Monthly Archives: July 2012
Getting to the Roots – Life Reinforces Basic Quality Concepts
I will again start my blog with a fitting quote – (pardon the improper English)
“Normal people believe that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Engineers believe that if it ain’t broke, it doesn’t have enough features yet.”
It never ceases to amaze me how basic quality concepts and teachings are reinforced again and again.
Getting to the roots
I take quality seriously and the things that I have learned from many good teachers over the years. I am always looking at the linkages and relationships between the different areas of my life. Some that are very important to me are my health & fitness, and sound quality principles.
This past weekend I was out doing some yard work and began pulling up some weeds that had started. Initially, my first instinct was to grasp the leafy portion and pull the wed up. Unfortunately some of them had taken root and were quite difficult to get out of the ground and the leafy part of the weed broke off leaving the root. This reminded me of a very important quality principle of “getting to the root” of problems. Some might be happy with merely pulling the leafy part of the weed off and continued to do the same with the others when the same issue came up. I can hear it now “Hey as long as I can’t see the weed I am happy”. Unfortunately this mentality goes on in our organizations as well.
For any of us that have experienced this weed pulling experience and went on to the next weed we always find that the pesky weed comes back. This same phenomenon occurs in our organizations as well. A problem not truly solved will be back to cause grief again and again. To make matters worse, other “weeds” (A.K.A problems) usually follow and before you know it, the number of them is out of control and we end up giving up in frustration or tearing our lawns up to start over.
This serves to illustrate the importance of taking proactive steps with our yards and our organizations. Many believe that you treat the problem once and it is taken care of and forget about the maintenance part of the equation. This principle applies to lawns and organizations. For example – do you shower and are “good for life”? If you have a really great workout – does that mean you do not have to do it again? Absolutely not! Our lawns, our Lives, our health and yes our organizations (employees, quality systems, products, etc…) all require monitoring, measuring and maintenance.
What are some of these preventive activities as they relate to our organizations?:
a) Solid FMEA processes.
b) Effective training processes for employees.
c) Developing and maintaining solid and effective processes.
d) Measurement of our processes (Product and QMS processes) and acting on the data.
e) Involvement of employees in the planning and implementation of the process and organizational operations.
f) Implementing, enforcing and reinforcing quality at the source.
g) Simplify, stabilize and standardize everything (more to follow on this in another blog article).
h) Develop and monitor “S.M.A.R.T.” Goals for everyone and the organization as a whole.
i) Hold people accountable and not their hands.
j) Audit your processes.
The bottom line is to make sure that we actually gather the data on our problems and take the time to properly dig until we get to the root of the problems before they overtake the “garden”.
Here is to improvement.
Deming’s Point No. 8 – Drive Out Fear
W. Edwards Deming’s 8th point can also be defined as “Creating a Culture of Trust”.
I will again start my blog with a fitting quote –
“Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong”
Peter T. McIntyre
Maslow’s well known Hierarchy of Human Needs, states that unless humans have satisfied their basic “physiological” needs (air, food, shelter, job), those higher level – “self actualization” needs (personal growth, further education, promotion, etc…) will not be sought after.
Much of this information has been known for a very long time, yet we as organizations, Managers, Supervisors, etc… still have failed to address this. Many Managers and Supervisors have only a minimal understanding of the job that their employees do, the problems they encounter, and the employees input on to make things better.
In a time when many are fearful of job loss due to the sluggish economy this is even more prevalent. Employees are afraid to take their problems to their Managers for fear of job loss.
What are some of the effects (“symptoms”)?
- Fear loss of job or negative impact on reviews
- Fear of ridicule by Managers or peers
- Fear of being blamed for the issue
What are some of the actual causes for this?
- Lack of a stable process, system , QMS or environment
- Lack of actual training or a training process
- Lack of resources to perform the work (equipment, time, personnel, or materials)
- Lack of authority or empowerment to “stop the process” by Management when there is a problem (“We have to make a shipment” syndrome)
- Conflicting objectives in the organization or department
- Untrained, unqualified managers or others in leadership positions that fear empowering their workers.
How do we “fix” this?
- Train employees properly. Do not just put them on the job. If they are not confident in the ability to do the job, we cannot expect them to perform properly.
- Empower your employees. This means to give them the tools, information and support to do their assigned tasks.
- Have an “open door policy” so issues do not get “trapped” in the hierarchy.
- Practice “open book management” so that employees feel and are part of the team and have input into how the business is operated to some extent.
- Be willing to “stop the process” when there is a problem and give workers the authority to do so. Nothing is more discouraging than not being able to do a good job and make quality products or services for your customer.
- Train Management in and enforce, encourage empowerment of the employees. This can be very challenging for them but can stifle employee enthusiasm and creativity
- Do not merely chastise employees when there is a problem. Solve the problem with them and fix the process. Take the “person” out of it. An environment of “yelling, screaming and condescending discussions” will only encourage the environment of “fear”.
Here is to improvement.
Deming’s Point No. 12 – Remove Barriers to Pride of Workmanship
W. Edwards Deming’s 12th point is a problem that haunts many organizations.
We hear it all of the time in the news and news articles – “Businesses are finding it hard to recruit talent”. It is difficult enough for an organization to find qualified workers that believe in giving an honest days work for an honest days pay and want to grow with and learn the business to help it grow. Organizations cannot afford to stifle the attitudes and creativity of the workforce as it does in many cases.
What are some of the symptoms that are felt when this problem exists?
a) Lack of enthusiasm for the job (“I just want to put in the hours and go home to do something I enjoy”)
b) The feeling that goals, objectives or expectations cannot be realistically achieved.
c) The feeling that management does not know or care about their problems.
What are some of the causes of this (List is not all inclusive)
a) Constantly changing goals. Not able to focus on completing any. (“Busy work mentality”)
b) Lack of feedback, reviews, etc.. (“How are we doing and do we need to do it differently?”)
c) Not given the resources (equipment, training, personnel, etc..) to adequately perform the task or objective.
No conversation would be fit or complete without some discussion on some methods that will correct some of these causes? In my opinion there are some approaches that can help:
Making Work a More Enjoyable Place To Be
- Work cannot always be “all fun and games” but we can try to make work a more enjoyable place to spend your time at by simply reducing these “hassles” as Phil Crosby referred to them as. Many organizations offer “employee outings” such as baseball games, picnics, softball leagues, etc… This can also bring about a more team friendly and cooperative workforce.
- Work based games
- Teambuilding sessions (outdoors for example – not in a stuffy meeting room)
Giving Clear Goals and Objectives
- Many organizations and supervisors do not give adequate direction, goals and measureable objectives.
- Goals should be achievable and have some manner of being measured and tracked for progress.
- The “annual review” trap – organizations that only give feedback to their employees once per year at the review are essentially losing out on the employees maximal talents because they have no idea that they are not performing as well as you would like. Waiting an entre year to give feedback is second on the “naughty list’ only to not giving them at all.
- We also have to be careful not to “over manage” employees where the measures become the only focus and as much time is spent preparing for and being in meetings as is time spent working. This can also lead to “adjusting the numbers” which is almost as bad as not reviewing performance.
- Lastly, conflicting goals between personnel or departments is a problem.
Provide Resources And Tools To Perform the Task:
- Another discouragement factor is assigning a task, job, and goal. Etc… and not giving the time to complete it. As Managers, Supervisors, “bosses”, we have to accurately plan out how long a task should realistically take. I like to “try it myself” first when possible to make sure it is feasible.
- We have to ensure that we give our employees the equipment and tools to do the job properly. Equipment that is “band-aided” or breaks down regularly can show that we do not value the task to be completed. This will definitely have an effect on moral as well.
Here is to improvement.