5 Ways to Assure to the Success of a Quality Improvement Process

 

Assuring the success of a Quality Improvement process

Mr. Philip Crosby did a lot of work with various companies and he came up with the following 5 points from his experience. While my experience is not as world-renowned as his, it has demonstrated the accuracy of these points.

Make Sure  Management’s Commitment to Quality Improvement is Genuine and Evident

 This is the #1 reason a quality improvement process fails. If management is saying the words but does not mean them, employees will know and will only give a cursor level of investment in the quality improvement process. If a middle manager is trying to do this knowing their management is not on board, they will have very limited, short-term success.

Keep the Quality Improvement Process Serious, but Fun

This is people’s livelihoods on the line. Do this wrong and jobs are going away, most likely yours will be one of the first to go. Select serious issues but be willing to let team members be spontaneous and open. Sometimes the only way to create that spark in a quality improvement process is with a little humor.

Make Sure Everything in the Quality Improvement Process is Positive and Handled with Respect.

The team must be equal. This means no one person’s opinion is more valued than the other team members and no one’s opinion is less valuable than the other team members. There is a reason people are on the quality improvement process team. Have a non-judgmental way to capture ideas and evaluate them.

Make Sure All Managers Are Involved in the Quality Improvement Process,

Understand the Concepts and Steps of the Quality Improvement Process, and Are Able to Effectively Communicate Them with Subordinates.

Hold a discussion with the managers about the quality improvement process. Encourage them to speak about their concerns and then address those concerns. It takes only one manager saying all the right things but quietly placing roadblocks to the process to bring the quality improvement process to a grinding halt. Watch for the team member that has not had the time to complete an assignment and consider what action needs to be taken with their manager. That should include identifying a non-supportive manager and turning that problem over to the next level up.

Adapt the Quality Improvement Process to the Company and/or Location’s Personality

This is a process and depending on the company culture it can take many forms. If everyone has a 4 year degree and works in a paperless system, the process will be much different than for a company where the majority of employees cannot read or write in any language and communications is through pictures and colored tags. One is not better than the other. The quality Improvement process must fit the culture.

Do It Right The First Time – DIRTFT

DITRTFT or “Dirt foot” generally brought giggles but it served the purpose of grabbing people’s attention. The anachronism stood for “Do It Right the First Time”. The statement seems almost ludicrous in today’s business environment, but is it?

DIRTFT means Do It Right the First Time where "It" is the customer requirements.

What is the “It” in Do It Right the First Time?

“It” quite simply is the customer requirements. However, simple is not so simple. The customer requirements must be clearly defined and communicated. This is done with drawings and specifications but also must be considered when developing procedures and training programs, performing Failure Mode and Effect Analysis, and reviewing process capabilities.

At one plant where I worked, the customers were getting consistently non-conforming material. They were furious and they had a right to be. The problem had been going on for more than a year. The problem was not that the employees were making non-conforming product, or the tooling had not been maintained of the process capabilities were poor. The problem came when a dimension was transferred from a customer drawing to a working drawing and was reversed. As soon as we corrected the drawings, modified the tooling to manufacture to the drawings and gave the information to the operator to check the product, we went from 100% non-conformance to 100% conformance to requirements. Not following Do It Right the First Time can be caused anywhere in the process, not just at the operator level.

The Attitude of Do It Right the First Time

Have you ever had an employee say something along the lines of “Hey, I just do what I’m told and keep my head down and my mouth shut.” Do It Right the First Time does not even enter this picture. Creating an atmosphere where employees feel free to speak up when they see a problem or have a question is the first step in creating an atmosphere that supports “Do It Right the First Time.” In today’s economy with high unemployment, management must work overtime to make sure the negative attitude does not invade their facility. What are you doing to make sure your company employees have an attitude to “Do It Right the First Time”?

Four Ways a Quality Improvement Process Can Fail

 

Is your Quality Improvement Process destined for success or failure?

While reading through the binder I received in 1987 from the Philip Crosby Quality College in Winter Park, FL I came across a section titled ‘Four Ways a Quality Improvement Process Can Fail’. I was expecting something that quality professionals had created fail-safes to prevent. What I found instead was four conditions  that are just as valid today as they were in 1987.

Failure #1 – Lack of Management Attention to the Quality Improvement Process

That’s it. Either management is on-board with a Quality Improvement Process or they are not. It is the reason the Management Review is so critical to the success of ISO 9001 companies. If management is involved in providing resources and determining which projects have what priority than the company is on the right road for a successful Quality Improvement Process.

Failure #2 –  Allowing the Quality Improvement Process to Become a Motivational Program

When the Quality Improvement Process goes from creating real and lasting preventive measures and becomes a method to “get the employees involve” or create “caring” in the employees it will fail. Employees will see through the rhetoric and realize management is not serious or interested. The expectation is the employees will change in some way rather than the system.

Failure #3 -Focusing the Quality Improvement Process Only on Operations

Operations makes the widgets that get sold but the cause of non-conformances can occur in order entry, purchasing, engineering, logistics – any area of the company. That is why ISO 9001 is a quality management system. The whole system must be controlled to be effective. The entire process must be looked at, not just the area where they manufacture a saleable product.

Failure #4 – Allowing the Quality Improvement Process to Become A Problem-Solving Committee

There is a saying, “When you are up to your ears in alligators, it is difficult to remember your original objective was to drain the swamp.” Solving problems is critically important but the problems won’t go away until a systematic review of the entire process occurs. Corrective measures are different from preventive measures.

Thank you to Mr. Crosby for this tool to analyze the Quality Improvement Process. It is just as valid in 2012 as it was 1987.

Point 14 – Top Management Commitment to Action

Clearly define top management’s permanent commitment to ever improving quality and
productivity, and their obligation to implement all of these principles. Indeed, it is not enough that top management commit themselves for life to quality and productivity. They must know what it is that they are committed to—that is, what they must do. Create a structure in top management that will push every day on the preceding 13 Points, and take action in order to accomplish the transformation. Support is not enough: action is required!

Dr. W. Edwards Deming

What is Management’s Job – Commitment to Action

One of my father’s favorite sayings was, “lead, follow or get out of the way”. Management’s job is to lead. There must be a commitment to constant and on-going improvement. Each and every morning, management must look at their operation and decide what needs improvement and make a commitment to take action.

The Price of Failed Commitment to Action

If management does not make a commitment to constant and on-going improvement, it
will not happen. Management does not have to implement  the change but they must lead the change or their employees will end up building internal empires or chasing projects with
a lower value to the company.

Part of creating this commitment is developing a structure that guides the employees to
an on-going commitment of improvements in quality and productivity. Management must establish a system, indicate its’ importance to the company and demonstrate their own commitment to constantly and forever improving. It does not have to be fancy, but management must believe and support it.

The Call for Commitment to Action

There is a childhood chant, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will
never hurt me.” I wish it were true. How many suicides were prompted by cruel words? Words have power, the power to build up or the power to tear down.When management stands up and says “this is who we are and this is what we stand for” it can change the world.

My first job was with an ethical pharmaceutical company. We had a simple rule,
“Would you want your child to take this medicine?” If the answer was no, we threw it away. Every person on the line had the ability to call the supervisor and point out a problem. Each and every person on that line knew the importance of what they did and that attitude came from the top down. The VP of manufacturing walked through the plant several times a day and any operator
could stop him with a question or a concern. We had power and pride.

So what are you going to do, lead, follow or get out of the way?

Point 13 -Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks – Encourage Education

 

Old dogs like to learn new tricks

If you stop training with the basics you will get a bored and desctructive dog and employee

Encourage education

Institute a vigorous program of education, and encourage self improvement for everyone. What an organization needs is not just good people; it needs people that are improving with education. Advances in competitive position will have their roots in knowledge.

Dr.W. Edwards Deming

Education the antidote to boredom

One of the interesting things I love about training in German Shepherds is they love to learn. It takes about two years to get one to search ready status but that
is only the begin. If you try to stop there, you will get a bored and probably
destructive dog. Instead we train new skills; air scent, then tracking,
obstacles, human remains, evidence articles, the list is as long as your imagination. The dogs love it and the benefit to the search team is a strong and capable canine with the ability to always get the job done no matter what the job is.

People aren’t that much different. Someone who does the same tasks year after year without change can get bored and stale. Providing regular and varied education keeps a person’s mindsharp. When it comes time for someone to come up with a new idea the person who you trained will most likely be the one to come up with the answer.

Encourage Education in the Hourly Workforce

  My first job as a production supervisor was an education in itself. I had one employee that was intelligent and articulate but kept making serious mistakes. This was a person I wanted to promote and instead I was regularly writing up violations for the silliest of mistakes. It was coming to the point where I was going to have to terminate this individual. As I reviewed his personnel file, I found a note he had written giving a friend permission to pick up the employee’s paycheck. I started to see a glimmer of the problem. The next day I had the man read a procedure and sign off that he had read and understood it. He made a good show of taking time on each page and flipping pages. As he tried to make his exit from my office, I had him sit down and we discussed the procedure. It didn’t take long for us both to know he couldn’t read. I got him signed up with literacy volunteers and it wasn’t long before the problems we had been experiencing went away. Encouraging education made the difference for both the employee and the company.

Encourage Education in the Salaried Workforce

As a person gains experience, it can be difficult to find courses being offered in their field where they should be the student. In more than a few cases, I’ve taken courses where the professor posted their credentials and I realized my credentials were better. I could leave and demand my money back or I could sit there and listen. When I have chosen to sit and listen, I generally find a kernel of wisdom I hadn’t thought of. It generates a whole new train of thought that just may solve a problem I’ve been working on. I also started studying Spanish, I don’t think translators jobs are in jeopardy but thinking in a new language helps me come up with a new perspective. Encourage education for both your employees and yourselfto reap long term benefits.

Point 10 – Walk the Talk

Eliminate Exhortations Unless You are Willing to Listen

Eliminate the use of slogans, posters and exhortations for the work force, demanding Zero Defects and new levels of productivity, without providing methods. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships; the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system, and thus lie beyond the power of the work force.

Dr. W. Edwards Deming

A Company that Should Eliminate Exhortations

“We have decided to move the factory to Mexico so we have a workforce motivated to produce the quality of product we want. We need people who care about their jobs instead of just collecting a paycheck,” My boss said. With that pronouncement my job and that of a couple of hundred other people’s disappeared.

                I don’t know what happened in Mexico. What I do know is if the tooling made the move, the quality didn’t improve. The real issue came from the design of the tooling. It was a design developed by the owner/president of the company and no amount of information facts, presentations of alternatives would get us approval to change the dies. It was the foundation we were built on, too bad it was shifting sand and not rock. Top management seemed to think slogans were all they needed to improve quality. They needed to eliminate exhortations and listen.

The attitude and efforts of the workforce had little to do with the defect level. The tooling issues and managements approach to problems had a lot to do with the opinion the workforce had of management and their frustrations. Middle managers understood the employees aggrevation, given a choice they would eliminate exhortations and nifty motivational posters and spent the money on things that would have made a difference.

A Company that Did Eliminate Exhortations

Another place I worked started a team campaign at problem solving. They set up a symbol of a triangle with “quality” at the top and “delivery” and “price” at the other corners. The idea if you have good quality, on-time delivery and fair price will follow. They took suggestions from the workforce as to quality issues and shared data analysis of customer complaints. The team members came from across all levels in the company and titles were checked at the door. The results was continuous improvement and increased sales. A side benefit was a motivated workforce. Actions spoke louder than words, they could eliminate the exhortations without a negative impact.

Summary: Eliminate Exhortations that Are Meaningless

The difference in these two companies was top management attitude. One wanted to blame the workforce and would not listen to potential solutions. Their efforts consisted of buying motivational posters when they needed to eliminate exhortations. The other listened and explained their actions. A slogan or nifty poster isn’t going to make an employee produce better work, listening and removing roadblocks communicating why something can’t be done even if it is a good idea will make a difference. Let’s follow Dr. Demings point and eliminate exhortations.