Posts Tagged ‘tanmay vora’

Week In Review – May 30 – Jun 5, 2010

by Magesh Tarala on June 6, 2010

Quality #15: 7 tips for acting on customer feedback

by Tanmay Vora, May 31, 2010

Listening to your customers and getting their feedback is important. But if we don’t act upon it, we are wasting not only our time and resources, but also that of the people who took time to provide the feedback. In this post, Tanmay lists some simple tips to integrate customer feedback to deliver meaningful business change. more…

Leadership and Mythology #4: Sociology and Control

by Gary Monti, Jun 1, 2010

Some myths are propagated just so that leaders can exercise control. But there are limits to it. Remember Gary’s last blog? Instead of just beating the drums, what would happen if the leader asked everybody to sacrifice all they had? But if the Chief allows Newtonian mechanics to be embraced and lets loose his power, a new social order arises. Like Obi Wan sees, there are guiding principles that enable the leader to earn the trust and following of others. more…

Mortgage Challenges for the Self Employed

by Guy Ralfe, Jun 2, 2010

Guy recently relocated and started his own business. He is finding it difficult to secure a mortgage for his new home as banks and lenders have a criteria of assessment for the self-employed that he does not yet meet. His advise to those who want to follow in his footsteps – secure the credit before you begin your new operation. more…

Flexible Focus #4: The eight frames of life: Health

by William Reed, Jun 3, 2010

The word Health has a narrow definition in most people’s minds. It usually has the connotation of eating well or exercise or avoiding sickness. But it is much more than that and it impacts not only you, but people you interact with and sometimes those you don’t interact with. Follow the Mandala on Health to get a handle on your health and lifestyle. more…

Author’s Journey #24: Building your expert network and Obtaining pre-publication quotes

by Roger Parker, Jun 4, 2010

It is never too early to begin marketing and promoting your book. One of the best methods is to seek out and build your expert network. Believe it or not, experts are willing to help you – endorsing your book helps reinforce their expert status. Networking brings a whole slew of benefits – so get started today. Read this article to find out how yo can do it. more…

The next installment in the QUALITYtweet series is: 7 tips for acting on customer feedback

Here are the first fourteen 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)
  14. Quality #14: Process improvement and 3E’s

#QUALITYtweet Critical Question:

You have taken your customer’s feedback; have you REALLY acted upon it?

Formal Customer Feedback is a proven tool for bringing about meaningful improvements in your business and offerings. Typical methods of collecting customer feedback include surveys, feedback forms, listening to customer in one-to-one meetings or just watching customers use your products and services. But all improvement starts when you start listening to the voice of your customers and act upon it. It is easy to analyze customer feedback and create good looking charts, but the key is to identify what feedback really means to you as a business.

A few years back, I interviewed a candidate for a process improvement position. His resume’ indicated that he had worked on designing a customer feedback collection system. I was impressed and curious to know more. Further in the interaction, the candidate revealed that his boss (Quality Manager) treated “customer feedback collection” as a task. Once feedback came in, he would send a report to the top management and strike the task off from his task list.

Collecting customer feedback and not acting upon it is a huge waste – as it might appear that you collected the feedback to make the other party feel good about it, which is flattering, but not meaningful. Smart customers will remember their feedback and take a notice when you serve them next time.

Mature organizations devise an integrated customer feedback program which includes both internal customers (people) and external ones. Internal customer feedback program ensures that you identify improvement areas from within.

Here are a few ideas for you to ensure that your integrated customer feedback initiative delivers what is intended to – i.e. meaningful business change:

  1. Seek feedback on overall experience: Most companies seek feedback limited to a product, service or department. Ask the right questions to gauge the overall experience including communication, systems, ease of use and pricing. With the right questions, customers will think broadly and give more constructive feedback.
  2. Acknowledge the feedback and thank them: Once customers share their feedback, acknowledge the receipt and do not forget to thank them. Make it personal. This is the starting point of post-feedback communication.
  3. Reward: A lot of companies offer discounts or freebies when customers share their feedback. This is a good way to ensure involvement and initiative. This works even better when seeking feedback from internal customers.
  4. Keep them involved: Share feedback with customers about their feedback and what you are doing about it. Most companies make the mistake of never going back to the customer after the first feedback cycle. If customer spares valuable time sharing the feedback, it is your obligation to inform them about your follow-up actions and status. In case of internal customers, you can also involve them in solution definition.
  5. Treat Customer Feedback Program as a project: This is very crucial to ensure that actions are followed through. After feedback is received, create a mini-project on improvement actions with defined deadlines and expected outcomes. Creating action log helps maintain momentum and focus on improvement actions.
  6. Ship Results: Show customers how their feedback has helped you improve your processes, delivery methods and service offerings that positively impacts their business. Implement improvement actions on your customer projects and allow them to experience change.
  7. Consider a follow-up feedback: Now that your customers have experienced improvements, consider a follow-up feedback to ensure that they acknowledge your efforts and share their comments.

Customer feedback is never a one-way street – but a two way lane that can allow your customers to become your partners in process improvement.

Week In Review – Jan 24 – Jan 30, 2009

by Magesh Tarala on January 31, 2010

Quality #14: Process Improvement and the 3E’s

by Tanmay Vora, Jan 25, 2009

When process improvement initiatives fail, it is typically due to the lack of one or more of the three E’s – Lack of Empowerment, Lack of Education / Training or Lack of Empathy. Upper management needs to show they are serious about process by allocating the right resources. Implementation staff need to understand what they need to do and why. Lastly, there should be realization across the board that one-size-fits-all approach will not work. Focus on the three E’s and your journey will become easier and fun. more…

BLOGTASTIC!: You have to give back!

by Rajesh Setty, Jan 25, 2009

In life or on your blog, there is more joy in giving than getting. Your blog expands your capacity to give. Invest some of your time expanding the capacity of fellow bloggers who need your help. You’ll quickly find that the effort will produce its own rewards. You will quickly realize that the incremental costs will be quite low for you to provide high-value to someone or some cause. more…

Change Management #1 – Leadership: Navigating with an Executive Map and Compass

by Gary Monti, Jan 26, 2010

Welcome! to the first post in the Change Management Series. This blog is a simple user’s guide to a change management map, compass, and navigation method. We will look at their make-up and how they work. Later blogs will go deeper into how they work.

In this post Gary talks about the three essential components required to lead your company through change – The Map, the Compass and the Navigation Method. In an ever changing environment (the map), you need to be able to adhere to your values (the compass) and adapt your (navigation) methods to reach the goal. more…

BLOGTASTIC!: Say more than “me too.”

by Rajesh Setty, Jan 26, 2009

You may come across blogs with great content and you may link to them. But if you don’t have anything original to say, your links won’t help much. It’s like giving somebody free movie tickets to a bad movie! Understand that the “me too” comments and links only add to the noise and don’t add value to the conversation. more…

Performance comes from Performing People

by Guy Ralfe, Jan 27, 2009

An organization’s goals and an individual’s aspiration will both be successful only if they intersect with each other. Guy illustrates this point in this blog through his recent experience on an airport ramp waiting to get into a plane undergoing tests to make sure the aircraft is clear to fly. more…

BLOGTASTIC!: All about comments

by Rajesh Setty, Jan 27, 2009

How do you create online conversations? Well, in the blogosphere, you do it via comments. Leaving comments on other blogs is a powerful mechanism to build traffic to your blog, build your credibility and in the process build valuable relationships. But before you start commenting, be sure to learn the basic commenting etiquette. more…

When Securing Your Data and Network, Just Look Inside

by Robert Driscoll, Jan 28, 2009

When securing data and network, the most obvious threats to guard against are the external intrusions. Studies have shown time and again that a great number of attacks originate from internal sources. You can safeguard against these risks by constantly reviewing your security policies, following a stringent hiring process and having more than one administrator for critical systems. more…

BLOGTASTIC!: The ultimate leverage engine

by Rajesh Setty, Jan 28, 2009

Whatever you do offline, you can leverage your online presence to your benefit. For example, you can use your blog to generate business or get speaking engagements. What you get out of it depends entirely upon you. You can read a good book and get nothing out of it. Or you can be moved to change the rest of your life. Same thing holds true for your blog. more…

Author’s Journey #6 – What’s the best size for your book?

by Roger Parker, Jan 29, 2009

Common thinking triggered by the word “book” is the long and never ending text books in school and college. Not true anymore. With the dawn of twitter and blogs, smaller books from 140 to 160 pages are popular. It takes less time to create, the cost to publish is lower and also the books are more focused. The trend is not to “tell all” but tell just what’s needed. more…

BLOGTASTIC!: Increase your capacity to do more good

by Rajesh Setty, Jan 29, 2009

You can use your blog for good causes too. In this post Rajesh talks about David Armano’s experience in raising money for a woman who recently separated from an abusive husband – through his blog. This illustrates that your blog can change who you are, your blog can change who your readers are and best of all, your blog can change the world! more…

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

by Tanmay Vora on January 19, 2010

Last year, in November, I posted 12 posts on QUALITY in the form of QUALITYtweets, on Active Garage. It didn’t quite seem right to stop just there… when there is so much still left to say about QUALITY!

Here are the first twelve 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

#QUALITYtweet Make every review meeting a learning

experience by reviewing the product

and process, not people.

We create, we review and we make it better. Reviews are an integral part of product/service quality improvement. The core purpose of any review process is to “make things better” by re-examining the work product and find out anomalies or areas of improvements that the creator of the work product was not able to find.

Establishing a good review process in an organization requires management commitment and investment, but for returns that it generates, the effort is totally worth it. In software world, a lot of emphasis is given to formal inspections, but they work best when a formal process marries with a set of common sense rules. Here they go:

1) Reviewing early

Reviews in early phase of product development means that findings are less costly to resolve. The later defects are found, more expensive it gets to resolve those defects.

2) Staying positive

The art of review is to report negative findings (problems) without losing the positive undertone of communication. Negative or destructive criticism will only make the process more burdensome. Stay positive and keep the process lightweight.

3) Keeping review records

When a lot of time is spent on reviewing, it makes sense to track the findings to closure. Recording the finding helps you to effectively track the closure and trends.

4) Reviewing process, not the person

Always question the process and not the person. Human beings are bound to make mistakes, which is why reviews are required. So accept that mistakes will happen. How can we have a more effective process so that these mistakes are not repeated? That is the critical question.

Imagine that Bob is the reviewer of John’s work product and consider the following conversations:

Bob: “John, I reviewed the code of invoices module developed by you. Again this time, you have not implemented the architecture correctly. You committed the same mistakes that were also found in the registration module earlier.”

OR

Bob: “John, I reviewed the code of invoices module developed by you and your team. We have found some anomalies in the architecture implementation. I just wanted to know if the team had undergone the workshop on our standard architecture. If not, we should invite our systems architect to take a small workshop on system architecture so that the team has better clarity on how it can be best implemented.”

Two conversations with a totally different outlook. The first conversation tries to blame the producer where as the second conversation tries to assess the process and take corrective actions.

5) Training and more training

Reviewers can make huge mistakes if they are not trained. If you don’t invest in training your review teams, you cannot expect them to do it right, the first time.

6) Reviewing iteratively

Review often. During the course of product building, product needs may change. New ideas may be implemented. Keep review process constant amidst all these changes. Discipline is the key.

7) Reviewing the process of reviewing

Are we reviewing it right? Are we reviewing the right things? Periodically, assess the results and the benefits of having a review process. Assess how reviews helped improve product quality. In process assessment, also identify if people are heavily relying on reviews. It that is the case, it is a bad sign.

Success of any process depends on 2 E’s – Efficient and Enjoyable. Same holds true for your review processes. Review is a control mechanism, and hence the focus on getting it right the first time is still very important. A good review is just an internal quality gate that ensures that internal customers (reviewers) are happy with the final product. If your internal customers are happy, your external customers will be happy too!

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.

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

Quality #8: Best Practices are Contextual

by Tanmay Vora on November 18, 2009

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

Here are the first seven 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

#QUALITYtweet The best practices are contextual – they

worked well for someone in a given context. Are you

applying them in the right context?

Imagine a doctor prescribing a standard medicine based on common symptoms without carefully analyzing other ailments and patient history. A doctor knows the best medicine to cure a particular ailment, but he would look at a patient’s context and then decide if the “best medicine” is really best for a particular patient.

Process managers play a role of doctors for the organizations. They have to identify all possible problems (symptoms) and then suggest a solution (medicine). Best medicines for different types of ailments are termed as “best practices” in business.

Best practices are a set of processes that, in a given context, have the best likelihood of delivering quality products or services. In equation of context identification, some of the variables are:

  • Your goals as an organization
  • Market segment you operate in
  • Your target customers
  • Nature of your product / services
  • Types of customer you already serve
  • Team capabilities and internal alignment
  • Management commitment and sponsorship to improvement initiatives
  • External market pressures (e.g. recession)

The list can go on. Best practices often tend to ignore these variables because they worked in past for someone in a particular context. Their context may be different, but never a static one. Implementing best practice without considering organization’s context is like prescribing a standard medicine without looking into symptoms. Both can be equally dangerous!

So how are best practices useful? Studying best practices can give you some very useful insights on possible solutions for your business challenge. They offer alternative perspectives on ideas that can minimize your risks.

For process improvement experts, having access to best practices can be their biggest asset. But their ability to apply those best practices in an organization’s context is absolutely mandatory for success. As a professional, there is no fun in having a best practice for everything and a solution for nothing!

As an organization, you can leverage best practices by carefully studying them and mapping with your unique business challenges. For this, improvement managers need to understand nuts and bolts of business. Once the context is understood, best practices can become your best guide so that you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. Depending on context, you can either implement a best practice as it is or select portions of a best practice that can be most useful for your context.

Simply believing that a best practice will work for you just because it worked for someone else in the past and applying them in vacuum can harm you more than it can help.

There are no silver-bullets in business and things like context and innovation does play a huge role. As one of the Dilbert comic says – “If everyone is doing it, best practices is the same thing as mediocre”.

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!