Friday, May 6, 2016

Employee Engagement on Quality Roundtable

This post is for the ASQ's June 2016 Roundtable Discussion of the following topic:

Employee engagement:

1). To what extent do organizations—whether your current employer or previous ones--engage employees about the importance of quality?  
2). How should companies approach this issue? 
3). How can they avoid “sloganeering” and make a real difference?

I want to share my personal experience working with many organizations over 40 years globally and my teaching quality management world-wide for over 23 years as follows:

1). At AT&T Bell Laboratories in Switching Systems Business Unit (SSBU) and International Switching Customer Business Unit (ISCBU) there was great focus on quality improvement initiatives led by Vice President and Executive Directors. The following approaches were undertaken to engage employees about importance of quality:

  • Senior Leadership Team (Executive Directors and Directors) was trained in Quality 101 course to expose them to the importance of quality planning and improvement. 
  • All employees were systematically trained in AT&T's 7 steps Process Quality Management & Improvement (PQMI) guidelines. This led to Division-wide ISO 9001 certification in one year.
  • Systematically deployed US Baldrige Performance Excellence Framework to assess all Business Units on an annual basis.
  • Held Quality Improvement Recognition Events to spread innovative quality improvement initiatives among the workforce.
  • Developed and deployed Employee Recognition & Celebration Process to recognize great work done throughout the Division.
  • The author has trained over 350 professionals at AT&T Bell Labs in ASQ's Certified Quality Engineer (CQE) refresher courses over a five-year period. Of the 350 trainees, 200 took the CQE Exam and 89 became ASQ Certified Quality Engineers.
  • For a decade organized Satellite Broadcast of ASQ's National Quality Month programs to expose all employees to the state-of-the-art quality management practices.
2). Organizations should follow general principles of Talent Engagement Model  shown below for recruiting, involving, motivating, developing, and retaining employees to instill quality improvement culture.

Here are some pointers for effective employee engagement for quality culture:
  • Recruit employees with talent and train them for skills (Reference: Buckingham, M. and Coffman, C. (1999). First Break All the Rules, Gallup Press, Omaha, NE).
  • Involve employees by exposing them to effective teamwork, orientation, mentoring, and effective meeting management practices.
  • Motivate employees by establishing recognition and suggestion systems. Follow the Theory of Strengths (Reference: Clifton, D. O. and Nelson, P. (1992). Soar with Your Strengths, Dell Publishing, New York, NY).
  • Develop employees with appropriate education and training, timely performance feedback, and coaching.
  • Retain key employees with regular dialogue between supervisor and employee at least quarterly (Kaye, B. and Jordan-Evans, S. (2013). Love 'Em or Lose 'Em: Getting Good People to Stay , 5th Edition, Barrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco, CA)
  • Overall Reference: Vora, M. K. (2005). “Managing Human Capital” chapter in Six Sigma for Transactions and Service, P. 471-500, McGraw-Hill, New York, NY.
3). To avoid sloganeering, coach senior leadership team in Dr. Deming's philosophy of systems thinking and expose them to hollowness of slogans versus systematic improvement to create value for the customers and organization.

I look forward to your views on employee engagement for quality.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Facing Cultural Barriers by Leaders to Strengthen a Culture of Quality

This blog post is in response to December 2015 ASQ Influential Voices topic "Facing Cultural Barriers by Leaders to Strengthen a Culture of Quality" a guest post  written by Luciana Paulise, the founder of Biztorming Training & Consulting, Argentina at:

Let me share my perspective of 40 years of professional work in observing for-profit and non-profit organisations globally. I gave a recent presentation on "Role of Leadership to Achieve Zero Defects Culture" at the ASQ Ahmedabad, India Local Member Community (LMC) on 28 November, 2015. The focus of my presentation and published article in the conference proceedings was as follows:

Role of Leadership for Zero Defects Culture based on Baldrige Performance Excellence Framework:

  • Create an ethical and socially responsible organization with good governance practices.
  • Define Vision, Mission, and Values and communicate it constantly to all stakeholders.
  • Direct resources to understand customers' needs and expectations.
  • Encourage use of state-of-the-art information management and knowledge management system.
  • Engage and energize employees to serve customers.
  • Support development of processes/systems to produce innovative products/services.
  • Lead supply chain management to create a sustainable organization with long-term growth.
Leadership commitment, engagement, involvement, and support are crucial in creating Zero Defects Organization Culture.

I concur with Luciana's observations that the responsibility clearly lies with the leadership team to manage their behavior to address spiritual, intellectual, physical, and emotional needs of people in their organizations.

The leadership is all about influencing, igniting, and inspiring ordinary people to do extra-ordinary things. It is up to the leadership team to elevate their organization to great heights with the help of all employees pulling in the same direction.

I look forward to learning from your experience in this area.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Talking To The C-Suite About Quality

This blog post is in response to November 2015 ASQ Influential Voices topic "Talking To The C-Suite About Quality"a guest post  written by Dr. Suresh Gettala, a Director at ASQ India at:

In his post Dr. Gettala made the following key points to move quality at C-Suite Level: 
  1. The Long Term - Short Term Continuum
  2. The Language of Metrics
  3. Economic Case for Quality
  4. Success Anecdotes
  5. The Big Q Approach
Let me offer my thoughts on above points as follows:

     1. The Long-Term - Short Term Continuum:

For C-Level executives it is imperative that they focus on long-term (3-5 years) and short-term (6 months - 12 months) business plan tactics when they develop Vision, Mission, Values, and Strategies (VMVS) for an organization. However, they need to be nimble enough to reevaluate VMVS when there are market, regulatory, or technological disruptions. 

Quality should be a common denominator while using SWOT Analysis for strategic planning. During regular reviews of strategic plan a focus should be on achieving results through continuous process improvements using a Balanced Scorecard approach.

     2.  The Language of Metrics:

As we are familiar with a Baldrige winner's phrase "In God we trust, everyone else, please bring the data". C-Suites should be made aware of critical dashboard metrics on Customers, Employees, Processes, and Finance (Balanced Scorecard) for a given strategy. Again quality is an integral part of the Balanced Scorecard metrics

     3.  Economic Case for Quality:

The easiest way to connect with C-Suites is using Cost of Quality approach. The Cost of Quality tool lets the executives know where is the waste in the system due to External and Internal Failures and how to address them through Prevention and Appraisals. As management understand the language of money, they are amenable to provide necessary resources to reduce the Cost of Quality through continuous process improvements.

     4. Success Anecdotes:

Another good phrase from a Baldrige winner is "It is OK to steal shamelessly, just provide credit". The central idea is Not to Reinvent the Wheel. If there are best practices available, understand and adopt them in your organizations as applicable. This is where one needs to work top management to harness the power of Benchmarking. We can certainly leverage best practice examples of US Baldrige Winners whose profiles are available at (1999-2014) at:

     5. The Big Q Approach:

At AT&T Bell Laboratories under the leadership of Senior Vice President Mr. Don Leonard in the Switching Systems Business Unit there was a major focus was on Big Q = Small q (performance) x Schedule (timeliness) x Cost (budget) . Provide customers what they want, when they want it, at an affordable price. The obligation for all employees is to focus on the above three metrics in their day-to-day work to achieve Big Q for the organization. It is easy to strike up a conversation at C-Level when one speaks of key efforts directed at achieving Big Q for the organization.

I would like to share few references as follows:
  • Manu Vora Discusses Government Quality in India (2014) at:      
I am looking forward to your experience in talking to the C-Suite about Quality.    

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Does Mission Matter?

This blog post is in response to September 2015 ASQ Influential Voices topic "Does Mission Matter?"a guest post  written by Pat La Londe, incoming ASQ board chair at:

I concur with Pat's guest post. Here is my experience around a mission in for-profits, non-profits, and academic teaching in business schools globally.

Let me begin with my blog post for September 2014 on "Charting A Strategy for Quality-and Beyond" at:

Let us look at definition of Vision, Mission, and Values first.

Vision/ Mission/ Values Definitions: 

Vision (Long-term Dream, Destination):
¨Is it inspiring?
¨Is it clear and vivid?
Mission (Purpose of being, Path to your vision):
¨Why you exist? (business purpose)
¨What you hope to achieve in the future?
¨Does the Mission provide focus and inspiration?
¨Does the Mission provide criteria for strategic choices?
Values (Guiding Principles):
¨What is important to people?
¨How will people work together? 

Few quick observations:

1). Mission is developed as a part of the strategic planning process by the senior leadership team.

2). Mission should link to the organization's vision. It is a path to achieve organization's vision.

3). It is critical to share the Vision, Mission, and Values widely across the entire organization including all stakeholders. This is the obligation of senior leadership team.

4). When business conditions change, the organization's strategic plan should be reviewed to address changes in the environment.

5). The mission should be realistic and not a pie-in-the-sky statement. 

6). The strategic plan should lead to developing key strategic initiatives and which need to be prioritized and staffed with competent people. A regular review of key strategies is essential to measure the progress and success of key strategies using a Balanced Scorecard.

I want to share an example of Mission for the Blind Foundation for India (BFI), USA  established in 1989 to support over 15 million blind people in India accounting for 1/3rd of the world's blind population. The BFI mission is: "To prevent and cure blindness, and educate and rehabilitate permanently blind people in India".

I look forward to your views on Mission of your organization.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Creating a Performance Culture: What Not To Do

This blog post is in response to August 2015 ASQ Influential Voices topic "Creating a Performance Culture: What Not To Do" written by James Lawther.

From the U. S. Baldrige perspective, enterprise-wide performance excellence is key to sustainable growth and prosperity. This sounds nice on paper, however to achieve performance excellence it calls for enlightened leadership. When leaders surround themselves with competent and positive attitude associates, a journey of sustainable transformation begins. 

According Prof. Emeritus John P. Kotter from Harvard Business School (Change Management Guru), there is a Eight-Stage Process of Transformation Journey ("Leading Change" 2nd Edition, Harvard Business Review Press, Boston, MA, 2012). 

The Eight Stages of Transformation are:   

  1. Establishing a Sense of Urgency
  2. Creating the Guiding Coalition
  3. Developing a Vision and Strategy
  4. Communicating the Change Vision
  5. Empowering Employees for Broad-Based Action
  6. Generating Short-Term Wins
  7. Consolidating Gains and Producing More Change
  8. Anchoring New Approaches in the Culture 
In the eighth stage, he suggests that a new culture will emerge which needs to be weaved into new corporate style encompassing leadership development and succession planning.

Here are some Don'ts for building a Performance Culture for a Sustainable Transformation:
  1. Do not launch a change initiative without establishing a sense of urgency which leads to too much complacency.
  2. Do not to proceed until you have a powerful guiding coalition (team) consisting of leaders at all levels.
  3. Do not create complicated or blurry Vision of Change to be useful. Need a clear and compelling statement to be effective.
  4. Do not under-communicate the change vision. Need credible communication, and a lot of it to engage hearts and minds of employees.
  5. Do not permit obstacles to block the new change vision. Need to change organizational structure and/or performance-appraisal systems for employees to take actions.
  6. Do not hope for short-term wins (passive), but must create compelling evidence (active) within six to eight months that the journey is producing expected results.
  7. Do not declare victory too soon. For the entire company it may take three to ten years to sink changes deeply into the culture.
  8. Do not neglect to anchor changes firmly in the corporate culture. Reinforce specific behaviors and attitudes that helped improve performance. May require reshaping promotion criteria and succession planning.
I look forward to your views to build a performance culture.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

How a Charity is Using Baldrige to Serve the Blind

Delighted to see a blog about use of Baldrige Performance Excellence framework and tools in non-profit (Blind Foundation for India) on Blogrige by National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), US Department of Commerce - courtesy Dawn M. Bailey, NIST.
The official blog for the Baldrige program. The Baldrige Program's mission is to improve the...

How a Charity is Using Baldrige to Serve the Blind