Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fast Quality? Slow is Faster

Slow down, you move too fast.
You got to make the morning last.
Just kicking down the cobble stones.
Looking for fun and feelin' groovy

-The 59th Street Bridge Song: Paul Simon

This month’s ASQ Influential Voices theme is on how quality can respond to a faster change pace.  My immediate thought was the classic Simon & Garfunkel song whose lyrics are above.  The human reaction to going faster is to cut out the speed governor, that thing that prevents you from going faster.  In Lean terms it is all those non-value added things that are in your process that prevent value from getting to the customer faster. However, as soon as we take away that governor, I start seeing the Sammy Hagar music video of “I Can’t Drive 55!”

I would contend that in order for us to be more responsive in an ever changing world we need to slow down and operate with discipline.  What we often find is that when we do make a process go faster the discipline behind the process disappears. For those who work in a schedule-driven environment, how often has quality suffered when you had to break into a schedule because a customer had to have it NOW?  In a good number of cases, the order usually gets rejected by the customer for some quality issue.  The order is then redone with discipline (more quality oversight than usual) and is completed, usually about the same time as if we had not broken the schedule to meet the original demand, all at double the cost.
So what drives this management decision to go faster?  A lack of trust:  in maintaining discipline and a lack of process for ongoing improvement.   Many management gurus have said that you need to plan.  Unfortunately, we plan to execute, we don’t plan for contingencies.  “We don’t have time” is often the lament.  Yet, that is what leaders are supposed to do: create the time to develop the discipline to execute and plan for the contingencies.
As quality professionals how should we respond?  Show discipline to the process.  Reinforce the value of Big Q.  Don’t compromise on your integrity.  There will be pressure to go faster but faster is not more responsive.  Being responsive requires time to gather data and to reflect.  Being responsive requires looking to the future and understanding capabilities.  Being responsive means incorporating little q and Big Q in management decisions.  Being responsive is doing the right thing by the customer. Once you are ready to execute, execute with alacrity!
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