Sunday, August 26, 2012

Awards or no Awards? Need for a system that promotes organizational excellence

This is response to question posted in ASQ CEO’s blog

With 62 years of Deming Prize history in Japan, and 25 years of Baldrige history, and similar histories of programs around the world, why is enterprise quality, or enterprise excellence if you prefer, still the exception rather than the rule?

Excellent question. There is no simple answer to this.

Lack of long-term thinking, lack of quality culture, lack of systems thinking, 20th century thinking in global economy are still persistent in several organizations that are preventing these organizations to achieve and sustain organizational excellence.

Awards such as Baldrige definitely contributed to the organizational excellence and transformed the way managers think, feel, and act. 

There are serious shortcomings with these awards that must be addressed. Here are few recommendations to make Baldrige program work in the global economy.

·      Eliminate individual award system - Deming’s philosophy does not support individual awards or individual performance evaluation. Baldrige award culture contradicts Deming’s philosophy. Eliminate award culture.

·      Encourage continuous improvement  - The Baldrige program for organizational performance excellence should promote continuous improvement culture and not award culture. Promote continuous improvement culture.

·      Knowledge sharing – Promote knowledge sharing culture through Baldrige program. Encourage organizations to use Baldrige program for self-assessment and improvement.

·      Stakeholder focus - Government or Awards do not define quality. Customers of products and services define quality. Encourage organizations to share their performance excellence stories with stakeholders including customers.

·      Systems thinking – Include stakeholders (Employees, Managers, Suppliers, Customers, Board of Directors, Government, and Suppliers) in the continuous improvement effort. Everyone is responsible for quality. Educate management on longer-term thinking and not short term thinking.

·      Learning – Promote national or international performance excellence summits to specifically focus on sharing successes and lessons learned by organizations that use quality improvement programs such as Baldrige program. Provide appreciation certificates and not awards to all participants. Don’t include any programs that involve awards or certification or accreditation to avoid conflicts of interest.

·      Provide consulting assistance – Spend effort in assisting businesses to use Baldrige program to identify improvement opportunities. Volunteers that serve on the Baldrige program are great resources to assist with consulting.

·      Cost of Quality - Spend money wisely. Don’t spend money on awards. Spend money on education and training.

o  Spend money on providing educating and training small businesses to implement and improve quality management practices.

o  Spend money on providing scholarships to students pursuing education in quality management. These educated students (Future work force) will be instrumental in promoting quality culture within the organizations leading to improved organizational excellence and performance.

·      Globalization – With federal budget cuts, Baldrige program is no longer a national program. Consider expanding the scope of the program to include all businesses that conduct business with the US.

·      Innovation – Encourage innovative processes, methods, tools, and techniques to implement continuous improvement programs such as Baldrige. NIST can collaborate more with ASQ, educational institutions, organizations, and industry leaders to promote innovation in implementing Baldrige program for organizational performance excellence.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Quality Culture

This is response to questions posted in ASQ CEO’s blog

1. What is corporate culture?

Corporate culture of an organization is organization’s shared values, beliefs, principles, guidelines, expectations, anticipations, behaviors, collective memories, norms, attitudes, assumptions, and perceptions.

2.  What is culture of quality?

Culture of quality consists of –

ð  Systems Thinking
ð  Stakeholder focus
ð  Continuous improvement
ð  Learning and growth
ð  Team work
ð  Creativity & Innovation
ð  Ethics

3. If you’re working on a culture of quality, or sustaining one, what do you look for in the people you hire into the organization? 

When you hire people into the organization, the most important thing that you need to consider is organizational cultural alignment and fitment. In today’s highly competitive world, organizations that strive for performance excellence are looking for people who have excellent competencies (skills, knowledge, experience, attitude, and aptitude) and those people who can fit into the organization very well. 

4. How can you tell whether an applicant will contribute to, thwart, or work at quality culture goals? 

Behavioral based interviewing techniques can be helpful to find out whether an applicant will contribute to, thwart, or work at quality culture goals.

Behavioral based interviewing through leading questions can be used to evaluate the competencies (skills, knowledge, experience, attitude, and aptitude) required to perform the job and fitment with the organization.

5. What attitudes support the success of a culture of quality?

ð  Passion
ð  Character
ð  Persistence
ð  Perseverance
ð  Adaptability
ð  Agility
ð  Trust
ð  Empowerment
ð  Open and Effective communication
ð  Ethical behavior (Honesty, Morality, Integrity, Responsibility, Accountability)
ð  Dedication
ð  Commitment 
ð  Leadership
ð  Customer driven
ð  Collaboration
ð  Fact based and Data driven decision making
ð  Compassion
ð  Desire to learn
ð  Focus on value creation and results

6. Are the personal attributes universal, or do they in your experience differ around the world?

Each person is different and personal attributes are unique to each person. Personal attributes can be changed through training, education, and experience.

7. When you’re in a culture of quality, how does it feel? Or, how do you feel? What are the feelings you associate with a culture of quality?

ð  Proud
ð  Confidant
ð  Happy
ð  Motivated

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Save Healthcare

There are three major types of quality problems in Healthcare.

(1) Variation in services - There continues to be pattern of variation in healthcare services.
These include regional variations and small-area variations. This is a clear indicator that
Healthcare practice has not kept pace with the evolving science of healthcare to ensure
Evidence-based practice in the United States.

(2) Underuse of services - Millions of people do not receive necessary care and suffer
needless complications. These add costs and reduce productivity. Each year, an estimated
18,000 people die because they don't receive effective interventions. For example - A study of Medicare patients who had suffered heart attacks found that only 21 percent of eligible patients received beta blockers. The mortality rate among patients who received
Beta blockers was 43 percent lower than it was among non recipients. AHRQ funded study examined the use of beta blockers before heart bypass surgery and found that patients who received beta blocker therapy before surgery had lower rates of death and fewer complications both during and after surgery than patients who did not receive this therapy.

(3) Overuse of Services - Each year, millions of Americans receive healthcare services that are unnecessary, increase costs and may even endanger their health. Research has shown that this occurs across all populations. For example - An analysis of hysterectomies performed on women in seven health plans found that one in six operations was Inappropriate. A study examining the use of antibiotics for treating ear infections in children on Medicaid found that expensive antibiotics were used more often than indicated.

According to the findings, if only half the prescriptions were written in 1992 for more
expensive antibiotics has been written for amoxicillin, a less expensive but equally effective antibiotic, Colorado's Medicaid program would have saved nearly $400,000 that year.

 Here are three ways to improve health care delivery.

(1)  Establish healthcare as a national priority –

a.    Provide Strong Leadership and Clear Aims for Improvement 
b.    Advance Quality Measurement and Reporting 
c.     Create Public-Private Partnerships

 (2) Strengthen the Market to Improve Quality 

a. Encourage Action by Group Purchasers  
b. Strengthen the Hand of Consumers 
c. Focus on Vulnerable Populations 
d. Promote Accountability
e. Reduce Errors and Increase Safety in Health Care

(3)  Build the Capacity to Improve Quality 

a.    Foster Evidence-Based Practice and Innovation  
b.    Adapt Organizations for Change 
c.     Engage the Health Care Workforce 
d.    Invest in Information Systems 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Quality and Language of business

In the ASQ blog site, the author asks fundamental questions...

Do you speak the “language of business”? How important is it, in your experience?

=> Speaking the "language of business" (Cost of poor quality) is necessary but it is not sufficient to reach the upper chambers of management in organizations. 

Top managers must possess core competencies (management and technical) required to lead the organization and they must provide confidence that they can provide long term growth, sustainability, and results. 

Everyone in the society (not just quality professionals and top managers) should think in terms of cost of poor quality for improving the overall quality of life.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Social Responsibility - Not an Oxymoron

Views on Social responsibility and connection to Quality -

Social responsibility is not an oxymoron.
For a company in health insurance industry Social responsibility means -

Promoting the health and well being of the local community (employees and the society)
Providing affordable healthcare by charging the lowest possible premiums
Improving the accessibility of the healthcare by including all eligible providers
Providing high quality healthcare
Demonstrating ethical behavior (paying claims in a timely fashion, not following discriminatory practices in offering insurance products, Detecting and preventing fraud, abuse, waste in the healthcare delivery systems etc.)
Provide opportunities for employees to volunteer for social causes (blood donation, renovating of schools, educating society about healthy life style etc.)
Empowering employees and provide learning opportunities so that they can be more productive at the workplace

All of the above are directly related to quality practices within the organization and quality professional play an important role in educating and obtaining top management commitment to make these happen. Quality managers must work with top management must make sure that company’s mission, vision, values, goals and objectives reflect these. Being socially responsible improves the credibility and trustworthiness of the organization and this leads to long-term sustainability. Corporate profitability and social responsibility is not a zero-sum game. Looking at this from the top management's language of money, quality professionals need to explain this in terms of prevention, appraisal and failure costs.

As an example, how does a quality manager sell to the top management that health insurance company must make efforts to promote the health and well being of the local community (employees and the society).

Healthy population leads to lower healthcare costs. Healthy employees lead to more productivity and reduces company's administrative expenses. Organization benefits, employees benefit, and the society benefits.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Industry Focus

     It is very important for business to look around and see what is going on the industry. This is very important for survival in the competitive marketplace. This broader perspective helps organizations to introduce or enhance products and services more effectively and efficiently.

Vision, Mission, Strategy, Goals, and Objectives - All these are important for business.

Why are some businesses not able to compete with other companies in the Information technology industry? These companies that are unable to compete are not able to cope up with the industry trends and practices.

In an article on HP layoffs hp-layoffs-a-sign-of-bad-management,  the author asks what can CEO do when company is not performing well? The answer is CEO has to understand industry trends and practices and perform SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis to find out why the company's strategy is not working.  

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Quality of meetings

How to conduct effective meetings?

1. Ensure that a published agenda is in place - This helps ensure that team focus on the items without talking about "things" in random fashion.

2. Encourage participation - Participation and feedback are the key elements of effective meetings

3. Arrive few minutes early - Ensure that you arrive few minutes early before participants arrive.

4. Familiarity with the Subject matter - Ensure that you are familiar with the subject matter that is being discussed.

5. Actions, Risks and Issues tracking - Clearly record the action items, risks, and issues and ensure that these are tracked to closure. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Lack of Ethics or Silly Mistake?

Did Scott Thompson (Former CEO of Yahoo) demonstrate lack of ethical behavior or did he make a silly mistake? 

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs did not have a degree in computer science. Did they not succeed without manipulating academic credentials.

What is ethics? Ethics is honesty, morality, integrity, social responsibility, and accountability.

Corporate CEOs continue to behave unethical behavior. Are greed and orientation towards short-term profits causing this type of behavior?

Waste, Fraud, and Abuse in Government Services

Waste, Fraud, and Abuse is pervasive in most of the government services in all democratic societies.  

The main root causes of Waste, Fraud, and Abuse are lack of accountability and corruption.

Take the case of the US. The congress blames the president for not getting things done. The president blames the congress for not getting things done. Finally very little gets done to improve the government services and the public frustration and anger continue to grow.

It is good to hear few of the republican presidential candidates talk about using Lean Six Sigma methodologies to eliminate waste in government agencies.   

One of the first steps that any quality oriented government can take is consolidation of multiple federal agencies.

Every quality initiative starts with commitment from the top management. Top management in the context of government services consists of the president, the congress, and the secretaries of the state. Let us hope that the top management of the government services takes solid steps to plan and implement quality initiatives to reduce waste, fraud, and abuse.

As quality professionals, we have a very important responsibility to continue to promote the importance of quality initiatives to improve the government services.  


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Shocking to see some of the best companies in the news recently for wrong reasons

Some of the best companies are in the news recently for wrong reasons.

Washington Post article on Walmart bribery charges

Infosys is under investigation for fraud charges

Is Goldman Sachs cheating customers?

These companies (i.e. Top management) are suspected to have demonstrated unethical behavior. These companies are growing their customer base and expanding into emerging and developed economies.

Are rapid growth and greed causing the top management to ignore ethical practices?

Do these companies have ethics and compliance departments? If so, what role these departments play in preventing such unethical behavior?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

25 years of ISO 9000

 borawski's blog provided an excellent statistic on ISO 9000 certification.

"According to the International Organization for Standardization, as of 2009, the total number of organizations certified to ISO 9000 exceeded one million!"
How many of these organizations are meeting the real goals of ISO 9000 certification? How many of these are getting certification just to satisfy their suppliers or to attract investments or to use certification as a marketing tool?
There are several studies done to analyze the linkage between ISO 9000 certification and overall value provided to stakeholders. These conclusions contradict each other. 
Here is the summary of conclusions.
1. ISO 9000 certification alone does not benefit the organization. ISO 9000 certification that is driven by internal motivation benefits the organizations to continuously improve and provides real long term value to stakeholders.
2. ISO 9000 certification alone benefits the organization. ISO 9000 certification that is driven by any type of motivation leads to improvement of processes and this leads to improved productivity, cycle time, and customer satisfaction.
3. ISO 9000 certification does not add any value and is expensive. It is easy to pay money to a consulting company to get ISO certification.
All these conclusions are valid depending on the circumstances of the sample organizations analyzed. These samples may not represent the population or there are major threats to validity. So, conclusions can't be applied to population without analyzing other factors and interactions.
My opinion/observation => 
Each organization is unique. ISO 9000 alone can't guarantee value to stakeholders but implementing quality models such as ISO 9000 with the appropriate commitment, right mindset and right change management culture can really make a difference. 

Test Driven Development?

Test driven development is a test-first approach. Developer writes a test even before starting coding.

Microsoft is promoting this concept and appears to be investigating heavily to promote this concept.

Microsoft TDD

There is no scholarly research done so far to support the hypothesis that test driven development improves cycle time, productivity, and quality.

Visual Studio nicely supports the test driven development.

As stated in the Microsoft website, Test Driven Development follows three phase approach.

1. Red - Developer first creates a test to make it fail

2. Green - Developer develops code to make the test pass

3. Re-factor - Developer modifies the code to remove duplication and improves the design while ensuring that all tests pass

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Robust design - Design of experiments

Robust design focuses on creating a design that selects input variables in order to minimize the impact of noise factors (uncontrollable variables) on responsible variable.

There are three types of design.

1. Concept design
2. Parameter design
3. Tolerence design

In terms of cost of (poor) quality, lack of robust design may lead to external failure costs such as loss of customers, loss of reputation, recalls, lawsuits, and warranty claims.

The goal is to choose an optimal robust design that is cost-effective with the quickest time-to-market.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Quality in Services

Quality is not limited to manufacturing industry. Services contribute to 80% of the world wide economy and more and more products are being sold as bundled products and services.
Quality and Lean Six Sigma tools are used in service industries such as healthcare and education to improve the performance, outcomes and stakeholder satisfaction. Few of the US republican presidential candidates pledged to use Six Sigma to reduce waste in the government spending and to improve the overall performance of government organizations.

Design of Experiments

Response Surface Methodology (RSM) is a collection of statistical and mathematical models to optimize the response variable.

Here is a great lecture from MIT Open courseware.

Saturday, April 14, 2012


Innovation can be broadly classified into three types listed below.

1. Consumer driven  Innovation => This type of innovation is based on necessity to address the needs of  consumers. This is typically carried out by private organizations such as IBM or public organizations such as Department of Defense.

2. Non-consumer driven Innovation  => This type of innovation is based on passion by researchers, thinkers, and practitioners to advance knowledge and skills. This is typically carried out in the laboratories and the universities.

3. Hybrid (Consumer and Non-consumer) innovation => This type of innovation may start as non-consumer driven innovation and may morph into or gets integrated with consumer driven innovation. This type of innovation may also start as consumer driven innovation and may morph into or gets integrated with non-consumer driven innovation.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Quality Circles

Total Quality Management

Cost of Quality

What is cost of quality?

Cost of quality is the cost of lack of quality or the cost of poor quality.

Cost of quality can be classified as

1. Prevention costs

2. Appraisal costs

3. Internal failure costs

4. External failure costs

If everyone can deliver products and services right the first time, there is no need to spend any money one cost of poor quality. In real world situation, this does not happen.

Have you seen a software project that has cost of quality as zero? Service industries such as Software are not as mature as manufacturing industries. Even in manufacturing industries, we don't see any product that has cost of quality as zero.

As the cost of quality exponentially increases from prevention to appraisal to internal failure to external failure, organizations that focus on reducing cost of (poor) quality spend more money on prevention to reduce the overall quality costs.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Best Buy Leadership change?

Here is another example. Best Buy CEO (Mark Dunn) abruptly resigns.

If you can't keep up with the latest trends, strategies and technologies, you are out of business. You can't continue to use the same old strategies and methodologies in the ever changing global marketplace. Companies and CEOs must learn, adopt and adapt to the changing needs of consumers.

Who are the competitors and what is the key differentiator?

The main competitors are

1. Amazon
2. Walmart
3. Costco

The key differentiator is business strategy (Add value by making use of the latest trends and technologies and continue to offer the lowest possible prices to the consumer.)

Masters Programs in Quality Management - Information

Graduate programs in Quality Management

Arizona State University - M.E. Quality & Reliability
also, M.S. Industrial Engineering with Q&R emphasis

Eastern Michigan University - M.S. Quality Management

Southern Polytechnic - M.S. Quality Assurance

Upper Iowa University - MBA Quality Management

East Carolina University - M.S. Technology Systems emphasis on Quality Systems

California State University - Dominguez Hills - M.S. Quality Assurance

Bemidjii State University - M.S. Industrial Technology (seems to have an emphasis on quality)

University of Tennessee - M.S. Reliability & Maintainability Engineering

University of Maryland - M.E. Reliability

Purdue University - M.S. Industrial Engineering w/quality emphasis or quality systems emphasis

Are Quality Professionals Happy On the Job?

Forbes says, “Professionals with this job title are typically involved in the entire software development process to ensure the quality of the final product…Software quality assurance engineers feel rewarded at work, as they are typically the last stop before software goes live and correctly feel that they are an integral part of the job being done at the company.”

The happiest job of all isn't kindergarten teacher or dentist. It is software quality assurance engineer. Professionals with this job title are typically involved in the entire software development process to ensure the quality of the final product. This can include processes such as requirements gathering and documentation, source code control, code review, change management, configuration management, release management, and the actual testing of the software, explains Matt Miller, chief technology officer at CareerBliss.


It is good to see quality professionals to be on the top of the list. However, this survey findings lack some key fundamentals if we view this from the perspective of quality professional.

1. The job description of software quality assurance engineer stated is not correct. Software quality assurance engineers develop processes, procedures, methods, and techniques. Software quality assurance engineers do not usually get involved in quality control activities such as code review and the actual testing of the software. Software quality control engineers get involved in code reviews and the actual testing of the software.
Software quality assurance is not same as software quality control. The job description combined some QA and QC activities.

2. There is no information on survey methodology, demographics surveyed and threats to validity. I don't know if I can trust any  survey conclusions without such basic information.

3. Correlation is not causation. I don't think we can accept the conclusion that software quality assurance engineer is the happiest job.


Sunday, April 8, 2012

How do we Sell Quality?

I agree with Dr. Vora that it is important to sell value to stakeholders. Value addition is a multi-dimensional concept that contributes to triple bottom line (people, planet and profits).

1. Deliver better products and services to customers at a lower cost.

2. Charge suppliers as little as possible.

3. Pay employees better wages, provide them with safe working environment and  infrastructure to perform their jobs better, faster, and smarter way, help them improve competencies, and help them grow within the organization.

4. Deliver profits and better rate of return to owners, board of directors, and stockholders through better return on investments (Long term and Short term).

5. Make a positive impact on society by being socially responsible organization

Reference -

Quality Lessons - Organized presentations

Current Trends - Agile Development

Quality Management System