Root Cause Analysis Pitfalls: Trying to fix the wrong thing.
Solving problems in a quality environment is much like pulling weeds in a garden. If you do not get to the true roots of the weed, it will continue to resurface. It is easier in the short term to merely grab that pesky weed at the surface and tear off the visible portions without getting down to and removing the roots. In the long term however, the weed will actually cost you more time and effort because you will continue to do this again and again.
It is my sincere belief that doing a good job in your permanent corrective action (PCA) process typically means that the majority of your time should be spent focusing on data gathering and root cause analysis. In my estimation the 70/ 30 rule applies most of the time. This simply means that 70 percent of the time of the team will be spent in these areas.
Ask questions (a lot of them)
Before you start defining “potential” root causes to investigate you need to make sure that you have clearly defined the details of the problem. One of my favorite tools for this process is the IS/ IS NOT questioning technique. As the name implies this means asking the questions of where, and when the problem is being experienced and where it is not being experienced. This becomes extremely important in defining the problem. Let’s say for example that your company produces widgets for numerous global customers. One specific product that you supply is the same used in over 30 customer plants around the world, but only one is experiencing an issue. Using the IS/ IS NOT questioning technique will help your team to realize this and will force a different set of questions and cause you to ask why only this facility? Is there something different in how they use the product? Did they change their process? This line of thinking can change your list of potential root causes that need to be investigated instead of jumping right into brainstorming a list of potential causes.
Example of IS/ IS NOT questions:
IS (where is the problem)
- Who (is seeing the problem)
- When (did they start seing the problem)
- Where (on the product or process is the problem being seen/ experienced)
- How (often/ frequent is the problem being seen)
- Why (is this truly a problem)
IS NOT (Where is the problem not being seen but could or should be)
- Who (is not seeing the problem – plant/ area/ etc…Why)
- When (could the problem have first been experienced but was not/ why)
- Where (else could/ should the problem be but is not/ why)
- How (often/ frequent is the problem not being seen but could be/ why)
- Why (is this not really a problem)
The goal of this exercise is merely to make the team ask more questions at the outset not to ask a bunch of useless questions. If the question does not make sense for the issue, move on.
Root cause Analysis – my favorite tool to identify “Potential” root causes:
The fishbone diagram is in my opinion on of the best techniques to help teams identify potential root causes. The fishbone diagram is a tool that forces the root cause team to look in compartments or categories that could either be a cause or a contributing cause. The name “fishbone” is merely because the shape of the diagram looks like the head of a fish with the “bones” being the compartments/ categories to look at. Typical categories are the 5M/1E which is simply:
There are others that work well in which the categories might be steps in the process that is experiencing the problem, departments, etc… The possibilities are endless and the creativity of the team will allow more ways to use the tool effectively.
Another tool that works well and can be used with the fishbone is the 5 Why questioning technique. This simply means that instead of accepting the stated potential root cause we ask “why” until it makes no more sense to the team or leads to a fix that is out of their control.
Example of 5 Whys:
Issue – I was late for work
Why 1 – I got up late
Why 2 – My alarm clock did not go off
Why 3 – Stopped running
Why 4 – Power went out
Why 5 – storm knocked the transformer our in my neighborhood
As I mentioned above this question could likely continue but we are already at a point that is out of my control. I cannot prevent storms or transformers from being knocked out but I can get a battery operated clock as an action to fix my issue. There are others as well such as back up power methods, etc… but I think you see my point.
The more we use these tools and techniques the more comfortable our teams become with them and more effective at using them which will result in less repeat issues.
Happy Problem Solving.
The Three “I”s to improving organizational performance
In these challenging times it is imperative that companies are focusing on how to improve their operations. This means looking for more effective and less wasteful ways of doing all things. I have an acronym consisting of three easy to remember “I”s. They are as follows:
I will go into more detail on each of these points below.
– Provide clear roles, goals, and expectations for everyone. Fuzzy expectations means fuzzy results.
– Provide clear and candid feedback on an individual level as well as performance of the organization. This is in the form of metrics, personal work goals/ targets, customer complaints, scorecards, awards, etc… Do not make the mistake of only providing feedback on the negative. Employees need to hear the positive as well.
– Provide clear instructions on how to perform work as well as any additional information or resources needed to effectively perform the work.
– Involvement of the workforce is probably the biggest factor in creating effective culture changes, improvements and developing an effective quality system. When these are created and implemented in a vacuum they will be far less effective and supported.
– I am a firm believer in involving the workforce in as much as possible. Some examples include internal auditing, layer process audits, problem solving, improvement initiatives, QMS/ process development, process development (where feasible and value added), customer visits, presentations, setting goals & targets, etc…
– An involved and engaged workforce also reduces resistance to change.
– If we are not improving both as individuals and as a organizations we are falling behind. Those that are maintaining the status quo will soon find themselves behind their competition who is improving.
– Improvement teams and individual improvement programs can be a great way to improve quality, improve safety, reduce costs, improve customer satisfaction and make for a better work environment.
– For those that are certified to ISO 9001, TS 16949 and other ISO based systems, improvement is a requirement. Many companies have reaped huge rewards and savings by the implementation of improvement initiatives as described above. Once we have implemented a good “process based QMS” with objectives that are measured, we can then use these measurements to improve the way that we manage our company and our quality system.
– In addition and related to the 2nd “I” (involvement) it is a great way to engage the workforce as well.
Here is to improvement!
Performance: You get what you expect and accept
I will start with a fitting quote:
“Don’t lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations. Expect the best of yourself, and then do what is necessary to make it a reality.”
author – Ralph Marston
Undoubtedly we have all seen this in action and experienced it in different areas of our lives. Parents that fail to hold their child accountable for poor grades, and bad behaviors. Bosses or managers that do not provide feedback and guidance on not achieving goals (or worse not setting goals/ objectives). The examples are widespread.
In regards to quality management and operational excellence, the same applies. If we as management do not set the bar high enough to provide challenging objectives, performance may actually decrease to the expected levels. If management “settles” and accepts product quality, personnel performance, operational performance (example – productivity, delivery, scrap, rework, etc…) and even personal performance that is low, that is precisely what we may get. If we provide objectives and goals that are challenging, yet achievable we stimulate the interest. Most people in my experience like a challenge. If we do not provide this in the work environment, people may just “get through the day” to get home to do the “mentally stimulating” things that they enjoy.
Having said this however, we as management need to make sure that we also provide the following to employees and staff:
– Clear objectives/ goals that are a stretch yet achievable
– Clear explanation/ communication and understanding of the objectives
– Resources to be able to achieve the objectives (tools, equipment, data, personnel, time, etc…)
– Competency (knowledge, training, experiences) to achieve the objectives
– Feedback. We need to make sure that employees know that there is a process to evaluate progress and to provide positive and
negative feedback on how the process is going.
– An action plan/ process and or resources if there are roadblocks or progress is stalling
One problem that I have seen in the past is that the objectives/ goals are lowered to meet the performance. An example might be increasing plant scrap levels to match that of the current performance level instead of developing a plan or project to improve this.
Another example occurs on the personal side as well. People that do not like to exercise or monitor what they eat, accept their current health levels as “that’s just the way I am”, instead of devising an action plan to change it.
Establishment of the targets
I would like to elaborate on the setting of these objectives. Many times these expectations are set from the management team. Other times they are set by department managers, or leaders. In my experience we achieve the best scenario when we involve the employees, staff, etc… in developing and understanding the process and the objectives. Not only does this help reduce resistance and obtain “buy in” from employees but it makes them part of the process and creates ownership of the objective. To reiterate: the objectives must be challenging and achievable.
Clear Communication of expectations and specific feedback
As managers we must ensure that we have clearly stated the objectives in language that the targeted employees will understand as well. Posting objectives in the plant or work areas in a terminology not used or understood is a surefire way to set them up to fail. We must also make sure that we talk about the process, objectives with the employees so that it is known that these objectives are important. For example – Hanging a trend chart on the wall with results of scrap levels is great but if there is no interaction or discussion of what the results mean and what is to be done to change then not much will happen many times. These results and actions should be discussed in meetings, even written about in company newsletters, or websites/ blogs. If we do not show that the objectives are important then the excitement of the initial discussions will wear down and everyone will go back to business as usual.
In short – if we are not getting better we are falling behind the competition. In order to get better we must understand the processes, measure the processes and hold people accountable to the results and goals. If we do not involve our employees in the planning, and setting of goals they become bystanders and do not “own” the process or objectives. It is management’s job to clearly communicate these and provide for removing of roadblocks beyond the employees control.
Here is to improvement!
Organizational Excellence Consists of Doing MANY Right Things Correctly.
Let’s face it there are no shortcuts when it comes to organizational excellence. It is similar to a jigsaw puzzle. If you are missing just one piece you miss completing the big picture. If you have the wrong piece in the wrong place you also will not achieve your best performance.
With the myriad of different management techniques and quality improvement tools/ methods that we see and hear about it is easy to think that there is a “magic pill” that will cure our ills. Unfortunately cherry picking a “tool of the month” for implementation in itself does not guarantee improvement in terms of making large improvements in overall performance. Why you ask? In my experience there are many great tools and techniques out there but there are usually many contributing factors that lead to poor organizational performance. It is usually not just one factor (again for overall organizational performance).
It is very similar to good health and fitness. Many folks want the magic diet pill or exercise equipment that will cure our weight or health problems. To be effective we typically must attack it from many different areas. For example: to use a health related example (since most can relate) of needing to lose a few pounds, decrease our body fat to lean tissue ratio. Merely cutting back on caloric intake by itself is not the most effective means. We should also look at weight bearing and cardiovascular exercise, improving what we eat and in some cases working on our mental processes of how we view diet and exercise. In my experience and opinion improving organizational excellence/ performance must be handled in an approach as well that looks at the many involved factors.
Here is a brief list (not all inclusive by any means as much depends on the organization) of some typical areas that must be looked at:
1) Goal Alignment. Review or develop your driving vision and top level goals for the organization. All other goals and objectives that you have must be in support of this. Many times we may have conflicting goals. Goal alignment is crucial.
2) Define the areas where performance is not meeting expectations. Do not adjust the goal to meet performance. This happens often where management lowers expectations after numerous attempts to reach specific goals unsuccessfully. Example – raising product scrap percentage generated to xx % after not being able to solve the process issues causing them. Performance expectations will drive performance. Example – if we expect and accept that we will be overweight, then we will)
3) Use true root cause analysis to determine why the performance gaps exist. Do not assume that it will be just one cause. As with product quality issues, there are typically many related/ contributing causes. There are many root cause methods and the intent of this blog article is not to get into them as there are many good books on the market for this. I am a firm believer however that most of your time spent should be on the data gathering portion. This will ensure that your team has a thorough understanding of the problems. It also prevents working on the wrong problem.
4) Make sure that the right team is in place to achieve organizational excellence. This means all levels of the company. You can have a great shop floor employee population, but if the management team is not right for the task and does not have the vision, drive and perseverance then it will still not happen. The opposite is also true. If you have a top notch management team but your hiring practice for non-management personnel is lacking you will likely fail as well. Managers must review each and every position in the company for the ideal traits, experience and background. At that point we can either hire the ideal candidate or elect to hire a candidate that can be developed to the desire level. The problem that I have seen in some organizations is that the ideal candidates are not brought in and then they also are not developed. To add to this, the expectations are then lowered for the employees and the organization.
5) Correct and improve in an ongoing basis. Do not lose the desire to improve once a few of the low hanging fruit have been corrected with some success. We must instill a culture where all employees are constantly looking to fix issues and improve to the next level in all areas of the organization. This is one of the main reasons that I absolutely love the “process based approach” that ISO based systems drive when done correctly. The PDCA loop is key to this. To maintain this however (as stated above) requires the right mix of management and employees that have the drive and hunger to make the organization better.
Here is to improvement.
Structure – The key to almost everything
“Why is structure so important?”
In my attempt to try to find relationships and consistent concepts that apply across many areas of life and quality I found myself analyzing my fitness program that I am doing with some friends currently.
Approximately 6 weeks ago, three friends and I decided to go through a cycle of a very popular home exercise (DVD based) program by Tony Horton. After six weeks into the program all four of us are getting the results that we intended. I started to analyze the program, our motivations, etc… to determine why that was. As other quality professionals well know, developing and implementing a new quality initiative, quality process or even a quality system may not always take us where we planned. I started to analyze the approach of this particular exercise program to look for clues. Here is what I came up with:
1) Clear Goal – There is a defined goal and a measurement of success. In the case of the exercise program, my objective was to reduce my body fat percentage, waist circumference and lose a little bit of weight.
2) Starting measurement (base line) – We all took specific measures prior to starting so that we were able to determine if what we were doing was effective. This is equally applicable in quality and in business as it relates to improvement projects or initiatives.
3) A strong enough purpose or “why” – As a motivational speaker once said, with a strong enough “why” the how becomes easy. In this case my “why” was to improve my health, which is a very strong motivator for me personally. I want to live a very long time. As managers we have to determine the “why” for any initiative that we are looking to implement.
4) A clearly defined process – In the case of the exercise program every day in the 90 day program is clearly defined as to which body parts, how many repetitions, how many sets, which days you have a rest day, cardio, stretching, etc… As a matter of fact, there is even a daily eating guide.
5) Removal of the “hassles” or hurdles – Our group set a specific time every day that we met for our exercise session which took the guessing out of it, and allowed us to make a long term schedule that our sessions fit into. Because we were working out at a friend’s house, we did not have to worry about gym hours or crowds either.
6) Ongoing measurement of the process – We took weekly (and even more frequent) measurements of our measures on some weeks. This allowed us to take action if we needed to quickly. This also reinforces the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle as well.
7) Correction – If we were not getting the results that we planned and measured weekly, we modified our approach. This took the form of more cardio, cutting back on certain foods, or amounts of foods. This is also crucial in our jobs/ roles as quality professionals. This reinforces why measuring our projects, processes, etc… is so important.
8) Reinforce the program/ objective – This is very important in any initiative, not just exercise programs. We used social media messages, posts, etc… to continuously talk about what we were doing, share interesting information, video clips, etc… related to the goal and process. This can also be accomplished in our quality roles by spending time out in the work areas, talking to the employees as to how their jobs are going, results of customer feedback (good and bad), posting, scorecards, etc… That which gets talked about and measured gets done.
9) Make it a habit/ standardize it – This is challenging in exercise programs, health and in improvements in general. It is easy to back slide into what we were doing before. Regarding the fitness program, we already have our next 2 programs scheduled. You have to make health and quality a permanent process. In the manufacturing/ quality world this can take the form of audits (LPAs), internal audits, error-proofing, mistake-proofing, 5S, control plans, procedures, etc…
As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, there are many related areas in life and being a quality professional I am always looking to bridge the two. This area just reinforces this concept.
Here is to improvement.
The Value of Teams at Work
And first a quote:
Teamwork is the ability to work as a group toward a common vision, even if that vision becomes blurry.
“Why use teams?” The use of teams in the work environment is definitely not a new concept. It still surprises me the extent of companies that do not utilize teams in many of the situations in which much value can be obtained. It is common sense (to me) that the combined brainpower of a work team made up of the right people will be many times more than that of any individual. This is true regardless of whether this person is the company President, Lead Engineer, Plant Manager or Quality Manager.
There is a simple team exercise that I use in some of the problem solving and refresher classes to illustrate this point. It consists of a box of numerous unrelated items (example – paper clips, thread taps, end mills, pencils, post-it pads, etc…) that is first shown to each individual where they record as many as they can remember after viewing the items. Next, I form “teams’ where they review each of the individual lists and compile a “team” total. In every instance of using this exercise the team always has a larger list. Why is this? It is because each of us have different backgrounds, knowledge, experiences, fields of study, etc… that allows us to recognize the items that fall within those boundaries. Others in the team have different experiences, backgrounds, etc…As a team however, we are able to capture all of these different experiences, backgrounds, knowledge, etc… and benefit from them. A very simple but great way to illustrate this point.
Potential Uses of Teams at Work:Below is a list of typical situations in the work environment that I believe the use of teams is justified and of great benefit:
a) Problem Solving
b) Advanced Quality Product Planning (APQP)
c) Planning a Quality System
d) Continuous Improvement Projects
e) Brainstorming Sessions
This list is not exclusive but just a starting point.
Why Teams Work So Well:Besides combining the total brainpower of the group, teams also satisfy many basic human needs.
a) Social Needs (Belonging) – the sense of belonging and being part of a larger group is filled when on a team that works well together. This is very similar to the reason that tribes have and are formed. The group is working towards a common goal (survival for example),
b) Esteem Needs – The feeling of having improved something in the work area, etc… is a great feeling of achievement. Many firms will openly post the achievements of teams as well which also falls into the area by rewarding those on the teams and reinforcing their use.
c) Self-Actualization – Solving problems is a natural human trait in my opinion.
d) Safety – Many times the teams may be fighting for the survival of the organization. Possibly solving a problem or issue that could result in the closure of the company, loss of a customer, etc… This is one of the more basic level needs of people which is to be employed, have a roof over your head, etc….
Infrastructure/ Support Systems/ Starting Steps:
Deciding to use teams in the work place is a decision that has to be made by management. The management team makes the commitment of freeing personnel from daily duties to participate on the team.
Most people do not naturally start out of the gate being able to work effectively and efficiently on a team. There are well known stages of teams that progress from the initial stages and continue until they are a well functioning team. These steps are as follows:
– Forming – early stages in which cohesiveness is not there yet.
– Storming – members are learning their roles and may be somewhat confrontational at times.
– Norming – members start to function as a team and work towards the goals of the team.
– Performing – members are versed in team dynamics, are achieving goals of team, operate smoothly.
Some things that a company can do to help alleviate the early stages of team ineffectiveness is training, assigning a good facilitator, providing clear goals, making sure that middle management, supervisors, etc… are supportive of their employees being empowered and willing to turn over some of that decision making authority.
Team Roles: Another important early step is to make sure that the team members know their roles and responsibilities in participating on the team. This can and should be covered in the preparatory training. I personally find it very beneficial to have a strong facilitator on the team, especially in the early stages of the team development. In the early stages the team members are normally more dependent on a facilitator to help keep the team process going, encourage input from everyone, keep the momentum positive, etc…
You will also need to make sure responsibilities for taking notes, action items, etc… are assigned and understood. I have seen a number of meeting where the meeting is held and there are no notes/ minutes taken and typically nothing comes out of it. Avoid this with careful planning.
Here is to improvement.
Effective Continual Improvement
As usual I will start with a fitting quote:
“Almost all quality improvement comes via simplification of design, manufacturing… layout, processes, and procedures.”
“Driving effective continual improvement”
We have all heard it before – if we are not getting better, we are falling behind. This could not be more true today in our global economy. The auction notices, plant closures, layoffs, etc… are a sign of the times for many in the manufacturing industry. Though there are headlines of “reshoring” that we see, if we do not find ways to do things better, faster and cheaper the manufacturing sector will likely continue to dwindle in total makeup of the economy.
Many companies have tried different C.I (continual improvement) strategies, efforts and tools, many soon fall by the wayside as ineffective or not worth the effort which is unfortunate. Though there are many great and effective ways and methodologies to achieve improvement (Six Sigma, Lean, etc…) the purpose of this blog article will be to discuss and present some BASIC strategies and observations that I have made myself over the past 20 plus years in the quality/ manufacturing world. By no means am I trying to put out that these are the end all, be all to implementing C.I but more just things that I have experienced.
Creating the perception or need to improve falls on the shoulders of management. This can be done through the company culture that is reinforced and put in place, communication to the employees as to how the survival of the firm is really at stake, (and it really is), creation of an environment where it is commonplace to want to improve and the rewards and recognition (W.I.I.F.M) systems. Just making the company more profit in itself is not motivation enough for employees to feel the “WHY”.
The “how” deals with the process through which improvement activities are done. Are you looking to use improvement teams, individual suggestions or a combination of both? A clear process needs to be developed, communicated to the employees and reinforced/ talked about constantly by management. Are there specific forms, meetings, etc… that need to be used?
What are the responsibilities for the different aspects of the C.I efforts? Who reviews ideas, facilitates team meetings, implements the ideas, provides feedback, etc… The responsibilities for all of those involved needs to be thought out and communicated clearly.
This is the responsibility of management. If an environment of C.I is not instilled in all employees as the norm, then it is likely that efforts and success will be minimal. Are there regularly scheduled team meetings, C.I communication boards, allocated resources and capital (when needed). Are the improvements talked about (actually raved about) by management? If management is not pushing this type of culture then it will not happen by itself. This culture even goes as far as the company hiring process. Is a new employee introduced to the C.I nature of the company and told about how the process works?
A well thought out process is extremely important from idea generation, idea capture, execution and feedback . Training is also critical. The employees need to understand how to use the process, how to gather & analyze data and knowledge of different quality tools that can make the C.I program effective. If the company is going to use C.I Teams, how will they function, how often should they meet, will they assign or be appointed a facilitator, etc… Another aspect is how the improvement ideas will be approved, implemented and communicated to management and the rest of the company.
TYPES OF IMPROVEMENT:
Organizations can pursue different paths to improvement. Some refer to the ongoing, slower paced C.I as evolutionary improvement and the larger scale, (usually higher investment), earth shattering type of C.I as revolutionary improvement. I feel that both avenues need to be pursued. Work group teams (sometimes called kaizen teams) tend to result in the “evolutionary type improvements while the executive teams lean more towards the revolutionary improvement projects. This is definitely not to say that either type can come from either group but just my own observations.
SOME TYPICAL REASONS C.I EFFORTS FAIL:
– Lack of management involvement. Management cannot delegate all of the C.I duties, and definitely not the management and leadership of the effort.
– No organized approach (flying by the seat of your pants)
– Inadequate resources. Employees need time and coverage for their extra duties related to C.I activities, training, etc…
– Past failed initiatives (program of the month)
CHRONIC VS. SPORADIC PROCESS ISSUES
Chronic process issues (sometimes called common cause) exist all of the time (example: a known long term process quality level) where a sporadic (sometimes called special cause) process issue is a sudden change. Chronic issues are a good candidate for an improvement project. Sporadic issues fall under the area of corrective action though the same teams and employee efforts can be used to solve both realistically.
Here is to improvement.
Quality System Implementation 101:
I may as well start with a fitting quote:
“Good order is the foundation of all things”.
How do I develop an ISO 9001 based QMS?
There are many different approaches and thoughts on setting up and implementing a quality management system (QMS) based on the requirements/ structure of ISO 9001. This blog post will be a brief summary of what I believe to be a very good approach to developing one.
Below is a summary of the approach I prefer:
1) Get a copy of the standard and know it inside and out.
2) Understand the “Process based Approach” as defined in the standard as well as how it will work most effectively in your organization/ industry. One personal belief is that you should NOT aim to just meet the bare minimum requirements. Make the process and QMS work for you and add value. The “Process Based Approach” is the key to adding this value if done correctly.
3) Involve as much of the management team and work force as possible in the development and implementation process. I believe that this involvement helps with resistance and educates the team at the same time on the requirements and how the system will work.
4) Provide (or have provided) training to the management team/ steering team on the “Process Based Approach”. This will help to reduce resistance, and will get the team involved with defining the QMS processes, the measureable objectives, and involve them with the corrective action and continual improvement process as it pertains to their QMS process.
5) Provide training on the requirements of ISO 9001 to the management team and workforce to the degree needed. Not everyone needs to become an expert on the requirements, but everyone needs to know the requirements that pertain to them.
6) Involve the management team and the process owners (if they are different people) in the selection of QMS Processes as well as your chosen tool to define/ describe the process. I am a huge fan of the S.I.P.O.C (supplier-input-process-output-customer) for helping the process owner know the important aspects of their QMS process. Involve them in defining the objective (measure of effectiveness) as well as how the data will be gathered, how often, by who as well as how and when it will be reviewed and action taken if the goal is not being achieved.
7) Involve as much of the management team and work force as is feasible for the internal audit team. This has numerous benefits such as the effect of looking at their own process with the eyes of an auditor, allows different view points from different levels of employees to be gathered and allows the auditors to see how the entire QMS fits together and interacts with the other QMS processes. This is the beauty of the Process Based Approach.
8) Get to know the existing processes and system as opposed to rewriting everything and expecting everyone to “change overnight”. People will naturally resist change that affects them and their work. By keeping the parts of the existing process that are working effectively and adding the missing “ingredients” to fully comply and add the most value you will lessen the resistance to change in my experience. Spend some time within the existing processes and system and get the feedback from those doing it. Determine what obstacles they are facing and what they fell could make things more effective.
9) Hold regular status updates with the management team and the work force to keep everyone apprised of what has been completed and what is coming soon that affects them. Knowing what is coming is always helpful.
This is just a summary of the starting steps and is not meant to define all of the “little pieces of the puzzle” that also take place. As I mentioned this is just one approach but one that I have found to be most effective.
The more time that you spend in the front end of the development process, making sure to add as much value as possible, the better off you and your organization will be in the end.
Here is to improvement.
What can Management learn from NASCAR?
I may as well start with a fitting quote:
“I have a lot to learn about NASCAR
but I’ve learned if you have the right people in the
right places doing the right things
you can be successful at whatever you do.”
“NASCAR Pit Teams and Quality Management”
I saw an interesting video in the past couple of days that really illustrated some important relationships to project planning, teamwork, management in general and 5S.
Any of us that have seen a NASCAR race probably watch in awe as the drivers pull their car in to the pit area for fuel, tire changes, and other necessary actions to allow their driver to get back into the race with the smallest of lost down time for these needed actions. The pit crew seems to move as if scripted from a play. Well, in fact they are. Pit crews, race teams and others analyze every action that needs to get done and ways to eliminate any wasted time doing them. Any errors or team members not completing their actions on-time can cause delay to the others on their team and can cause a loss to the driver.
Here are some things that I notice when watching these pit crews:
1) Everyone on the team knows exactly what it is they need to do.
2) The team also knows what order these need to be done in.
3) The team communicates amongst each other to let the others know how they are doing or if there are issues.
4) The team members know exactly what the target is for each task and the overall target to complete the project and get the driver back in the race.
5) The team members are specifically fit into the tasks that best fit their abilities.
6) They also practice and train on these tasks over and over until they are perfected.
7) They have all of the needed technology and tools to best do their tasks and to stay ahead of their competitors.
8) Only the specific tools that are needed to complete their tasks are in the work areas. This prevents looking for things. Remember, every split second is crucial.
9) Lastly, they know exactly how they did with regards to the task. Did they meet their time target or not? If not the review it to see what went wrong, so they don’t do it again.
It really is a thing of beauty if you watch exactly what is going on. Now you may ask- what does this have to do with quality management? Everything in my view.
How many times have we worked on projects or parts of a larger project and had no clue as to when our tasks were to be completed or when the overall project was to be completed? How many times have we had to wait when preceding tasks were not completed which caused delay to ours and the overall project?
What are some of the causes of these delays and failures?
1) Lack of communication
2) Lack of resources to actually complete the tasks
3) Lack of the needed tools or technology to perform the tasks most effectively and efficiently.
4) New technology that has not been formally introduced or trained on.
5) Inadequate preparation to identify all of the things that can go wrong and come up with a contingency plan in the event they do (or better yet a plan to prevent it from occurring at all).
These are all things that a NASCAR pit crew does so well that we can learn from. It seems simple in the NASCAR context and can be so simple in our world of quality management, project management and even other initiatives/ tools like 5S or setup reduction. It really comes down to knowing exactly what needs to be done, who is to do it, how, how long it will take and provision/ training on the best tools for the job and PRACTICE (training).
Obviously this is a simplified blog discussion and there are other specific tasks that need to be done as well. This is just a starting point to get you thinking, as is the intention of this blog article.
Here is to improvement.
Quality Leadership – Vision is crucial
I may as well start with a fitting quote:
“The fact is that all flights, short or long distance, are off course 99% of the time..”
“Complacency is the enemy”
If we do not have a crystal clear picture of what we want our quality system to be or do, there is a very high probability that we will merely coast along into complacency. This can be dangerous because when we become complacent we stop improving.
It is my belief that quality leadership begins with a “Quality Vision for the organization”. This is not to imply a placard hanging on the wall with a flashy statement that no one looks at, much less cares about.
Without a clear picture in our minds of where our quality system will be in the future, the employees (including management) will likely have no idea of what needs to be done or what improvements they should be working on. As a matter of fact, employees may actually be working on projects that are in conflict with what the organization is trying to achieve. Without this clear “vision” of where you plan (or need) to be in terms of your quality system and product/ service quality, you will end up in a place that you do not want to be. Like the plane (above in the quote) that is constantly off course and is constantly having its course adjusted to reach the desired destination (Vision), your organization needs to know what the end destination is. Without this, you may jump around on project after project, yet not be moving any closer to where you truly need to be moving towards. Some will refer to this as “busy work”. Confusing this “busy work” or movement for progress is a waste of resources and lost time.
“How do we do it?”
Here are some initial steps to what I consider crucial in becoming an effective quality organization:
1) Have a clear vision or picture in your mind as to where you want to be as an organization in “X” number of years or months. This will set the stages for the next steps thus it is important.
2) Next, develop a meaningful quality policy. Quality policies should be in terminology that all employees understand and can translate into clear direction for the daily activities. ISO 9001 requires one as well.
3) Develop and communicate actionable “Objectives”. These should be directly linked to your Quality Policy and your Vision. Each of these objectives should use the “S.M.A.R.T’ approach. (Specific, Measureable, Action Oriented, Realistic and time bound).
4) Define the critical business processes within your organization, the process owners, objectives & measures of success of each and monitor/ measure them.
5) Have clearly defined jobs for your employees with objectives and constant feedback.
6) Develop a robust hiring and employee development program.
7) Develop a rock solid contract review and product launch process. If you are not doing this correctly and effectively, you will likely fight problems during the entire product life cycle.
8) Implement a top notch internal audit process made up of all departments, units. There is no better method to engage and educate employees on the “big picture” of the business than to involve them.
9) Important one – management must walk the talk. Saying one thing and doing another is probably the worst thing for an organization. This can be as damaging as trying to implement new programs every month that go nowhere (start/ stops).
Obviously there are tasks that need to be done as well, but this is just a starting point as is intended by this post.
Here is to improvement.