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”.