Monday, July 23, 2012

In defense of ISO 9001:2008

Fellow ASQ Influential Voice Chris Herminett is begining a series of blogs based on his PhD. classwork on Systems Theory regarding the gaps in the ISO 9001 standard.  His first entry talks about the ISO 9001 "process approach."  Specifically from the ISO 9001 standard: "The application of a system of processes within an organization, together with the identification and interactions of these processes, and their management to produce the desired outcome, can be referred as the 'process approach.' " 

Chris' contention is that most organizations do not follow this approach. I think he mispeaks here but continues that since most organizations are not structured in a process oriented manner they do not exhibit the process approach espoused by the standard.  He goes on to say that because of organizations unwillingness to reorganize to a process approach, third party auditors inability to influence organizations into being organized into a process approach, that ISO 9001 is failing and thus the standard should be restructured into something that reflects the reality of a "functional approach" in which most organizations are structured and that will help with the increased acceptance of the standard.

Chris, should the NFL or CFL accept that a touchdown should now be achieved once a team crosses the opponents 5 yard line or that a soccer player no longer needs to be "onsides" to score a goal?  Then why should we change the ISO 9001 standard just because an organization is structured differently than what the standard expects?

There is a statement in the ISO 9001 standard that to me is very telling and it is on the same page as the process approach definition. "It is not the intent of the International Standard to imply uniformity in the structure of quality systems or uniformity of documentation."  Meaning, there is no need to change the structure of the standard.  There is nothing stopping the organization from structuring their quality system to match their organization.  It is the challenge of the organization to communicate how they are meeting the requirements of the standard to the auditor.  It is an "ease of use" factor that most companies structure the quality system based off the standard.

Additionally, why would we want to to change a forward thinking standard to match what most improvement professionals think of as an outdated organizational structure?  Most lean enterprise experts agree that it is best to be organized based on process, product families, etc. Why would a standard go backwards?

Lastly, the interpretation you use for process approach is actually different from the ISO 9001 standard mentioned above. Process approach cannot sub-optimize because the process approach REQUIRES systems thinking.  Mr. Conti mentioned that most companies find it hard to practice the necessary systems thinking to avoid sub-optimizing processes. 

Chris, what you recommend is a softening of the standard for convenience sake.  That is definitely not (and I am projecting here) what the TAG or the original authors of the standard intend.  As a matter of fact, the authors don't care about how well accepted the standard is, as long as the standard represents the best practices of quality.

Last shot:  Do you think that the US Military Academy is anytime soon going to change their standard of "Do not lie, cheat, or steal, nor tolerate anyone who does," just because lieing, cheating or stealing is more prevalent (and some will say accepted) in today's society?  In your mind, should they change that standard to make it more socially acceptable?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Social Responsibility - Why is Quality involved?

Today, I am up at ASQ HQ doing some personal and professional work and the muse must have hit because while waiting for my ride to the airport I thought I would put in my take on why Quality needs to talk about Social Responsibility (SR).

There is one phrase that Paul wrote in his latest blog that is playing in my head like an old Mister Mister song:"...being socially responsible is not about philanthropy (giving money for social good), but about business: “Doing well by doing good.” "  In what my organization does, you can say being responsible is about making sure that the active nuclear reactors that are docked in my shipyard don't become the news of the day.  But that is an extreme case and I don't think that is what Paul and Michelle Mason, the ASQ point person for SR, is really talking about. To me, the question is, what are we doing to create the environment so that every day, anybody in your organization is "doing well by doing good?"    

There has to be an appreciation that doing well by doing good is a behavior. Behaviors are influenced by leaders, policy, workplace, and the application of behavior.  Leaders interact with customers, they set the culture based on their applications or creation of policies and they provide resources for the creation of the appropriate workplace.  What we often lose is the understanding of the relationship of these elements and how these combinations fit together.  Because we are dealing with the human element of things, we cannot use a prioritization matrix or DOE to optimize the level and mix of variables to create the "ultimate" behavior. It is more about cause and effect in their relation to the environment. 

Which means that there needs to be an appreciation of how people are going to react and to have a conversation around why, when faced with a situation, a person behaved in a way that was totally unexpected nor anticipated. In the past we just slapped them down, fired them, or sent them to brainwashing course (more training, sir!).  Now, we need to understand motivation, recognition and expectation.  

Does that mean we need a staff psychologist?  No, I believe it means we need to be human.  When we are away from the workplace we act differently because, in most cases, we are seen as valued individuals and not a simple number in a database. We are taught from childhood acceptable behaviors and it is expected, as we grow older, to enforce and learn new behaviors as our world changes. It also means that we should be comfortable in enforcing established norms and behaving such that we reinforce the behaviors that we expect. So why don't we apply that in a work environment?   What is stopping you or me from taking this to heart and modeling our behavior in this fashion?  What is stopping our organizations from being a representation of the humanistic tendency that we want to espouse?

All rhetorical questions, I know but until we accept that organizational performance is enhanced when behaviors support organizational goals and norms we will never truly see breakthrough performance.  

Suggested reading:  Senge's Fifth Discipline and Rother's Toyota Kata

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Effective Change Agents change the conversation

I am in the middle of reading Toyota Kata, by Mike Rother.  It is one of the few books that have me talking aloud back to the book.  No, I am not schizophrenic when that happens; it means I am trying to have a conversation with the author.  There have been quite a few books along my quality journey that have me talking back to them.  Eli Goldratt’s The Goal was one.  Denis Waitley’s Empires of the Mind was another.
Mike Rother is definitely speaking to me regarding what I am finding at the shipyard and how we have to change the conversation, which is exactly what Paul Borawski was asking the quality community about in his June blog post.  
Some tidbits that really struck home:
·         Old think:  Work + Improvement; New think:  Work = Improvement
·         No problems = Problems
·         Problems are opportunities to learn not things to avoid.
·         When you consistently “pull the andon cord” 1000 times a day, what happens on the day when you only pull it 700 times? Is it improvement or avoidance?
·         When a problem arises, which question is most often asked by supervision?
o   In which part of the process was the procedure not followed?
o   What is preventing the operators from working according to standard?
·         When experimenting with the process to see if a change will work, what is the first statement that is said?
o   “Well, let’s see if this will work.”
o   “I am not sure it will work.  What do we need to do to make it work?”
As an instructor and facilitator I was taught the power and timeliness to use open-ended and close-ended questions.  I want to change the conversation.  How do we ask questions that promote open-mindedness?  How do we engage leaders, the majority being closed-minded due to their mental models based on experience, to open their minds to questions and situations that attack typical paradigms?  Where can quality professionals acquire that skill? That, to me, is the game changer. 
So Paul, prepping the ground through mentoring future leaders helps but we have to reinforce that mentoring with asking the right questions.  Instead of open-ended or close-ended, let’s focus on questions that open minds to possibilities. How can ASQ support the community to open minds of leaders to accept that quality is no longer just about product?