Friday, August 12, 2011

Thinking of Deming...

As some of you know, I'm an avid fan of quality theories and for today, I'd like to share a little bit about Deming and quality.

Key historical factors behind Japan’s embracing of modern quality principles before US managers did...

Prior to 1950, Japan had been known to produce poor quality goods. At the time Japan was struggling with trying to rebuild their industry and export business after World War II. The key factor in Japan’s embracement of quality management was their drive to increase their export business worldwide and to accomplish this, improve the quality of their produced goods. How they accomplished this was to first recognize the mistakes that their US counterparts had made and eliminate those mistakes from their strategy. Secondly, Japan had to convince all of their industry to accept the quality management idea and its methodologies. They did this by holding several high-level management conferences with industry leaders with key quality management leaders from around the world to discuss a nationwide quality management strategy. The final component was to train all employees about quality management and their role and responsibility in the process.

Some of the common themes linking Deming’s 14 points...

The major theme that is common across all of Deming’s 14 points is that quality is the responsibility of the entire company. His 14 points speaks to instilling unity, pride and communication within the entire company. It also speaks to the empowerment of the lowly worker by training them, encouraging self-improvement and providing leadership training. Another key theme that is the basis of modern quality management ideas like Six Sigma and Theory of Constraints is the idea of continuous improvement of the company’s leaders, workers, processes and systems.

In today’s economy, a lot of companies are scrambling to cut production costs, outsource service organizations and eliminate jobs and training; little is being focused on the quality of our goods and services. We know quality was one of the factors in the downfall of one of the largest car manufacturers in the United States, General Motors. I am a firm believer of TQM and I think that all 14 points in Deming’s philosophy are extremely important. I think that most company leaders are really motivated on keeping their own jobs and the little empire that they have built within the larger company. Communication, transformation and quality have become secondary to political power plays and doctoring data to make leaders look good. I think America has come full circle due to the economic meltdown and returned to the pre-1950s to where companies have started to ignore quality and go back to focusing on price and revenue. It will take a reawakening of quality as other countries bypass us and we struggle to regain our lead as a top producing country. All of Deming’s 14 points plus the evolution of quality management got our country moving in the right direction.

Some of the paradigms that TQM demands of leaders...

The key paradigm is the shift away from thinking quality is the responsibility of just the leaders of the company. Quality is the responsibility of the entire company and Deming’s 14 points outline how to get all employees involved. It also speaks to the need for clear communication of company goals, empowering employees and building leaders. These themes are key to the transformation of the entire company away from singular quality viewpoints and actions to driving quality improvements throughout the entire company and expanding the roles and responsibilities to all employees no matter what their level or job title is. Expanding the quality roles of all employees will certainly help transition the quality of the company much quicker and more efficiently.

Here's a million dollar question --- to what extent do you feel that TQM principles will be a factor in leadership development and practices in the 21st century?

Due to the current economy, quality management has definitely transitioned away from Deming’s original principles. The tradeoff between cost and quality has become the billion-dollar decision that most large companies have struggled with in the past few years. To reduce budgets, most companies have eliminated training, knowledge transfer, and in some cases, product and process innovation. The large migration of development, services and manufacturing to India and China has proven that the industry can tolerate the decrease in quality levels, if the price is right. Deming’s principles may have started the quality movement in the 1950’s but today, they are probably just an afterthought in most managers’ minds. Most leaders/managers are aware of these principles because they had to learn them at some point in their academic history but it probably won’t be executed on nor will it influence their current decisions.

Some of Deming’s ideas have transitioned into other methods and tools, but those will be used with an entirely different focus, to reduce cost and operate efficiently (increase productivity and reduce cost) not to improve quality. Companies set goals to run lean and still increase sales and production. Most companies have deferred their production quality to offshore vendors and they operate to meet some quality goal or metric and in some cases, it might not even be the right metric.

Today, numbers and real-time information tell our leaders the “story”. Yet, most companies are still very immature at mining the right data and understanding the story it is telling us. New philosophies are being created to help us understand the global demand for quality in an age that data is readily available and cost, productivity and operational excellence (where quality is just a very small part) takes precedence over product and service quality.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Empowerment and Its Place in Leadership

Empowerment is defined as giving power or the authority, enabling people, and/or permitting them to make decisions and share their power with others. Sharing your power is also known as empowerment.

An example of employee empowerment is when they are involved in developing job roles, work practices and processes. Empowerment is not just about increasing employee responsibility but including them or involving them from the outset, which indicates trust. Newly empowered employees will make mistakes. It is the job of management to support them by taking these mistakes as learning opportunities rather than culpable mistakes.

One of the greatest demands of leaders is to empower others. Empowerment is used to indicate the increased involvement of employees in organizational processes and decision-making. It also promotes employee well-being and a means of harnessing the knowledge and abilities of employees as a whole to promote performance. In order to deliver on a vision or strategy, you need able and empowered teams and employees.

Leaders have the ability to see potential in people, encourage them to have a sense of independence and accountability. It is only when you empower people that you help them reach their maximum potential. People do not like being held back. They want to succeed and gain the benefits of being an empowered resource for a company. They are more productive, are able to increase their knowledge and experience making them more effective in their job role.

If leaders do not know how to empower their people and assist them reach their maximum potential, they are actually shortchanging themselves of reaching their full potential as a leader. If you don’t empower people and help them reach their full potential, you are actually falling very short of maximizing your own inherent capacity as a leader. Empowering people is empowering yourself.

Bottom line is, people need to understand what they need to do to empower them. As a leader, it is important to build core foundation to empower them such as having a vision, strategy, and execution model. Without it, it is human nature that they will execute based on their self-interest and/or political agenda.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Operational Improvement Frameworks

In today’s highly competitive market, the primary goal of any business is to continuously improve operations to meet market demands and provide value to the customers. To achieve this goal, management needs to think and act strategically. Their actions must be based on facts and focus on factors that create or add value and predict organizational and operational success. It is through knowing and understanding these facts that businesses can make informed decisions and initiate necessary improvements. We cannot improve what we cannot measure and more so, we cannot improve what we do not understand.

There are several methodologies that companies can implement to help drive operational and performance excellence to improve overall business results. Some of these methodologies include: Balanced Scorecard, Malcolm Baldrige Criteria, and Six Sigma. Each of these practices runs on data, provides success measures, and identifies specific goals. They all depend on factual information and reliable data to measure and analyze the quality of given processes to improve organizational and operational performance. Their scope of measuring performance goes beyond evaluating traditional quantity indicators such as financial or accounting-based productivity considerations. These tools are fact-based decision-making mechanisms that can aid organizations in performing analyses to appraise and control processes, and boost performance. They aim to streamline systematic series of actions and improve market position.

The Balanced Scorecard approach uses “a carefully selected set of quantifiable measures derived from an organization’s strategy” (Niven, 2006, p. 13). The goal of using the Balanced Scorecard is to translate strategies into action and metrics. “I see this tool as three things: communication tool, measurement system, and strategic management system” (Niven, 2006, p. 13). It explores a strategy using four perspectives: financial, internal, customer, and innovation and learning perspectives. When these perspectives are integrated, the Balanced Scorecard can provide a system to track, assess and capitalize on crucial success factors.

Companies or organizations use the Balanced Scorecard to address three significant challenges: fully measure organizational and operational performance, effectively monitor and extract the value of intangible assets, and successfully implement strategy. The weakness of the Balanced Scorecard is that it does not show relationships and dependencies between its four designed quadrants. An example would be making a change in one quadrant may degrade or upgrade performance in another quadrant. In order to bridge this gap, it is important to have a good understanding of how critical indicators are developed and what processes these indicators depend on.

The methodology that uses Malcolm Baldrige Criteria is “built on a set of core values and concepts” (George, n.d., para. 2). George noted that the Criteria for Performance Excellence booklet states, “the Criteria are designed to help provide organizations with an integrated approach to organizational performance management that results in delivery of ever-improving value to patients/customers/students improvement of overall organizational effectiveness and capabilities organizational and personal learning” (para. 1). It is known to assist organizations use a more focused and methodical approach to performance management. It can address governance and ethics-related concerns and take into account important decisions driving both short-term and long-term organizational sustainability. This approach defines a combined framework and a set of fundamental practices for a high-performance management system. However, it does not recommend starting points nor specific quality tools and techniques. To address this weakness, it would be ideal to utilize a systematic and process-oriented methodology such as Six Sigma.

Gygi, DeCarlo, and Williams (2005) described Six Sigma as the single most effective problem-solving methodology for improving business and organizational performance. It is a systematic and data-driven approach that addresses and solves process-related challenges to achieve bottom-line results. It can reveal the cost of poor quality in factual terms and provide direction as to how it can be improved or corrected.

The focal point of Six Sigma is on changing or improving results by focusing on inputs, modifying these inputs and controlling them. Properly applying Six Sigma tools can yield great results when implemented. Its weakness, however, is that it does not cover all the elements required to optimize organizational performance.

These methodologies can all be used individually as operational improvement tools but to address the weakness of each practice, a combination of systems would be the most effective solution. The success of any or a combination of these quality management tools highly depends on corporate buy-in and mindset. Equally important is the commitment to change management practices for improvement and engaging workforce and customers to ensure proper alignment of processes and resources.

“The most effective integrated management system would be one in which an organization uses the Baldrige Criteria as a method of establishing a “culture of excellence,” assessing performance, and prioritizing initiatives” (Grizzell, 2004, para. 10). It is highly recommended that either Six Sigma or Balanced Scorecard methods be used within the context of a Baldrige-based integrated culture of performance excellence. Combining the tool sets of Six Sigma or the Balance Scorecard methods with a framework for high performance management could assist companies as they drive to operational excellence.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Dollars and Sense of Providing Value

In order to understand value in your organization, you need to develop a value chain.  This means methodically analyze your core and supporting activities and how everything is connected and where there’s a disconnect with your processes, resources, and the overall understanding of value as defined by the customer.  It’s not so much about what you think is of value to a customer but more of what the customers perceive is of value.  

In order to create value, you need to know your customers and understand their perception of “value” of the product or service you provide.  You also need to know how processes positively or negatively impact customer service, customer loyalty, customer retention, and customer satisfaction.

A customer’s idea of what represents value for money may well vary from one customer to another and can also shift through time, season, or even day to day.  At the most basic level, customers with tight budgets will think of value as getting more for their dollar.  Other customers may be prepared to pay more in order to receive a higher quality of service.  There are others who are willing to pay a higher price tag on the psychological value in being able to say that they are able to afford to be customers of high-status names even though in some cases, their products or services may not be any better than a lower-priced product or service company.  

As managers, you must be aware of the full range of influences on the customers’ assessment of value.  A key element in this understanding is the relationship between the service brand values as communicated to the customer and the potential variance or incongruence in terms of customer experience. 

Sustainable business makes dollars and sense.  Are you providing value that makes dollars and sense?  

Til next time….  be well and be blessed.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Service Design

Design is both an art and action of conceiving and producing a plan or drawing illustrating the thought process behind an action.  Regardless what it is you’re designing, be it a product or service, certain things involved such as:  goals, tasks, tools, actions, and results will always be different.  However, whether you’re designing a product or service, it requires planning, organizing, and set of processes.  These processes determine the quality of your products and/or services.  In order to improve products and/or services, processes need to be improved along with the design process itself.  This involves knowing and understanding what your company is about, your products and services, your customer base, and the value that you provide your customers.

Service offerings for example, requires key strategic design choices to be effective and to get the best return on investment.  They must be relevant to the market, provide value to the customer, and increase revenue.  In addition, there are also certain product characteristics (complexity, customization level, customer knowledge, capacity) and process characteristics (technology, tasks) including touch points (customer, employees, and system interaction) to take into account.  Each of these decisions affect the final outcome measured by performance metrics (customer satisfaction, customer retention, market and economic indicators).  

Success in this area is not simply about performing a good technical task or delivering on projects.  Success is also about making a wider contribution to the success of the organization.  When dealing with service-oriented functions, value is critical.  You need to provide customer value, deliver brand values, contribute to the bottom line and deliver organizational contribution.  

These internal and external components are very important aspects to take into consideration not only to design new services but also improving existing ones.  We cannot improve what we cannot measure and more so, we cannot improve what we do not understand.

Stay tuned for our next topic on “value”. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Building Your Brand

This is a follow-up post to my post, Branding the Product Called…. YOU.  Brand identity is your key to success.  In order to create and establish your own brand identity, you need to make time, have the passion, focus and dedication.  It’s a brand new world out there, folks!  Branding is no longer just about tech giants like Microsoft, Google, etc. or products like Sony, Dell, Apple, Nike, etc.  We’re talking about personal brand — YOU.  

There are people who try so hard to blend in, fit in, just be like everybody else and no matter what they do, they’re just “different” and somehow, just can’t be “just like everybody else”.  Well, sometimes, that’s just it — you’re different.  Don’t try so hard to fit in when you are meant to stand out.  Embrace it!    

Strong brands stand out.  Differentiation separates them from competition.  If you want to beat competition, just like the big companies, you, too can be different.  You, too can develop your own brand.  Are you ready to take on the challenge and be the Marketing Director of your own product called YOU?  :)

Here are some tips on how you can get started in building your own brand:

  • THINK and think hard about you, what you have to offer, your value, what’s special and unique about you and what sets you apart from competition.
  • Think about what message and/or image you want to convey.  What impression will it give others?  
  • Connect your answers.  Think about your answers and determine what “brand” it’s revealing to you or about you.  Be truthful.  Is that really “you”?  If it is and you found your strong suit that you can capitalize on, create your brand statement not only for your general audience but also your target market.
  • Once you create your brand identity or brand statement, develop a strategy to promote your brand —YOU.  
  • In all that you do, ensure to think about if it is helping to establish, maintain, support and protect your brand.
  • Be consistent in your message based on your words, actions, values, and image.  
  • Maintain and protect your reputation.  This is your brand.

In your career, be clear about your brand.  Execute and deliver based on this brand.  Continue to develop your skills, hone your abilities, take on new challenges.  As you move along, figure out how to differentiate yourself from all the other very smart people you’re working with.  Later on, figure out what it takes to create a distinctive role for yourself.  So long as you’re willing to invest in yourself, continue to learn, improve, enhance your skills, you, too have the opportunity to stand out and have a chance to have that brand worthy of remark.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Branding the Product Called You

Do you know what your most important asset is?  I found this question posted by Mike Muhney whom I’ve met online.  Mr. Muhney is the co-inventor of the ACT! software and has been recognized as a global visionary and powerful speaker worldwide.  As a motivational speaker, he covered subjects pertaining to effective business relationships such as improving the way companies do business, entrepreneurship, market creation, penetration and leadership, global expansion, and motivational speaking.

If you follow the link, you’ll find that people answered this question differently.  I can see how some identified their customers, their skills, education, people, etc. as their most important asset.  Personally, what I consider as my most valuable asset from a business and professional standpoint is my reputation of executing on decisions and delivering results.  This is what I’ve been known for and if I were a product, this is what my brand would communicate about who I am.  A strong and well-established brand can stand the test of time.  They have the capability to navigate and maneuver through tough times.  So, depending on your “brand”, you’ll have the opportunity to be well-known and carry a certain differentiation among others.  :)

The world of work has changed over the last few decades.  In the 50’s, people wore their corporate uniforms and their value was linked to their loyalty and longevity.  So long as they didn’t rock the boat or create any waves, they worked for that same company forever and retired with a pension.  Few decades later, things changed as we gained access to the internet.  This was the 80’s…  This expanded our reach as far as the world wide web can take us.  We were able to contribute more and with a more relaxed work environment, we were also able to wear the corporate uniform of casual attires.  This was no longer the era of being recognized by loyalty and longevity but more of our individuality.  Job security also declined a bit but not as much as we have in the 21st century, where things changed yet again.  In this day and age, we are pretty much judged everyday and our new corporate uniform is a suit of armor.  This armor plate IS your brand.  It will say a lot about your product.  

In our current economic climate, employable, qualified professionals should think beyond a knock-out resume and titles especially when it comes to job search or advancing their careers.  

Food for Thought:  Given the fierce competition, what makes you unique or better than a million others?  How are you different?  Did you also factor in the fact that commodities compete on price?  What is your brand?  How does your day to day support your brand?  In my opinion, saying you have the credentials and that you’re loyal, you do a great job and hard working, etc., etc. doesn’t cut it anymore.  Think about buying a car.  The tires are not extra value-added features.  They come with the car and therefore, an expected component.  :)    

 In this tough economy and highly competitive job market, can you really afford not to have a strategy, a brand for the product called, “You”?  

Interested to know the “how” of creating your brand?  Stay tuned!