Posts about quality

Steve Jobs on Quality, Business and Joseph Juran

This webcast shows an interesting interview with Steve Jobs when he was with NeXT computer. He discusses quality, business and the experience of working with Dr. Juran at NeXT computer. The video is likely from around 1991.

America’s in a tough spot right now, I think. I think we have forgotten the basics. We were so prosperous for so long that we took so many things for granted. And we forgot how much work it took to build and sustain those basic things that were supporting out prosperity. Things like a great education system. Things like great industry.

We are being out-planned, we are being out-strategized, we are being out-manufactured. It there is nothing that can’t be fixed but we are not going to fix it up here, we are going to fix it by getting back to the basics.

I agree with this thought, and while we have made some progress over the decades since this was recorded there is a long way to go (related: complacency about our contribution the USA has received from science and engineering excellencewhen you were as rich as the USA was in the 1950s and 1960s more and more people felt they deserved to be favored with economic gifts without effort (forgetting the basics as Jobs mentioned)Silicon Valley Shows Power of Global Science and Technology Workforce). After World War II the USA was able to coast on an economic bubble of extreme wealth compared to the rest of the world for several decades (and the economic success built during that period even still provides great advantages to the USA). That allowed wealthy living conditions even without very good management practices in our businesses.

Where we have to start is with our products and our services, not with our marketing department.

Quality isn’t just the product or service. Its having the right product. Knowing where the market is going and having the most innovative products is just as much a part of quality as the quality of the construction of the product. And I think what we are seeing the quality leaders of today have integrated that quality technology well beyond their manufacturing.

Now going well into their sales and marketing and out as far as they can to touch the customer. And trying to create super efficient processes back from the customer all the way through the delivery of the end product. So they can have the most innovative products, understand the customer needs fastest, etc..

The importance of customer focus is obvious at the companies Jobs led. It wasn’t a weak, mere claim of concern for the customer, it was a deep passionate drive to delight customers.

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Getting Known Good Ideas Adopted

This month Paul Borawski asked ASQ’s Influential Voices to explore two questions; first, what is the most important challenge the quality community faces in ensuring that the value of quality is fully realized for the benefit of society?

I really think it is just getting the good ideas to improve management, that have been around for decades, adopted. This might not seem that important. But I hear almost no talk about this and tons of talk about all sorts of “new ideas” for management.

The “new ideas” that I look into don’t seem like very new ideas to me. The best of these ideas are usually well thought out tweaks and enhancements (along with a potentially better presentation of the core ideas) that are useful. But they are really just about getting old ideas adopted, it seems to me. Still this is good and useful work.

Unfortunately the vast majority seems to me to be overly simplistic ideas that involved more thought in creating something to market than in creating something to improve the practice of management.

We seem to spend all sorts of time and energy focused on new branding for management ideas when we would be better off focusing on how to get organizations to adopt good practices. I think the distraction with finding new ways of clothing the same old ideas is a distraction that prevents focus where it would be more worthwhile. This is especially true because those rebranding old ideas often don’t understand the old idea. They seem to see it would easier to sell if it were simplified so they do that and rebrand it but they don’t understand that they left of critical components and it won’t work – even if it is easier to sell.

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Going Beyond Quality Makes No Sense – There is No Border to Move Beyond

This month, Paul Borawski selected the topic of going beyond the traditional quality function for discussion by ASQ’s Influential Voices.

I don’t pay much attention to the tradition role for quality. Dr. Deming’s ideas, for well over half a century, have emphasized the importance of improving the entire management system and the entire enterprise. That systems view is the way I think and act.

When a quality office exists that office has a role to play within the system. So, the quality department might be responsible for things like helping keeping track of internal process measures (control charts etc.), responding to whatever some executive decides to focus on (they don’t like the rate of warranty expenses, or bugs in the software, or something), etc.

I have no problem with a quality department providing expertise on process management, helping people use quality tools, providing guidance on modern management methods etc. But limiting a quality department to whatever is considered traditional quality (maybe reducing defects, quality assurance, and the like) is an idea that is over half a century out of date, in my opinion. I was part of a quality office at the Office of Secretary of Defense Quality Management Office. The role of such offices is to support and increase the speed of adoption of better management practices to improve results.

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Moving Beyond Product Quality

This month Paul Borawski (CEO of ASQ) has asked the ASQ Influential Voices to share their thoughts on moving beyond product quality.

The opening paragraph of the Quality Council’s perspective is, “For some organizations, ‘quality’ remains a set of tools and techniques associated almost exclusively with quality control. For others, quality has evolved into a critical partner, closely linked with business model development and the enterprise-wide execution of long-term strategy to achieve results.

The way to move beyond just the set-of-tools mindset is very similar to the March topic on selling quality improvement.

What is needed to move beyond quality tools into a new management system is to make changes to the system that allow for that management system to be continually improved. Using the tools helps improve product quality a great deal. Much more can be done (both for product quality and overall effectiveness) if we don’t limit the use of modern improvement efforts to the manufacturing line.

At first it is often difficult to get managers and executives to accept the kind of change to their work that they will direct others to make. But once the process of improving the management system gets started, it takes a life of its own and is a very strong force to move beyond product quality.

Here are some previous posts on methods and strategies to move forward the organization into adopting a customer focused systemic effort to continuously improve every aspect of the organization – including the management system:

Related: Dr. Deming in 1980 on Product Quality in Japan and the USA

Management Improvement Carnival #164

Paul Borawski is hosting 164th Management Improvement Carnival on ASQ’s View from the Q blog. Highlights from this edition include:

Remember to add new blogs that you discover through the carnival to your RSS feed so you enjoy their new posts.

Joy in Work in the Quality Improvement Field

As I mentioned previously, I will be posting on a topics raised by Paul Borawski, CEO, ASQ as part of ASQ Influential Voices. This month Paul’s post, Are Quality Professionals Happy On the Job? looks at job happiness in the quality improvement field.

Paul stated he “wasn’t surprised that Forbes Magazine named software quality assurance engineer as the ‘happiest job’ in the U.S.” I was. Frankly looking at the results I question the methodology used – I just find their claims questionable. Whether any ranking could be sensible is also a reasonable question. I do believe certain careers make people happier than others, I question whether you can sensibly differentiate the top 20.

Still, looking at the happiness of those in the quality field is an interesting topic. My father created a challenge for me. He loved what he did: professor (statistics, chemical engineer, industrial engineer, business) and consultant (same things, with focus on quality and management improvement). Helping achieve better results was important to him. And helping create joy in work was also. It took me a while to see how much of an outlier he was – finding people who love what they do is much rarer than those that complain a great deal I have found.

That software development ranks toward the top doesn’t surprise me. Software programmers are some of the people happiest in their jobs in my experience. My experience is biased toward those given more freedom than those working in large bureaucracies (I can imagine those programmers are less happy overall). In addition to being happier with their jobs they also are demanding. They are not the least challenging of authority (some managers seem to equate docility with happiness, but that isn’t accurate, in my opinion).

To me the quality field allows for a great deal of joy in work. That doesn’t mean it is without frustration. I think the field does have a fairly high level of frustration as many are stuck in systems that are moving much to slowly to improve management practices. This is the biggest concern I find from most in the quality improvement field. So in order to be happy one has to learn to cope with some frustration while making good progress and finding happiness in all the achievements even while knowing more could be done.

Related: The Importance of Management ImprovementRespect People by Creating a Climate for Joy in WorkRespect for People: Optimize for Developer Happiness at EtsyCreate a System That Lets People Take Pride in Their WorkSigns You Have a Great Job … or Not

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Selling Quality Improvement

In this month’s ASQ influential quality voices post, Paul Borawski asks How Do You “Sell” Quality?

I am amazed how difficult it is to sell quality improvement. I look at organizations I interact with and easily see systemic failures due to faults that can be corrected by adopting management improvement strategies that are decades old. Yet executives resist improving. The desire to retain the comforting embrace of existing practices is amazingly strong.

What sells to executives are usually ideas that require little change in thinking or practice but promise to eliminate current problems. What Dr. Deming called “instant pudding” solutions sell well. They are what executives have historically bought, and they don’t work. I can’t actually understand how people continue to be sold such magic solutions but they do.

If you want to enable effective management improvement, as I do, you need to both have buyers for what you offer and offer something that works. Honestly I am not much of a salesperson. Based on what I see executives buy the sale should be packaged in a way that minimize any effort on the executives part. However, that doesn’t interest me because it nearly always leads to failed improvement efforts. For years (decades?) Dilbert has provided a humorous view on the continuing tragedy of these efforts.

Another sales option is look for desperate executives that have already tried taking the easy way out 5 or 6 or 7 times and are still in desperate for improvement. Once they can’t see any options offering simple solutions they may be willing to work at a solution.

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ASQ Influential Voices: Future Engineers and Scientists

As I mentioned previously, I will be posting on a topics raised by Paul Borawski, CEO, ASQ as part of ASQ Influential Voices. This month Paul’s post, New Bloggers, STEM & More, looks at the development of future engineers.

How can we, those who understand, use, and love science and technology, pass it along.

I have discussed this issue often, on one of my other blogs: Curious Cat Science and Engineering blog: Encouraging Curiosity in Kids, Passion for Mechanical Engineering (StoryCorps), Illusion of Explanatory Depth, Teaching Through Tinkering.

They are several critical paths to address in building our pipeline of future scientists and engineers. First we need to encourage kids to explore these areas. In my opinion, we currently do a pretty good job, sadly, of discouraging kids as much as we can. So reducing those barriers is key, then we need to actually build ways that help kids. We actually do have many good efforts in place to encourage kids to explore their natural curiosity (follow that link for tons of great organization: FIRST, Project Lead The Way, Engineering is Elementary, The Infinity Project etc.). This helps balance out the discouraging of students that our normal classrooms do. But the pool of kids we reach with these efforts now is far too small. And many are so turned off by our traditionally science education that no matter how much they enjoy outside science and engineering projects they are not willing to pursue science and engineering in school.

The next big area is undergraduate and graduate education. At this point we do a good job, for those willing to put up with the current model of education, which is not designed to encourage those who are interested. It is basically up to weed out any students not willing to put up with the current painful model of higher education for science and engineering. The system seems designed to wean out those who are not sufficiently willing to put up with the difficulties they are asked to face. If the only people that would benefit from science and engineering education are those that are willing to deal with the current system, then it might be fine. But I believe we have turned away hundreds of thousands of people that would have done great things with what they learned. I believe those that will not put themselves through the current system can offer great value. We will gain great benefits if we create a system that is designed to maximize the benefits to students.

There are good ideas for how to improve. But they are challenging. And we are not doing nearly enough experimenting to find good new models of engineering education. Some of my previous posts on science and engineering education: How the Practice and Instruction of Engineering Must ChangeWebcast: Engineering Education in the 21st Century by William Wulf (National Academy of Engineering President), Improving Engineering Education (Olin College of Engineering Experiment), Reforming Engineering Education, Carnegie Foundation Calls for Overhaul of Engineering Education.

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ASQ Influential Voices

I am joining the ASQ Influential Voices project for 2012. The effort started last year when ASQ chose a few people to participate in a group effort to share their thoughts on various topics in quality improvement. I have been asked to join for 2012, along with a couple lean bloggers (Mark Graban and Tim McMahon) and others. Each month the ASQ executive director will post on a topic and I, and the other influential voices participants, will share out thoughts on that topic.

My history with ASQ extends back into my childhood. My father, William Hunter, was the founding chair of the ASQ Statistics division. They now administer the Hunter Award, which recognizes substantial contributions to statistical consulting, education for practitioners, and integration of statistics with other disciplines as well as demonstrated excellence in communication and implementing innovative applied statistical methods.

I joined with a group of people to lead the Public Sector Quality Improvement Network shortly after it was formed. The network aimed to help those in the public sector use quality management principles to improve performance. That group of people was one of the most impressive I have worked with; including Tom Mosgaller, Michael Williamson, Barry Crook, Nathan Strong and others. We decided to join with ASQ: that effort has become the ASQ Government Division. Another outgrowth of those efforts was my Public Sector Continuous Improvement Site, which I continue to run.

The Public Sector Network also connects back to my father; Tom Mosgaller and Michael Williamson worked on the quality efforts in the Madison, Wisconsin (at the City of Madison and the University of Wisconsin – Madison). Michael worked in for Joe Sensenbrenner, and then brought the new management ideas to his roles with university. My father approached the mayor, Joe Sensenbrenner, about applying management improvement ideas at the city. The mayor agreed and my father documented that effort in Dr. Deming’s classic, Out of the Crisis as the first government application of Deming’s management principles. See pages 245-247 of Out of the Crisis and also Joe Sensenbrenner’s classic article in the Harvard Business Review: Quality Comes to City Hall. Peter Scholtes was also part of that initial project at the First Street Garage in Madison, Wisconsin.

photo of Terry Holmes, Joe Turner and Bill Hunter

Terry Holmes (president of the local labor union), Joe Turner (division foreman) and Bill Hunter (consultant), working on the First Street Garage project. They went and presented to executives at Ford (where Dr. Deming was working) on the cooperation between union and management in the City of Madison project.

You can read a bit more about the work in Madison in George Box’s (an ASQ fellow) article – William Hunter: An Innovator and Catalyst for Quality Improvement. And also in: Doing More With Less in the Public Sector: A Progress Report from Madison, Wisconsin by William G. Hunter, Jan O’Neill, and Carol Wallen and Quality in the Community: One City’s Experience by George Box, Laurel Joiner, Sue Rohan and Joseph Sensenbrenner (1989). These documents are all made available by the Center for Quality and Productivity Improvement at the University of Wisconsin – Madison that was founded by George Box and my father.

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Dr. Deming in 1980 on Product Quality in Japan and the USA

I posted an interesting document to the Curious Cat Management Library: it includes Dr. Deming’s comments as part of a discussion organized by the Government Accounting Office in 1980 on Quality in Japan and the United States.

The document provides some interesting thoughts from Dr. Deming and others; Dr. Deming’s statements start on page 52 of the document. For those really interested in management improvement ideas it is a great read. I imagine most managers wouldn’t enjoy it though (it isn’t giving direct advice for today, but I found it very interesting).

Some selected quotes from the document follow. On his work with Japan in 1950:

This movement, I told them, will fail and nothing will happen unless management does their part. Management must know something about statistical techniques and know that if they are good one place, they will work in another. Management must see that they are used throughout the company.
Quality control must take root with simple statistical techniques that management and everyone in the company must learn. By these techniques, people begin to understand the different kinds of variation. Then quality control just grow with statistical theory and further experience. All this learning must be guided by a master. Remarkable results may come quick, but one has no right to expect results in a hurry. The learning period never ends.

The statistical control of quality is not for the timid and the halfhearted. There is no way to learn except to learn it and do it. You can read about swimming, but you might drown if you had to learn it that way!

One of the common themes at that time was Deming’s methods worked because Japanese people and culture were different. That wasn’t why the ideas worked, but it was an idea many people that wanted to keep doing things the old way liked to believe.

There may be a lot of difference, I made the statement on my first visit there that a Japanese man was never too old nor too successful to learn, and to wish to learn; to study and to learn. I know that people here also study and learn. I’ll be eighty next month in October. I study every day and learn every day. So you find studious people everywhere, but I think that you find in Japan the desire to learn, the willingness to learn.

You didn’t come to hear me on this; there are other people here much better qualified than I am to talk. But in Japan, a man works for the company; he doesn’t work to please somebody. He works for the company, he can argue for the company and stick with it when he has an idea because his position is secure. He doesn’t have to please somebody. It is so here in some companies, but only in a few. I think this is an important difference.

At the time the way QC circles worked in Japan was basically employee led kaizen. So companies that tried to copy Japan told workers: now go make things better like the workers we saw in Japan were doing. Well with management not changing (and understanding Deming’s ideas, lean thinking, variation, systems thinking…) and staff not given training to understand how to improve processes it didn’t work very well. We (those reading this blog) may all now understand the advantages one piece flow. I can’t imagine too many people would jump to that idea sitting in their QC circle without having been told about one piece flow (I know I wouldn’t have), and all the supporting knowledge needed to make that concept work.

QC circles can make tremendous contributions. But let me tell you this, Elmer. If it isn’t obvious to the workers that the managers are doing their part, which only they can do, I think that the workers just get fed up with trying in vain to improve their part of the work. Management must do their part: they must learn something about management.

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Management Blog Posts From September 2006

Huntington Beach State Park

Find a few selected posts from the Curious Cat Management Blog back in September 2006.

  • Going lean Brings Long-term Payoffs – “The early paybacks provide resources to invest in making large more fundamental changes to the organization… Without visible success expecting employees to believe the new management practices is unwise.”
  • Management Improvement History and Health Care – “I think it is wise to think about what improvement methods were tried in the past and try to understand why they failed in order to improve the chances of success today. I think the many of the things which tripped up TQM, Six Sigma, re-engineering… efforts in the past are waiting to do the same to those efforts today, including lean thinking efforts.”
  • Leaving Quality Behind? Again No – “There is a big difference between needing to improve on previous attempts to adopt management improvement methods and needing to find new methods. Most of what is needed it to actually apply the good ideas that have been around for decades.”
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Engage in Improving the Management System

To actually improve management you need to engage in continual improvement of your management systems. This requires doing the hard work of challenging complacency. The job of those improving the practice of management is not to make everyone happy and just ignore that the words about improvement are not actually carrying through to changes in behavior.

Do Executives “Get It?”

So many times executives spout the importance of new initiatives like wellness programs, safety programs, or improvement projects like Lean, Six Sigma, etc. They talk about how great they are and how everyone should embrace them so the company can improve, but when push comes to shove, their actions indicate they really don’t believe in them.

If you are trying to bring about change you need in-process indications of actual success at improving the management system. Instead it seems to me, most of the time, the focus is on spinning what is being done to convince others that what is being done is good. This is not helpful and not useful.

Without in-process indications of how the movement to a better management system is performing the pattern is all too common. People want to show they are doing a good job (which often includes not being too negative – because if they criticize results they can be branded as negative). So instead we end up with actions that would be used if one assumed that while we had problems with the last 4 management fads we implemented, now we have this wonderful new idea it will avoid all the problems.

So we start our new process, and write up reports and presentations for meetings talking about our successes. We are careful to ignore any warning signs. Then, after 1, 2… years (in a good economy this can last quite a bit longer), the boss says the results are not improving, this isn’t working. Everyone quickly agrees and the improvement effort is dropped. Usually there will be a period of time taken until and a new fad is found that everyone agrees is wonderful for 2-5 years until they then all agree was a failure. Repeat for the rest of your career.

To break this cycle and actually continually improve we can’t go along with the in-process indications that the management improvement system is not really working. We need to seek out indications that it is not working and address those issues and build a strong continually improving management system.

Related: Management Advice Failuresflavors of management improvement effortsmanage what you can’t measureFederal Government Chief Performance Officer (a specific example of the repeated failure to improve), just pretending the failures in the past didn’t exist doesn’t help the current effort

Quality is Made in the Board Room

Dr. Deming stated “Quality is made in the board room,” page 202 Dr. Deming: the American who taught the Japanese about quality. I believe, once the board and executive leadership has put in place the right management system (one that respects people, continual improves using a standardized improvement process (that itself is being improved), practices evidence based management, focuses on customer value, improves processes rather than blames people, builds the capacity of the organization over time…) then quality is everyone’s responsibility.

Executive leadership can’t do it themselves. Making it everyone’s responsibility after the system allows everyone to participate effectively is sensible. That does not, in any way, excuse blaming those stuck in a bad system for failures they didn’t heroically overcome.

Continuing from the quote from Deming above:

A worker can deliver lower quality, but she cannot deliver quality better than the system allows…
Exhortations not only have no long-term effect, but eventually they backfire

Related: The Two Pillar of the Toyota Way: continuous improvement and respect for peopleDr. Deming on ManagementBooks on Applying Deming’s ideas

Federal Government Chief Performance Officer

A Quality Manager for Obama

President-Elect Obama has hired a quality manager, and her name is Nancy Killefer. She is the newly appointed “Chief Performance Officer” whose mandate is to manage budget reforms while eliminating waste in government processes, ultimately making it more effective. An MIT & McKinsey alum, Time calls her the “first official waste watchdog.”

Previous administrations have had exactly the same thing (regardless what Time magazine says), so I don’t think we should get carried away. Eliminating wasteful government spending is a refrain from every new administration. She will be running the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and have this new title “Chief Performance Officer.” OMB has been the official waste watchdog, for at least decades. They are far from understanding muda. Time will tell if there is any change on that score going forward, I am skeptical.

Here is very typical OMB language from a 1995 memo by Alice M. Rivlin, Director of OMB:

Management controls are the organization, policies, and procedures used to reasonably ensure that (i) programs achieve their intended results; (ii) resources are used consistent with agency mission; (iii) programs and resources are protected from waste, fraud, and mismanagement; (iv) laws and regulations are followed; and (v) reliable and timely information is obtained, maintained, reported and used for decision making.

I worked with improving management in the federal government at the Office of Personnel Management, Office of the Secretary of Defense, Quality Management Office and the White House Military Office. I was one of the founders of the ASQ Public Sector Network (now Government Division) and have managed the Public Sector Continuous Improvement Site since 1995. There have been plenty of great efforts to improve management in government that have made real progress. But there is much more that needs to be done.

There are complications in applying management improvement in government but they are fairly minor comparatively. In general, the difficulty is not the necessary adjustments for a different environment than the private sector, but similar challenges to improving private sector management.

In 1982, The Grace Commission provided a report to the Regan Administration. Radio Address to the Nation on the Management of the Federal Government by Ronald Reagan, October 29, 1988

“We also set up the Private Sector Survey on Cost Control led by Peter Grace — almost 200 top business executives. This Commission spent months looking at every part of the Government, finding out where modern business practices could eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse in the Government. When they were through, they’d come up with 2,478 suggestions. And almost every recommendation we could put into effect without congressional action has been implemented. And we’ve saved close to $80 billion. We’re hoping that the next Congress will pitch in and do its part.”

The Clinton administration had the National Performance Review which was the closest thing to an attempt to move toward my concept of management improvement.

The current administration had their own President’s Management Agenda. Government Accountability: Efforts to Identify and Eliminate Waste and Mismanagement Hearing before the Committee on International Relations, House of Representatives, September 4, 2003.
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Management Improvement History

Originally posted to the Deming Electronic Network, 22 Sep 1999, in reponse to this message

I would like to say that I think it is good that we have disagreements on the DEN. I think it is a strength of the DEN, not a weakness. However, I think we sometimes get to personal with no real purpose. One example of this, for me, is: “Well, I guess we knew different Demings. Mine was a teacher named Dr. W. Edwards Deming.” I doubt this statement is meant to be taken literally, and if it is not I do not see what it adds to the discussion. I point this out not because I think this is some bad act that should be punished but that I think we need to continue to develop a sense of how we wish to express our disagreements and I think that we should try to do so more constructively.

For the past 60 years we’ve been looking for the magic bullet that will improve the quality of our products, services and lives. In the 1940s, we applied statistics through sampling, SPC and design of experiments to improve our products. In the 1950s, we used quality cost and total quality control to bring about quality improvement. In the 1960s, zero defects and MIL-Q-9858A drove the quality improvement process. In the 1970s, quality circles, process qualification and supplier qualification became key quality issues. In the 1980s, employee training in problem solving, team activities and just-in-time inventory were the things to do.”

I find this statement so far from the truth that it would seriously damage any PDSA with this as an accepted assessment of history. I do not believe Deming had such an inaccurate view (of course I may be wrong). I do believe we need to improve our practice of Quality (and to do that we need to understand what happened in the past and why it was not more successful). The idea that Design of Experiments (DoE) was at the core of some Quality Movement to me is not at all accurate. Continue reading

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