Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Another pass on “Selling Quality”

Paul Borawski’s blog post on trying to “sell” quality to senior executives has drummed up a lot of responses from the Influential Voices community as well as others.  There are many aspects to this issue but Paul only addresses the starting point of the journey (selling to leadership). You need to sell quality to the entire organization.
Most organizational initiatives start at the top.  Programs get “sold” to management when they see that implementing the program is in the best interest of the organization.  It is usually an easy sell, full of testimonials and dollar savings.  The hard part of this is getting the management team’s hands dirty in being involved in the program.  Jack Welch documented his challenges with GE (Straight from the Gut) in first incorporating Work-Out into the organization and then to take it further with Six Sigma. He insisted that managers become involved, not just supporting these programs and those that did not get involved were found other places to work. He created the culture and sustained it over time. 
Dr. Donald Winter, as Secretary of the Navy during President Bush’s second term, planned to do the same with Lean Six Sigma for the Navy.  Dr. Winter had a monthly meeting with his direct reports that required them to report on activities that they were doing in implementing Lean Six Sigma.  These meetings were passionate discussions. Unfortunately, the incoming and current Secretary of the Navy immediately stopped these meetings at the behest of these same direct reports. The Navy Lean Six Sigma program still exists but not to the energy it once had. 
I had a discussion today with my office mates and the discussion came about on sustaining success.  Part of the “selling” of quality usually involves some training program, often developed by consultants outside the culture of an organization.  The prime complaint of these training programs is that it does not speak to the work environment.  “Examples are not relevant,” “We don’t manufacture anything,” “What’s in it for me?”  The consultants are only hired to train, not to develop something that sustains. 
Which comes to the second or hard part of the sale: how do you sustain quality?  The first part I already mentioned; senior management has to participate.  Most programs die because management “supports” them; but that usually means provide resources but not get personally involved.  Secondly, the program has to be made relevant to all levels of the organization. How does it impact culture? Why doing this program will be in my and the organization’s best interest? This is really hard but necessary.  Quality, to be useful, must be used by everyone; we have to communicate to everyone that not doing quality will affect their livelihood or soul.  Quality has to become personal to everyone in the organization.  It manifests itself in the outward approach by individuals in the way they do work.  Just because we as quality professionals are passionate about quality does not make it so.  We, quality professionals, cannot be seen as the lone voice of quality; everyone in the organization must be that voice.
So Paul and the quality community, how do we REALLY close the quality sale?  How do we ensure that the next version of quality gets full embraced by organizations and not just become a training program that becomes entertainment or resume padding? One soul at a time.
Until next time!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

ROWE – The New Lean Six Sigma?

Through my new friends in Lean (and some old Navy folks), I have been introduced to ROWE – Results Only Work Environment.  At the same time I have been re-reading Fish!, whose premise closely follows what ROWE is all about: if you empower your workforce you will see major productivity gains.
Either I have not researched the topic deeply enough or I am too new a neophyte to ROWE to understand, I do see some dangers.  I write this blog entry to stimulate a conversation.  I do see the power in choice and evaluating people on merit.  But I also see ROWE as more of a part of an overall strategy, not a panacea.
The first fear or danger I see is the fear of sub-optimization.  Sub-optimization is the sin of improving locally without regard for the whole. A local improvement could have a harmful impact on the entire operation.  From what I have seen from my limited literature search, there is no mention of required coordination to ensure work flow. Also, the increased capacity from the local improvement could be lost if left in the hands of the individual worker.  There still has to be some guidelines necessary to ensure work still flows smoothly through the entire operation and not bottleneck the downstream internal customer.
The second fear or danger is lack of synchronicity.  I work in a shipyard that maintains US Navy warships.  We live and die by the schedule.  We have to repair and maintain ships on a set schedule otherwise we adversely impact those ships already underway (they have to stay out longer if we miss schedule and you know how ticked off you would be if you were cooped up in a cabin for an extended period of time) and it snowballs from there.  For any work to be completed you need four things to be available at the same time: procedure, operator, equipment, material (POEM).  If one part of this is missing you cannot accomplish work.  Repairing ships is a ballet just like building cars.  We have to ensure the POEM is there to ensure work is done.  On larger scales I can see ROWE can harm the concept of POEM if not planned out well.  ROWE can reinforce POEM by ensuring a happy workforce but it cannot allow the O part of POEM to be let down because a critical skill decides that they are done for the day and leave because their part of the work is done. 
I see these dangers as extreme circumstances. Yes, if people are happy, feel they have some control of their schedule, see the value that they provide, and understand their importance to the accomplishment of the mission these dangers of minimized.  So I ask the ROWE experts, “What makes ROWE different from Deming’s 14 points, Senge’s 5 disciplines, or Taiichi Ohno’s workplace management concepts?” If it is a way to apply these concepts, I am all for it as long as consideration of the potential pitfalls are also addressed.
Until next time!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

In celebration of Pi day

For all you stat geeks, quant heads, and data freaks, we have a celebration of Pi today so make sure you celebrate appropriately!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Selling Quality – Both parts of it

Paul Borawski’s latest blog entry speaks to his latest journey on determining and communicating the future of quality.  I like how he ends these sessions with a challenge on how you going to promote (sell) quality to leadership.  It is not an easy sell, especially when there are two parts to Quality.
Quality has two major concentrations: conformance to standard and performance improvement. You cannot promote either part the same way.  A way to help strategize promotion is where these elements fall in relation to Covey’s quadrants.  Conformance to standard is a direct application of Q1, performance improvement exists in Q2.
Promoting conformance to standard is an easy sell because it relates directly to business pressure points: time, cost, and schedule. It is when solutions for Q1 issues require maintenance outside the everyday Q1 tasks that it gets difficult to justify.  For example, ISO 9000:2008, is very easy to promote, because the majority of the standard directly impacts business output. Baldrige is a more difficult sell because more emphasis is placed on organizational structure, planning, and management—things that more logically fall in Q2.
Another perspective on promotion is how performance improvement methodologies have been “sold” to businesses.  If you look on a lot of consulting websites, their pitch is on how their take on Lean or Six Sigma will save X amount of dollars based on testimonials.  Lean and Six Sigma realized initial success when these methodologies answered immediate problems that impacted the business pressure points.  But, over time, these programs begin to wane because the time cost was soon to be seen as more expensive than the actual savings or the accounting of these costs could not be incorporated into their current business systems. For an example of an answer to this problem see what Xerox is doing.  
Quality sells best when it is integrated or created into an organization’s culture.  Toyota, GE, John Deere, Springfield ReManufacturing, Zingerman’s are companies that understand that culture is the driving force of success and quality has a role to play in that success. They understand that what is done in the Q2 world will impact the Q1 world. Always staying in Q1 never allows for growth. You need to be in both worlds.
The following is on Deming’s Wikipedia page and it provides a great summary.
In the 1970s, Dr. Deming's philosophy was summarized by some of his Japanese proponents with the following 'a'-versus-'b' comparison:
(a) When people and organizations focus primarily on quality, defined by the following ratio,

Quality = (Results of work efforts) / (Total Costs)

quality tends to increase and costs fall over time.

(b) However, when people and organizations focus primarily on costs, costs tend to rise and quality declines over time.

Until next time!