Quality Service

A friend of mine – Satish – forwarded me an email on “How the Indian Industry is managing quality?” : Exactness is the starting block of quality. It requires that each company pursuing quality practises daily work management. Exactness of operations comes through exactness in man, method, material, machine and environment. These conditions must be exact enough to achieve daily targets consistently…

A friend of mine – Satish – forwarded me an email on “How the Indian Industry is managing quality?” :

The concept of “exactness”, propagated by Yoshikazu Tsuda, the professor of quality, is an effective concept for controlling process variations. Tsuda, who transformed clustering in India, drew up a plan for companies to start the cluster journey with “exactness”, followed by daily work management.

Exactness is the starting block of quality. It requires that each company pursuing quality practises daily work management. Exactness of operations comes through exactness in man, method, material, machine and environment. These conditions must be exact enough to achieve daily targets consistently.

… The 5Ss are five Japanese terms: seiri (separating required tools from the rest), seiton (neatly arranging tools and markings for easier identification), seiso (clean-up campaign), seiketsu (to conduct the above three regularly), and soitsuke (forming the habit of following the first four).

Exactness in checking, measurement and feedback given to each work station, the method of maintenance and the skill level of the operator all play equally important roles. For instance, if certain process parameters need to be measured, say, the temperature of oil, the location where the sensor is planted and made available to the operator must also be exact.

I am about half-way through a Black Belt program on Six Sigma and, since the beginning of my own journey on the quest for Quality, I have come across countless examples of Quality at work.  Many organizations have successfully demonstrated benefits resulting from improvements in their approach to Total Quality Management.  And interestingly, I have also had the wonderful opportunity to track the progress of some projects on Six Sigma / Quality, specifically in the context of Financial Services.
 
My own view?  There is still a long way to go before these methodologies can be fully leveraged in the context of the Service industry.  My own experience with 5S at work will bear testimony to how “irrelevant” some of these concept may seem in our day-to-day work-life. 

The principles are sound, but many of them have their roots in Manufacturing.  In a Service economy, we are still at the stage where there seems to be no direct correlation (or causation) between an untidy workplace and overall customer satisfaction!  Though, that’s not the case.

Here’s hoping we get there sooner, rather than later.

99% Perfect!

In an effort to better understand the nuances of SixSigma, I’m going through a book called “The Six Sigma Way” by Pande, Neuman and Cavanagh. It’s a well-written book and offers a good insight into the methodologies of Six Sigma and their application in industry. Here’s an interesting extract on the difference between “99% success” and “SixSigma success”…

In an effort to better understand the nuances of SixSigma, I’m going through a book called "The Six Sigma Way" by Pande, Neuman and Cavanagh.  It’s a well-written book and offers a good insight into the methodologies of Six Sigma and their application in industry. 

Here’s an interesting extract on the difference between "99% success" and "SixSigma success" :

1. For every 300,000 letters delivered :

With 99% – 3,000 misdeliveries
With SS   – 1 misdelivery

2. For every 500,000 computer restarts :

With 99% – 4,100 crashes
With SS   – < 2 crashes

3. For every 500 years of month-end closings :

With 99% – 60 months would not balance
With SS   – 0.018 months would not balance

4. For every week of TV broadcasting :

With 99% – 1.68 hours of dead air
With SS   – 1.8 seconds of dead air

That’s the difference between 99% perfect and 99.9997% perfect!

Critical to Quality

At work, so much of my time is spent in meetings with others that involve group discussions on subjects where each of us is a stakeholder but not necessarily affected in the same way (or amount) by the outcome. As I go through these meetings, I can’t help but wonder what are the skills, if any, that may be regarded as “critical” to smart working…

‘Six Sigma’ thinking instills a new vocabulary in you.  One such word is CTQ – Critical to Quality – and refers to variables that are absolutely essential in achieving the desired outcome (in terms of quality).

At work, so much of my time is spent in meetings with others that involve group discussions on subjects where each of us is a stakeholder but not necessarily affected in the same way (or amount) by the outcome.  As I go through these meetings, I can’t help but wonder what are the skills, if any, that may be regarded as "critical" to smart working

One skill, I have come to realize, that is absolutely indispensable is the ability to "zoom in" or "zoom out" of the problem/situation at appropriate times; knowing when to apply the macro- and when to use the micro- perspective, as it were. 

An important lesson I have learnt from one of the CEOs I’d worked with, was to first try and figure out what should be done, and not to confuse it with the "how to do it" part.  Because, if it must be done, then together we must find a way to do it, in spite of what may seem as insurmountable obstacles.

In my own experience, endless discussions could have been avoided if every one in the room knew when to take in the ‘Big Picture’ and when to get down to the detailing.  Instead, in every such discussion, one encounters people who advocate a hundred reasons why it shouldn’t be done, while others start discussing the operational-level details before a decision has been taken on the direction to be followed!

Nowhere is it more apparent than in a Business Review of managers : The mark of a true leader, in such cases, is knowing  exactly where to draw the line on a discussion going haywire – knowing when to let every one talk and explore issues in detail, and when to zoom out and "take a call".  I have been fortunate to come across some exemplary individuals in this regard – people I have learnt a lot from, over the years… 

… I only wish more people realized this CTQ.  

The Quest for Quality

Eight years ago, while I was still in business school, I read a book that changed my perspective forever. It was called : The Machine That Changed The World. The line of work I chose on graduation, did not offer the opportunity to put the principles of Lean Thinking to operational use, in the workshop/production sense of the term. But since that day, I have always cherished the pursuit of ‘Quality’, and strived for minimal wastage, in whatever task I undertook. The pursuit of Excellence has been a continuous journey…

Eight years ago, while I was still in business school, I read a book that changed my perspective forever.  It was called : The Machine That Changed The World.  The line of work I chose on graduation, did not offer the opportunity to put the principles of Lean Thinking to operational use, in the workshop/production sense of the term.  But since that day, I have always cherished the pursuit of ‘Quality’, and strived for minimal wastage, in whatever task I undertook.  The pursuit of Excellence has been a continuous journey.

That is why, last week, when I was offered the chance to enrol for a Six Sigma project, I jumped with joy !  For it was the opportunity to cover some more distance on the journey to Quality, and put some of its best practices to good use. It was the opportunity to become a ‘Six Sigma Green Belt’!

Six Sigma is a rigorous and disciplined methodology that uses data and statistical analysis to measure and improve a company’s operational performance by identifying and eliminating “defects” in manufacturing and service-related processes.

Commonly defined as 3.4 defects per million opportunities, Six Sigma can be defined and understood at three distinct levels: metric, methodology and philosophy…

We have spent the last 5 days in a Training Room, familiarizing ourselves with the DMAIC methodology.  And, it’s been an exhausting 5 days.  After all, Six Sigma is nothing if not “rigorous”.  But, thanks in part to my taking Statistics at graduate level, I was able to make the most of the theoretical training.

Green Belts (GB) are employees trained in Six Sigma who spend a portion of their time completing projects, but maintain their regular work role and responsibilities. They are also considered to be the ‘Domain Expert’ in the project being undertaken.

As the Six Sigma quality program evolves, employees will begin to include the Six Sigma methodology in their daily activities and it will no longer become a percentage of their time — it will be the way their work is accomplished 100% of the time.

Now that the Training has come to an end, the team is busy preparing up for the project kickoffs that will keep us occupied for the next 4-6 months to come.  And, the excitement is evident.

For me, personally, the project will only be a beginning, not an end.  After all, the quest for Quality is a never-ending one…

 

Suggested Reading : iSixSigma.com

Survival, Not Mandatory

I have always prided myself on my openness to embrace change. So it came as a bit of a surprise to me to see my own reaction when faced with an organizational change of considerable span and significance.

One of my all-time favourite quotations finds a prominent place at my workstation.  It’s by the legendary Quality guru – W. Edwards Deming :

It is not necessary to change;
Survival is not mandatory.

I have always prided myself on my openness to embrace change. So it came as a bit of a surprise to me to see my own reaction when faced with an organizational change of considerable span and significance.

The entire distribution structure of my organization changed this month.  And with it, changed the lives of over 3000 employees.  Without getting into too many details, let me say that every one’s comfort zone was shaken up and stirred.  People were shunted around cities, and found themselves handling markets they had never worked in before.  Key managers were posted in positions that made them oversee channels of doing business that they may or may not have had previous experience with.  And, if you were lucky, you continued handling the same portfolio you did last year, but under a different department or a new boss.  As I said before, the world started looking a wee bit different to just about every one.

It was all done for good reason, I’m sure.  But who’s asking? 

The basic problem is that almost every one resists change – of almost any kind.  (And these were not ‘small’ changes by any standard.)  As a result, general sentiment starts becoming negative, and people start reading between the lines (where none exist), and begin looking for options “in case things don’t work out”.  Productivity suffers, as all kinds of fears and (mis) apprehensions start creeping in people’s minds. Every thing gets exaggerated!

For all my openness to change, I also went through some of that, just a few days ago.  My rational self explained it away by telling myself that I am merely weighing the pros and cons of it all.  But, the fact of the matter is, deep down, I was also a bit apprehensive – What would the future have in store for me?  How would my world change?  Will it all work out for the better?  Questions, questions and more questions?

The only thing that helped me overcome these misplaced fears was my belief in myself, my optimism and the tremendous joy I get from learning new things with each new experience!  As someone wise once said, “All’s well that ends well”.