Bringing Quality consciousness into the system – or how people can give their jobs the best they can

Have you ever picked up a book on Quality Management?? Not that it is the most interesting of reads, but when you read parameters and measurements and metrics, it should very quickly be evident that, in essence, quality is never just about “not more than 3.4 defects per million 0pportunities.” (isixsigma.com)

Over the years, through countless quality certifications and audits, I have come to believe that the definition of quality, in reality, is what you have been told quality is. Exactly that…. what you’ve been told quality is.

 This would usually translate to one of following belief statements among the organization:

  • No defects no matter what the target. We’ll rework till its top quality or go bankrupt trying…

  • So what if a few quality errors occur?? Hey, we got a great Replacement Policy

 But at the end of the day, the essence of quality rarely trickles down to the “little guy” on the production floor. Unless the guy who runs that lathe machine actually believes in the 0.5 micron finish he has to put on that chair leg, it really doesn’t matter you’re ISO 9833452340322 qualified [Trust me, one day that number will come].

That brings me to my bit about the various certifications about Quality that organizations strive to achieve and maintain so “diligently”. Each of these certifications had been essentially designed and developed to organize the best practices about Quality in an organization’s way of existence, but in 9 cases out of 10, Quality certifications have been about as effective in bringing about a commitment to quality across the organization as has Marx’s Communism delivered on its “golden-era” promises. Like communism, it sometimes works…but only in places where it gets ingrained into the system. If you’re really good at quality, having a certificate pronouncing so becomes quite redundant, doesn’t it??

So then, the solution?? How do we get whole organizations eat, drink, sleep, breathe quality? Practically speaking [the little guy’s view], there are two ways of doing it:

  1. Drill it into the boys till they repeat it in their sleep
  2. Visible, genuine commitment to the processes by the top management

The first method is effective to the extent that it gives a chance to the boys to consciously and ultimately subconsciously shut off the programming, the same way targets drive the salesforce performance at the end of the quarter [Get it done somehow, anyhow, BUT I DON’T KNOW HOW!!!!].

The second method however is usually easier said than done. Top management need to get out of their ivory towers and Harvard Business Review hangovers [Its a great magazine, but seldom easy to put into practice]and visit the floor. Know what you produce or offer as services. Its amazing how many IT organizations have executives who do not know what services they offer or who do not understand the business markets they are in.

Once you’re familiar with “what’s inside the box”, start thinking “what’s supposed to be in there in the first place”!!!! An analysis of Quality is not just producing the best, but analyzing whether you’re the best to produce it or are you just an “also-ran product or service”?? Is your product or service the best thing to produce with your capabilities??

Allow me to be more direct —— Are you best qualified to produce what you produce??

Once you answer that question in the affirmative, and I do mean a BIG RESOUNDING ‘HELL YEAH!!!!!!!!’ , that’s when you start the process of IMPROVEMENT and everything else in that book you picked up in the start.

In Sanskrit, there is a saying Jatha raaja, thatha prajaa which means “As is the king, so are the subjects”. John C. Maxwell in his book “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” states that there can be no leader without followers. The boys on the floor look upto the Top Management for direction. Here it becomes imperative that the Top Management demonstrate a concern for quality in the product coupled with the knowledge of the product.

Imagine for a moment, the tremendous effect that occurs, when a Sr. Executive in an organization walks upto a guy on the floor, picks up a finished chair leg and asks him whether in his opinion, a tapering leg would be more stable without sacrificing on aesthetics?? That feedback flows back to the product design team, eventually playing a role in the improvement of the design, yielding a better chair. Voila, Quality improvement!!!!!

But it doesn’t stop there!! The Sr. Executive makes another round of the floor, congratulates this guy in front of all his colleagues and honestly tells them all, in simple but quantifiable terms [read dollars!!], how much the changed design helped boost sales.

At this moment, the shop floor guy is going, “WOW!! I just got recognized for the effort and the guys at the top know it!! There is a lot that can be improved out here, I’m glad they’re asking now!!!!”

At the same time, each of his floor mates go, “Man, there are a lot of ways that my output can be improved. Let me try and come up with some improvement. Now that they’re listening, the big boss will be shaking my hand next!!!”

And there you have it!! Quality Consciousness IN THE SYSTEM!!

Driven by the boys themselves, this consciousness becomes very infectious. Much like word-of-mouth marketing.

Easier said than done, you say?? Well, its up to you to try it!!

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About Navin Quadros
An Information Technology and Business Strategy consultant, with an opinion and loves to give it!!

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