Saturday, October 13, 2012

Going Beyond the Traditional Quality Function

Quality is a common denominator in all walks of life. Quality is synonymous to Excellence.

In my 37 years of professional experience, I have learned the importance of Big Q. The Big Q is a multiplier of quality (q) x cost (C) x schedule (S): Q = q x C x S. Traditionally, quality professionals focus their attention on small "q" or performance (processes, systems, metrics, etc.). However, the quality professionals need to expand their horizons.

Let us begin with the Project Management. Research shows that on an average only 20% of the projects are successful (i.e. they meet performance, cost, and schedule metrics as initially planned). When we dig deeper, we find that the project failures are attributed to lack of five crucial conversations: planning around facts, faithful to the project management process, project sponsors providing support, honestly assessing progress and risks, and all team members pulling their weight. When quality professionals are involved as either a Project Leader or Project Team members, she/he must ensure that all five crucial conversations take place, ensuring excellence in Project Management.

Next, we explore the Change Management. The Sustainable Change Management can be achieved as a result of Enlightened Leadership, Great Project Management, and Excellent Talent Management. The quality professionals are well versed with the discipline of leadership, project management, and employee engagement. They can add great value in managing change and sustaining the gains for a longer term. 

In the Supply Chain Management, the critical aspects are Supply Chain Strategy, Planning, and Operation. One need to address the Six Key Drivers to achieve supply chain excellence. They are: Facility, Inventory, Transportation, Sourcing, Pricing, and Information. When we overlay the quality discipline with the supply chain management, we can have a dynamite situation to achieve Supply Chain Excellence. In the global world, managing supply chain is crucial and quality professionals have a big role to play.

Let us explore the Quality of Life. The quality professionals are well positioned to contribute to improving the quality of life for everyone in an organization using the ISO 26000 Standards (Social Responsibility).

In summary, quality professionals need to approach the world with open eyes and open arms to seek out opportunities and add value. When quality professionals execute their roles and responsibilities with sincerity, they will make this world a little better place, than we inherited it.

I welcome your thoughts on this important topic.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Fast Quality

With advances in technology the rate of change is accelerating at a rapid pace. Real challenge is to keep pace with rapid changes and ensure fast quality to meet or exceed customer expectations.

One of the way to achieve fast quality is to remove clutter and reduce complexity from the system. Let us redefine the KISS principle as "Keep It Simple System". To this end, we need to critically look at systems and processes. Use the Supplier-Input-Process-Output-Customer (SIPOC) diagram to capture processes "as is" and identify all the bottlenecks.Then embark on a journey of continuous improvement. Remember to keep customer requirements in mind. Otherwise, lot of activities are happening, but it does not add value to customers.

I want to share an interesting case from the ASQ Certification Process. To give you the context, I took the ASQ Certified Quality Engineer (CQE) Exam in December 1988. At that time the promised result notification interval was 8 weeks. To my dismay, I received my results in 13 weeks. Working at AT&T Bell Laboratories as an Internal Quality Consultant, I decided to volunteer for the ASQ Certification Board. I joined in 1989 for a five-year term. In 1990, we began a journey of continuous improvement for the Certification Process. We formed a small Process Management Team and used AT&T's Process Quality Management and Improvement (PQMI) Guidelines and Motorola's Cycle-Time Reduction methodology.

After all the bottlenecks from the Certification Process were identified and remedied, the exam result notification interval dropped from 13 weeks in 1988 to 3 weeks in 1993. Now fast forward to 2012 ... the current exam result notification interval is around 1 week. For further details about this cycle-time reduction case, refer to the November 1993 Quality Progress article "ASQC Certification Committee Practices What It Preaches" (pages 99-103), co-authored by M. K. Vora, S. M. Harthun, and R. G. Kingen.

In summary, basic quality tools and techniques when deployed systematically will help us achieve Fast Quality.

I welcome your thoughts on this topic.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Culture of Quality & Value of Feelings to Customer

Quality culture is the collective behavior of all employees within an organization. It is formed by the organization's vision, mission, values, and individual beliefs. Quality culture will affect the way employees and groups interact with each other, with clients, and with stakeholders. It provides set of shared mental models that guide interpretation and action in organizations by defining appropriate behavior for a variety of situations.

Quality culture is shaped and nurtured by enlightened leadership. Leaders walk the talk and followers take clue from their leaders' actions. When all employees are engaged to serve their customers, both internal and external, then the organization is ready to create real value for all its stakeholders.

As we know, the mission of an organization is to serve its customers. It calls for understanding needs and wants of customers and managing their expectations. Employee encounters create feelings and experience for customers. When an employee delivers positive experience, customers will come back for more, as it creates positive feelings with customers.

Let me share some of my positive and negative experiences and feelings as a customer.

On the positive side I want to share two examples:
1). Twenty years ago we bought a Lexus automobile from McGrath Lexus in Westmont, Illinois. Over two decades, I have very positive experience with the dealership's service. With great service from Casey Komosa and Ruben Pesante, I have never been stranded on the road. This Lexus dealership epitomizes their motto of "Pursuit of Perfection" in all their dealings with their customers.

2). More recent example is from the Loyola Center for Health at Burr Ridge, Illinois. Due to a freak accident, I had a fracture on my left hand wrist. With outstanding care from Dr. Michael Bednar, an orthopedic surgeon, my fracture has healed and he recommended physical therapy. David Spear, Kim Esposito, and Kristin Malone, my occupational therapists have worked their magic over the last two plus months to make my hand fully functional. My experience is extremely positive and I have deep admiration for care givers at the Loyola University Health System.

On the negative side, I also want to share two examples:
1). In early 1980, we bought a riding snow thrower from a reputed company. We had an extreme slope for our driveway and the riding snow thrower with chains was an incorrect application. We had to return the snow thrower immediately and I had to settle for snow shovels. In this experience, the sales person  was too eager to sell me a wrong product.

2). In early 1970s, as a student I had opened an account at one of the most reputed bank in downtown Chicago. On occasions, I would visit the bank during lunch time and always encountered long delays due to tellers out for lunch and inadequate staffing to properly serve the customers. I realized this bank is not where I need to keep my account, and hence opened a new account at another bank with better customer service. Within few few short years, my original bank filed for bankruptcy and got closed. If you do not take care of your customers, then customers would leave you.

I welcome your comments regarding quality culture and customer feelings and experience.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Social Responsibility and Quality

Organizations around the globe are becoming more conscious about Social Responsibility (SR). 

The Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence in Leadership category focuses on how organizations fulfill their Social Responsibilities. The SR is about achieving the Triple Bottom Line - Economic (ISO 9000), Environmental (ISO 14000), and Social (ISO 26000) leading to Sustainable Development.  

Quality plays a critical role in achieving SR. Quality tools have helped organizations around the world to develop better products and services through compliance to ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 Standards. For SR, organizations can use 7 Quality Management Tools, 7 Quality Control Tools and SR Audits. The American Society for Quality (ASQ) has a reservoir of knowledge on quality tools and techniques. 

ASQ has been highlighting Quality for Life stories on quality professionals making a difference at work, in their personal lives, and through volunteer efforts. To learn about these stories, visit: 

I have been personally involved at the Blind Foundation for India (BFI) since 1989 to serve over 15 million blinds in India which accounts for 1/3rd of the world's blind population in India
( The BFI  mission is to prevent and cure blindness and educate and rehabilitate permanently blind people in India. Read the Quality for Life story entitled "Out of Darkness into Light" at: 

BFI projects address the health care issue and make blind individuals self sufficient through education and vocational training. Instead of these blind people becoming burden to their family and society, they can lead productive life. Greater effort is spent on prevention of blindness among youngsters through timely eye sight checkups in schools, dispensing necessary eye drops, Vitamin A, providing glasses, and administering Measles vaccination. After all "an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure". 

With limited resources on this planet earth, it is time we all commit to SR at individual, family, organization, society, national, and global level. People's prosperity depends on how well we take care of the planet earth.

Are we here adding more value to the planet earth than taking out during our life time?

I welcome your your thoughts on Social Responsibility and Quality.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Moving Quality Beyond Product - Excellence in Everything

Quality is not about tools and techniques. A better approach for any organization is: Why Quality Matters, What Quality Means, and How to Achieve Quality (tools and techniques).

A holistic model of quality management should focus on Excellence in Everything that an organization undertakes.

  • The journey of excellence starts with Leadership. Ethical, inspiring, and visionary leaders create unique culture that nourishes creativity and innovation in employees to serve and delight their customers. 
  • Organization is committed to dynamic strategic planning by engaging employees and deploying key strategies by staffing with right talent and ongoing reviews. 
  • Organization creates and executes customer-focused processes to understand and anticipate customer expectations,  needs, and wants. 
  • Organization is truly committed to measuring and managing performance through critical metrics and effective knowledge management.
  • Organization seeks out great talent with positive attitude, engage and retain the talent through involvement  (new employee orientation, mentoring, teamwork, and meeting management), motivation (recognition and employee suggestions), and development (education and training, performance feedback, coaching, and employee surveys with actions). 
  • Organization is systems focused with employee mindset of continual improvement.
  • Organization is committed to achieve business results to delight all stakeholders in a socially responsible ways. 
The Baldrige Performance Excellence Award Winners subscribe to Excellence in Everything they do. We can learn a great deal by examining best practices of these role model organizations in achieving performance excellence.

I encourage you to share your thoughts on moving quality beyond product.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Quality in Government: Issues and Opportunities

I would like to share my personal perspective about common issues arising from lack of quality in government, benefits of quality in government, and some successful role model examples of quality in government.

I. Common Issues arising from Lack of Quality in Government:
I have experienced some of the following issues when there was a lack of quality in government.

  • Poor Leadership
  • Sub-optimal Performance 
  • Wasted Public Resources
  • Lack of Social Responsibility
  • Special Interest Groups Hijacking Public Agenda
  • Lack of Transparency
  • Corruption

II. Benefits of Quality in Government:
When quality is embraced by the government, we can see some of the benefits as follows:

  • Effective Leadership
  • Focused Strategic Planning and Strategy Deployment
  • Citizenship Focus and Client Feedback
  • Performance Measurement
  • Employee Engagement and Participation
  • Systems Thinking and Continuous Improvement
  • Optimal Performance

III. Successful Role Model Examples of Quality in Government:
Here are some successful role model examples of quality and continuous improvement in government:

  • City of Madison, Wisconsin, USA - March 1984,  Motor Equipment Division of the City's Department of Public Works embraced Dr. W. Edwards Deming's Philosophy.
  • City of Coral Springs, Florida, USA - 2007 Baldrige Performance Excellence Awardee
  • U.S. Army Armament Research, Development and Engineering Center (ARDEC), Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, USA - 2007 Baldrige Performance Excellence Awardee
  • VA Cooperative Studies Program Clinical Research Pharmacy Coordinating Center, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA - 2009 Baldrige Performance Excellence Awardee
  • State of Gujarat, India - 2006-2011, e-governance Leader in India. The State made e-governance functional in all its Municipalities and Municipal Corporations. The State provided citizen based services as per convenient locations, improved the reach, provided more transparent services, reduced response time, and reduced costs.
I would welcome your thoughts on quality in government.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Happiness in the Quality Field

I consider happiness as a state of mind. The mind is like a parachute. It doesn't work unless it's open. I want to share my personal observations about happiness experienced during my life's quality journey and the rationale behind my happiness.

1). In my school days, I was most happy when I was challenged by my teachers and professors to achieve greater heights through their high expectations.

2). At various workplaces I was happy because I had great fortune to work with wonderful mentors and coaches. They listened to my ideas, saw merit in them, and provided support in implementing them to achieve value to the organization.

3). In the 1990s, at AT&T Bell Laboratories in Naperville, Illinois, I was happy to coach engineers and managers to become ASQ Certified Quality Engineer (CQE). My Director, John Delatore realized the value of new learnings to improve our effectiveness to serve the customers better. John provided great support to continue training our people. From 1990-1995, over 300 members attended refresher classes, 200 took the CQE exams, and 89 became certified.

4). In 1991-1992, I was leading a team to develop Employee Recognition process at the AT&T Bell Laboratories' Switching Systems Business Unit. I felt happiness when our team's diligent work and recommendations were accepted by the Senior Leadership Team to roll out Employee Recognition process for 6,000 people. 

5). In my quality management and business excellence teaching career since 1993, I felt most happy when my students and executives grasped new concepts, reflected on its use in their workplaces, and were eager to take the new learnings back to their organizations.

6). In my non-profit service since 1970, I felt most happy when we set worthy goals, engaged many like minded people, and accomplished our goals.

7). Since 1988, as a volunteer leader with the American Society for Quality (ASQ), I felt happiness when I worked with enlightened leaders with great vision to move ASQ forward through inclusion. 

In summary, as a quality professional I am happy when challenged with high expectations, work with mentors/ coaches who listen to my ideas and provide support, work with students/ executives who are receptive to apply new learning in their workplaces, when we set worthy goals and accomplish them in non-profits, and when I work with enlightened leaders who encourage inclusion at ASQ.

I welcome your thoughts on happiness in the quality field.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Selling Quality

In my opinion it is better to sell value than sell quality.

It reminds me of a Push-Pull process boundary in the context of supply chain management. The Push process creates products/ services driven by internal perspective which builds up inventory. Whereas the Pull process creates products/ services based on customer demand. One can create many internal quality programs, however, if they do not add value to the organization, they are ineffective. On the other hand, if there is a need for certain quality program as determined by survey data/analysis, then developing that program will add value to the organization.

Let me share a specific example in support of my opinion. In 1990, employee opinion survey for the AT&T Bell Laboratories Switching Systems Business Unit (SSBU) showed low satisfaction score for an 'Employee Recognition' item. The senior management was determined to improve the low score and asked for developing a systematic employee recognition process (Pull process from senior management as internal customer). With senior management blessing, commitment, and support, an Employee Recognition Process team was chartered. This team pulled together a SSBU-wide employee recognition Process. Within one year of implementing the new employee recognition process, the employee opinion survey results for SSBU showed significant improvement in 'Employee Recognition' item. This employee recognition process was sustained over a period of time since it was adding value to the SSBU.

We can all think of many such examples of selling value rather than selling quality. We need to focus on value through well executed processes. I welcome your thoughts on this topic.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Leadership Excellence

To achieve leadership excellence one needs to Listen, Learn, Lead, Influence, Ignite, and Inspire.

Listen - Great leaders listen to their people first. Robert Galvin, fromer CEO of Motorola listened to his key customers. Donald Leonard, former Vice President of AT&T Bell Laboratories Switching Systems Business Unit attended skip-level meetings with employees known as "Doughnuts with Don".

Learn - Robert Galvin through his meetings with key customers learned critical issues and steered Motorola in their quest for excellence journey. Donald Leonard learned important issues about work environment through his meetings with employees and required his direct reports to improve their respective work environment.

Lead - Abraham Lincoln was great at listening, learning, and leading. He steered the United States during the difficult years of Civil War.

Influence - John F. Kennedy with his grand vision of putting a man on the moon, greatly influenced NASA's  mission.

Ignite -  Swami Vivekananda from India, a Hindu monk who made great impression with his speeches at the World Parliament of Religions in 1893 in Chicago, ignited the youths in India against the British Rule with his proclamation of "Arise, awake, and stop not till the goal is reached".

Inspire - Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation of India, inspired 33 million Indians to take up passive resistance movement to overthrow the British Rule in 1947.

Leadership Excellence is a journey which requires one to listen, learn, lead, influence, ignite, and inspire ordinary people to do extraordinary things.

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)

When I was growing up in India, I had the privilege of learning math, science, and chemical engineering from great teachers and professors. Through their insights, I was able to learn new concepts and connected the dots with real world situations. After arriving in the US for my graduate work, my journey in engineering continued. My foundations in math, science, and engineering have served me well throughout my adult life.

Both my wife and I have encouraged our two sons to focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). One decided to become a computer scientist and the other to be an economist. They studied hard and work for reputable companies. Both went to a private schools for K-12, where there was great emphasis on science and math. Based on their own experience, I believe they will pass the STEM baton to their offspring.

Our schools should recruit teachers who love math and science. These teachers will make math and science exciting and relevant for the students. Once an youngster is hooked on math and science, she/he will do well in their journey of life. In the global world only way to compete is to build strong foundations in STEM and use quality management principles and tools to add value to organizations, Society, and the world.

I welcome additional thoughts on STEM.