurrences.
  8. Make people nearest to customer accountable for customer satisfaction. Base your rewards on customer satisfaction and not on metrics.
  9. Keep doing these activities continuously.

Process is a tool that we use to deliver better services. The same process, if applied rigidly, can become your biggest obstacle in solving customer’s burning problems. In business critical situations, empathy towards customer’s business is as important as having a process. That is the hallmark of a customer-centric process culture.

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!

Dirty Dozen #4 – Mediocrity

by Rajesh Setty on October 14, 2009

dirty-dozen-mediocrityThis is part of the “Dirty Dozen” series. Part 3 covered the word “Complacency” and today we will look at the word “Mediocrity.”

Dictionary definition:
The quality or state of being mediocre

If you think about it, mediocrity has no set standards. When someone sets a higher standard in the marketplace for something, the rest of the people who are operating at a standard lower than this “higher standard” will be operating in mediocrity.

Plasma screen TVs made the earlier generation TVs mediocre

iPhone made the earlier cool phones mediocre

Kindle made the Sony reader mediocre

Nintendo Wii made a whole line of video games mediocre

You don’t typically choose to operate in mediocrity. You just end up there if you don’t strive to operate in setting higher standards in the marketplace.

The funny thing is that many people operating in mediocrity are doing so because they don’t want to “walk the extra mile.” However, just because there is an oversupply of people operating in this zone, there is a dog fight going on in this zone. In fact, traffic is smoother in the “extra mile” as there are less people in that zone.

Mediocrity is a silent killer be it in personal life or professional life.

Your life is a gift and it calls for a celebration. Living in mediocrity is simply not the way to celebrate it.

You can also listen to the audio here:

Note:

Illustration by Ming. Ming is the creator of the Fantasy Story webcomic. He is also a freelance illustrator, designer, painting instructor and occasional luxury car salesman. Ming is based in Penang, Malaysia. You can find him on twitter @Artmaker

Producing Good Decisions… consistently!

by Thomas Frasher on August 11, 2009

decision making cartoonDecision making for entrepreneurs/business owners can be difficult, time consuming, arduous, fractious and distracting.  This article discusses a method for clarifying decisions and streamlining decision making.

There are four parties to every business decision:

– The facilitator

– The approver

– The contributors

– The informed parties

1. The facilitator – this person pushes everything, keeps the schedule, facilitates meetings, and makes sure the lines of communication stay open. There can only be one of these at a time.

2. The approver – There is only one of these for any decision. This is the final authority for the decision, they have the responsibility for the delivery of the business outcome of the decision. In some very rare cases you can have more than one approver, this requires a high degree of trust between the approvers and they need to have a single vision of the desired outcome. The approver needs to be designated pre-decision.

3. The Contributors – These are the individuals that execute the decision. The contributors have the technical expertise to provide input to the decision. It is very important to understand that the contributors do not need to agree with the decision, however, after the decision is made the facilitator and the contributors must support the decision. There should be 5 or less contributors.

4. The informed parties – The fourth group are those that are informed of the decision. They have no vote and no say. The facilitator is responsible for communicating the decision and the business outcome of the decision to those affected by the decision.

It is also important to understand that this process can also be used to drive efforts to produce business outcomes, not just decisions. with the contributors being the architects of the design, the facilitator keeping the schedule and coordinating actions among the contributors and informed (often implementers), the approver having the final say over the outcome quality.

Paying careful attention to the make-up of the decision team will greatly influence the quality and speed of the decision. Good teams produce good decisions… consistently!