Posts Tagged ‘review’

Quality #11: Driving Change Through Leadership

by Tanmay Vora on November 23, 2009

change through leadershipWelcome to the penultimate post in this 12-part series on QUALITY, titled #QUALITYtweet – 12 Ideas to Build a Quality Culture.

Here are the first ten 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…

#QUALITYtweet Critical question: Knowing that

people will change only if they want to, how do you

make sure they “want” to change?

Process Improvement is a “change” game and implementing change isn’t always easy. In case of process improvement, the challenge is to change habits and behaviors of your people. That makes it even more difficult.

People change, not by “force” but by their “intent”. With force, people may dispassionately comply with your processes, but for true involvement, their intent needs a direction. With this as a given, critical questions are:

  • How do you make sure that you implement change by driving intent of people?
  • How do you make sure that people are passionately involved in change?

The answer to these is “Change Leadership”. Leading a change means undertaking right initiatives, mobilizing resources, addressing soft aspects like motivation, overcoming hurdles and aligning the teams to make it happen. How can change leadership drive process improvement initiative? Here are a few pointers:

  • Accurately define what needs a change: Apply 80:20 rule to identify what needs improvement. It is easy to align people when they know that they are improving the right areas that have maximum business/operational impact.
  • Create a change time line: Humans work best when they work against a time line. We often tend to get complacent when there are no deadlines. Reasonable pressure helps us become more creative. Create a time line by when change will be implemented with a step-by-step action plan. This also creates a sense of urgency.
  • Engage people: People tend to commit themselves to things they are involved in. Involve practitioners and managers in defining the change. They are the ones who will be impacted by the change. Engage them by explaining them the larger context, vision and business need. When they know the larger picture, they can align their actions accordingly. They also need to know the “What’s in it for me?” part. How will they become more effective? How will this change help them improve their performance? They want to know this.
  • Review progress periodically: If you don’t monitor your people, you give them a reason to slow down. Have short and effective meetings (in group or one-on-one) with people involved in change. Take a stock of how things are going. Understand their problems. Help them do better. They get help and you get the broader picture. If you hit some roadblocks, you still have chance to re-align. Review early and often. This is also your opportunity to share progress and motivate people involved in improvement initiatives.
  • Lead: Give them the context and set them free. Micromanagement on tasks can kill creativity and morale. Be there to help them, but let them do it on their own. People learn the most when they try to do it themselves. They will make mistakes. Help them overcome and share the lessons learned. Set right examples for them to follow.
  • Share rewards: when you link participation with rewards, it will help you get voluntary participation from people. But after they have participated, it is only your leadership abilities that will keep them going. You will still have lot of people who will willingly participate.
  • Keep rotating teams: Once a change cycle is implemented, induct new team members in the improvement team. You maximize the opportunities for everyone to get involved in defining improvements. Broader the participation, wider the acceptance of change.

Last but not the least, people engage when they see continuity of effort. If your improvement initiative is temporary or ad-hoc, people will not engage beyond the first cycle. When people see consistent results from a process improvement group, they willingly participate.

Process improvement is a journey and not a destination. Who you travel with matters a lot. Choose the right people and get them to swing into action. Your business will thank you for that!

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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Check your ego at the door!

by guest on August 12, 2009

check my ego at the doorWhen I look back over all the important lessons that I have learned during and related to my career, some of the most important came before my career even started.

First, some background:

I had the distinct advantage of being an engineering intern at a large aerospace firm while I was a sophomore in college. It allowed me a unique viewpoint in that I was surrounded by exciting technology and incredibly accomplished people (and I knew I couldn’t be laid off, which was a plus). I viewed this time as an opportunity to learn about careers in advance of starting my own. The world was bright and full of possibilities. I soaked up as much as I could about the profession, about corporate America, and about careers in general.

It was during this time that I experienced one of the most important lessons that I have ever learned – to check one’s ego at the door.

One afternoon I was asked to join an engineering review meeting. The purpose of the meeting was to review the progress and share ideas for improvement of the 8 major components that comprised the device we were making. Each component was represented by the lead engineer. In addition, there was a project manager and myself. The 10 of us entered a conference room at 2:00PM for a 2 hour meeting.

What ensued was a lesson that I still reference today.

The engineer of component #1 stood up, gave his progress report, and stated some of the challenges he was experiencing and how he planned to solve them. The other 7 engineering leads then suggested alternative solutions and constructive criticism (and the suggestions were quite good). Upon each suggestion, however, the lead engineer of component #1 immediately shook his head and responded that his solution was superior and that there was no need to consider alternatives. The other 7 engineers became agitated that their views were not being fully considered. But the engineer of component #1 concluded his presentation and sat down. Following his presentation, the lead engineer of component #2 stood up, gave his progress report, and stated the challenges that he was experiencing. Again, the other 7 engineering leads gave suggestions and alternative solutions, but they were similarly dismissed by the lead engineer of component #2. Again, the other 7 engineering leads became agitated that their solutions were not being considered. The lead engineers of remaining 6 components, in turn, gave their presentations, listened to the suggestions and criticisms, and dismissed them. And in each case, the 7 other engineers were agitated that their views were not being considered.

In all, the “2 hour” meeting took 6 hours to complete, primarily due to the length of time that each engineer took to refute the proposed suggestions. In each case, the lead engineer expended immense effort to prove that his ideas were superior to all the others. And in each case, the other 7 engineers expended immense effort to prove that their alternative solutions were worth merit. But in each case, the engineers were willing to provide criticism but not receive it… or one could also assess that each engineer was capable of talking, but none was capable of listening!

As an intern, I found myself amused and chuckling quietly to myself. If this had been a graded exercise for one of my engineering laboratory classes, we all would have failed because while we would have succeeded in communicating ideas, we would have failed in sharing and accepting ideas for improvement. What I didn’t immediately understand was that if I, a sophomore in college, could perceive the problem, why couldn’t the lead engineers? What was the specific problem that was preventing them from learning from one another?

What was the source of the problem?

And then it struck me!

It was not about the problem or the best solution anymore… it had become all about the egos! Each engineer had committed the same mistake of allowing their ego to interfere with the exploration of a better solution. Their egos were preventing the learning process from occurring.

It became clear to me, at that point, that the key to a successful meeting (and career) is checking your ego at the door so that your mind is open to other possibilities. Leave your ego outside the conference room (or office building).

I am so glad that I learned that lesson during that day. At each stage of my career following that meeting, I have allowed for the possibility that – “for every solution I have conceived, there may be a better one.”

The biggest takeaway for me:

I have recalled this lesson time and again and it has helped me to NOT avoid criticism. In fact, I have learned to seek criticism and feedback, whether it be good or bad, at all times. For if I reach the point where I think my solutions are the best to the exclusion of all other possibilities, then I have reached the point where I can no longer learn. And if I cannot learn, then I cannot progress as a person.

—–
mike markey outside cropped Michael Markey has 16 years of engineering and software experience in various areas including aerospace, military, and commercial sectors. He currently leads a team of consultants that specialize in access control and commercialization of online content.

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