Friday, June 29, 2012

How CEOs can acquire the “Value” of Quality (and Integrity)

The latest blog post from ASQ Influential Voice member Kerrie Ann Christian struck home to me about what Quality offers in the way of value and how it is illustrated in the Arthur Miller play, “All My Sons.” Arthur Miller is one of my favorite playwrights because he writes about the weakness of the human condition and how dire circumstances coupled with their beliefs drive people to do most unusual acts. Kerrie Anne provides a good summary for “All My Sons.”  Willy Loman is another tragic figure of Miller’s from “Death of a Salesman.”  You can draw a parallel with today’s CEO’s and how they act.  I would contend that the value from the C-level perspective is more driven by what is right in the eyes of external forces rather than what is right for the organization.  That is not leadership.  Leadership is doing what is right regardless of whether someone is watching or not. The challenge we face is educating the C-level that quality provides more than how to do it right (little q) but also the ability and information to be strong in their convictions about the future (Big Q). 

Kerrie Anne ends with the lament about the large introduction of “fakes” that are appearing in the marketplace, especially in areas of sensitivity like the military. Recently, Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan discovered fake fire extinguishers.  These fire extinguishers, bought on government contract, were not filled with the appropriate retardant but with compressed air, which would accelerate a fire, not extinguish it.  Fortunately, the fake fire extinguishers were easily identified (identical serial numbers, non-metallic triggers, different canister shape) so that others could spot them and dispose of them.   Why does a company produce this type of product? 

I will end with a success story: the US Navy Nuclear Program.  One gentleman was the driving force at its beginning and there are some here in the shipyard who swear they see his ghost: Admiral Hyman Rickover.  Rickover placed a stamp on the program that is best explained by this quote: "I have a son. I love my son. I want everything that I do to be so safe that I would be happy to have my son operating it. That's my fundamental rule." (p. 55, Power at Sea: A Violent Peace, 1946-2006 (2006)) 

Every day, America’s sons and daughters are riding, operating, and maintaining equipment that is nuclear powered.  Since 1955, more than 200 US nuclear warships have been built and not one has had a nuclear reactor failure. Not everyone can be a Hyman Rickover.  But if the C-level executives of Enron, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, WorldCom, Bear Stearns, and Solyndra, internalized purpose and the value of quality half as well Rickover did, the world economy would be a lot better off than it is today.

Until next time!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Quality – What’s the next flavor of the month?

I know the title sounds terrible but you cannot tell me that someone you know or has come in contact with you has not said these same words.  As a professional it is insulting.  But, that same comment provides opportunity especially as it applies to ASQ and their tri-annual Futures Study.

I would contend that we (quality profession as a whole) do not do a good enough job at providing context nor supporting the basic tenets of our profession.   My last blog post talked about the two definitions of quality: little q – conformance to specifications, and Big Q – the strategic focus necessary to improve organizationally.  You need both aspects of quality to move organizations forward.
From a historical perspective, most of the “new methods” talked about from Henry Ford's day through the 1980’s were directed at little q.  A literature search of that period’s quality journals and magazines  talk about Go/NoGo gages, mistake proofing, statistical process control, acceptance samplingprocess capability, and the 7 Quality Tools; all focused on identifying problems with the prime purpose of making a product to specification.  
In the mid to late 80’s the tide started to turn, Armand Feigenbaum started talking about Total Quality Management. Eli Goldratt was taking his physics training and applying it to processes. ISO 9000 was developed (first published in 1987). Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award was developed.  Motorola was creating training called “Six Sigma.” James Womack was trying to make sense of what Toyota was creating in their manufacturing facilities.  All of these were focusing on Big Q.
Today, there are refinements.  There are many versions of Six Sigma out there.  Pascal Dennis wrote Lean Production Simplified that became the bible for most of the Lean consultants out there with the task of translating the concepts into other industries. Forrest Brefoygle has written a series of books talking about applying a scientific approach to quality in an organization.  Jim Harrington just published a book with his take on the same model. 

One aspect that is becoming more into the forefront: behavioral quality.  All of the above elements have behavior change as part of their DNA but there are new set of consultants who are disciples of Senge, Scholtes, and Drucker implying that Big Q is closely tied to Social Responsibility and organizational leadership.  In my mind, the next “best” methodology will focus on behavioral aspects.

Yet, if we take a step back in time, Joe Juran and W.Edwards Deming got it right. These two were the giants.  Older versions of Juran’s Quality Handbook had the lion’s share of little q stuff but a good third of the book had examples of application at the organizational level.   I am still in awe of Deming’s 14 Points. Reading Senge’s Fifth Discipline, Rother’s Toyota Kata, Scholtes’ The Leader’s Handbook, one can make so many connections to Deming's work that it is surprising that someone has not done it before. 

In my mind, if you want to get to the source of the problems we are facing today organizationally go back to ­Out of the Crisis.  I firmly believe there will be another “flavor of the month.”  It will probably be focused on behavior.  It will also have strong ties to Deming.  Is it wrong? No, because any methodology that better communicates the power of quality moves the entire profession forward.

Until next time!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Quality = little q + Big Q

June's blog post from ASQ's CEO Paul Borawski is his reflection on the Conference Board's Quality Council response to Conference Board's CEO challenge annual survey results.  Paul asks for experiences and case studies on the profession's efforts to change the culture of executive leaders from Quality being only one part of the equation of conformance to specification (little q).  Big Q is the strategic and proactive side of quality that often goes overlooked because it requires resource investment at the C-level on multiple fronts. The report does a great job of detailing these fronts.

I don't have a case study of successful culture change at the C-level but I do try to impact my direct circle of influence.  For example, yesterday I met with a small group of shipyard Black Belts who expressed an interest in progressing their career to be a Master Black Belt.  My organization uses a "qual card" as objective evidence of professional development based on the traditional troika of MBB responsibilities of project experience, teaching, and mentoring.   The first question that I asked them was, "Who wants my job?"  Of course, their initial reaction was of shock and "Are you going somewhere? (No)?"  The more astute question was next: "So, what do you do?"  For the next two hours a supervisor and myself went through the qual card, telling them of our experiences, showing them where to get the information and experience and imparting wisdom. It was the first time most of them understood all the things that go into the making of an experienced performance improvement specialist.

Two weeks previously, 4 folks from my organization sat for the ASQ CQE and CQA exam. I spent a total of about 8 hours the previous month sharing both my technical knowledge as well as successful test taking tips.  All four of these individuals will identify themselves as engineers first, auditors second, and although they work in a QA group, they do not identify themselves as quality professionals.  All four of these future leaders passed.  All four have a better appreciation of quality and its value then they had 3 months hence.

My point:  How are future leaders going to garner an appreciation for quality?  How did, if they ever did, the current C-level executives garner an appreciation for quality?  How many of the current CEO's of Fortune 500 companies state in their resume a position that is traditionally identified as  part of the quality profession?  We have to engage leaders early in their career to give them the appreciation for quality and the value that quality acts in an organization so that leaders can internalize value. Traditional engagement points are academia, workplace experience, and personal experience. My previous two blog posts provides both short term in long term suggestions in resolving these very issues.

To change the quality formula to include Big Q as part of the definition of quality requires what my boss often states as "courageous leadership."  There are so many forces pushing leaders away from doing what is right for the organization long-term and towards doing what is right for them short-term.  Whatever you as a professional can mentor young talent to an appreciation for the holistic aspects of quality will get more people to support John Hunter's call for changing management systems using Deming's 14 Points, as Jimena Calfa states. It's all on us, how are you going to engage?

Until next time!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Solving the Government / Quality Puzzle: Long-Term

As my fellow Influential Voice bloggers have stated, government has many challenges to infusing quality.  Paul Borawski thinks we can do better.  I don't disagree.  Many of the fellow bloggers have talked about either their challenges and successes and there are numerous successes at federal, state, and local levels.

One challenge that seems to be the "ten ton elephant in the room" is politics.  John Hunter eloquently talked about this great challenge. Unfortunately, politics also is a force is any industry that we work in.  The Lean community calls it a "monument." It is something we have to work around.

Which means that the problems of infusing quality, whether it is in government, academia, or private industry are the same. The majority of quality professionals cite that management is the great stumbling block to infusing quality. Which means we, as in the ASQ community, need to address that issue. ASQ has developed many outreach programs with limited success because in my mind we have only been dealing with symptoms.  Let's take a look.

Rather than talking about quality in the aspect of lttle q and Big Q, let's focus our discussions of quality on the general aspect of satisfying the customer.  My first encounter with this aspect was as a 14 year old delivering the Philadelphia Inquirer in my neighborhood in Wilmington, Delaware (Philadelphia is only about 25 miles from where I grew up). Wilmington, at that time, had a morning (Morning News) and afternoon newspaper (Evening Journal) and I directly competed with them.  I started out with a small route of delivering 15 papers over 2 mile radius. I put a lot of miles on my bike.  No one told me how to deliver papers, so I just watched how others did it and followed suit. When I began to collect payment for my services, I got lots of complaints because of wet papers, blowing papers all over their lawn, or lack of paper. I asked them how they liked their papers delivered. My customers told me. When I started to respond, I got happier customers.  Long story short, after 3.5 years on the job, my Sunday delivery was larger than the local paper and I had doubled the size of the daily route, just by listening to the customer and having them be my marketing force.

How do leaders learn about quality?  What are the sources of learning?  There are 3 avenues:  academia, family, experience. Let's talk about experience first.   My first quality story is an example of this.  How do leaders first experience quality?  I would contend that the opportunities for leaders to have that first hand experience are dwindling.  Teenagers have fewer opportunities to run their own opportunities.   Can your boss today talk about their first experience with quality and did it have an impact?  Without direct experience of not satisfying the customer leaders will not accept the message that quality is paramount to their success.

Opportunities of family impacting quality are shrinking even faster than the experiential opportunities. In the past two generations, in the United States, we have seen a major decline in direct sales of goods and services by family operated businesses. As a team, the family is the strongest unit.  It will more quickly go into survival mode when the team is threatened. Future leaders have little experience of what the Navy calls "the burning platform."  If you are on a burning platform at sea, how quickly do you assess and act versus be consumed by the fire. If the family's success is based on the business, the entire family pitches in to survive.  Future leaders have little opportunity to feel that stress of customers not wanting their product or service.

Finally, academia is a hindrance, not a help.  Current management curricula rarely address quality. Curricula is designed to be stove-piped (learning individual nuggets) with some form of case study capstone course that focus on enablers and not practical aspects of problem solving.  In short, the academic model is broken and ASQ needs to intervene to help get it back on course.

So, what we are seeing are leaders that have had little to no direct experience in quality,less of the family team working together for success, and an academic model that has no clue where quality fits in organizational success. Can you understand why quality programs more often than not fail?

How do we resolve this?  Change the culture, change the message. Work on changing the focus from financial success to customer satisfaction.  Work at developing relationships one person at time.  Insist on better preparation from our academic institutions.  Get involved!  For my colleagues who just left the ASQ World Conference I would suggest that if you want to impact change direct your renewed "Voice of Quality" passion towards talking to your bosses to understand their tale of quality and show them yours.  Maybe you will start to make them quality converts.  Maybe one day you will be that organizational leader and you can put these things into place.