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Archive for July, 2010
Johnson & Johnson consumers complained about berry-flavored Pepcid being mingled with mint-flavored tablets. These complaints should have been the early warning system that would have uncovered failures and trends in managing/controlling the manufacturing process.
This means that process discipline broke down in at least two areas that haven’t been the focal point of our attention:
(1) The method for handling complaints failed. If handled properly, customer complaints could have served as a gold mine for data on where things were going wrong.
(2) The manufacturing system failed. Processes were either broken, not followed, or not maintained.
In both cases, processes are the key. J&J will need to reevaluate its culture to understand how it evolved to the point of allowing vigilance in process management to fall off. This is reminiscent of the theme that surfaced in the Toyota recalls.
A key lesson from the Toyota and J&J stories is this: companies have to manage the basics. Neglecting them is not an option. The cultural attributes that enabled success must be maintained and nurtured. Both of these companies have a reputation for keeping an eye on their processes. They know that processes do not manage themselves. It will take a lot of digging to find the root of the underlying cultural shift that created these issues.
Quality of products and services remains a major concern among retail and business customers, particularly in the current economic environment. This includes initial quality as well as quality of after-sale customer service. It is critical to ensuring customer retention in an environment where competitive threats proliferate, seemingly at the speed of light.
As the American Society for Quality (ASQ) noted in its Future of Quality Study, perfect quality is not the outcome of chance. In the same way that a company deliberately plans for manufacturing circuit boards, managing call centers, or conducting financial operations, it must deliberately plan for managing quality. Companies must continually improve rather than thinking that they have arrived. The Toyota and Johnson & Johnson recalls have taught us that leaders must manage quality with relentless attention to detail.
This vigilance must be ongoing and must permeate the entire organization. Leaders need to address quality at each step of the process. Engineering must create designs that will result in fewer failures. Materials management must insist on standards of purity for raw materials. Purchasing must select suppliers that have stellar quality programs and performance, and then they must hold these suppliers accountable.
The companies that master the skills of pinpointing and addressing quality issues in each phase of product/service delivery will rise to the top and be able to compete in the years to come.
I recently responded to a question on LinkedIn concerning the need to prioritize new development activities versus making enhancements to existing offerings. Clearly, new products or services will lack credibility if existing offerings are not performing up to customer expectations.
Organizations must determine how much effort to devote to improving existing offerings before moving on to developing new ones if the same resources are used for both. In this situation, there should be an upper limit on the effort devoted to improvements to avoid sacrificing critical work needed for new development. Many large organizations maintain larger staffs to minimize this particular resource constraint. In any case, such decisions should flow out of an organization’s product/service strategy.
Developers should survey users to get feedback/data on how well current offerings are being received. That way they can make informed decisions instead of guessing about user perceptions. This can be done using simple online surveys that are not time-consuming to generate or respond to.
I recently saw some interesting questions on LinkedIn. I captured two of these questions in today’s blog post.
Question 1: “How does management create an environment where people are inspired and motivated to identify waste and continuously make process improvements?”
In my view, leaders have to demonstrate that they are willing to make process improvement and waste reduction principles operational. This is done in several ways. Here are two examples: (1) Organizations have to be structured and measured in such a way that allows waste to be uncovered and dealt with. This means breaking down walls or silos as they are called in some companies. (2) The CEO must lead by example and reward the right behavior. In addition, they must make sure their staffs do likewise.
Item (2) could and should mean changing the way variable compensation is handled. I am of the opinion that everyone should have a portion of her or his compensation driven by quality in the field and customer satisfaction. Both of these metrics benefit from an organization’s ability to eliminate waste and improve processes. Good marks in these areas drive sales, especially repeat purchases. When companies perform poorly in these areas, they are really failing to serve the customer, which means they are not living up to their mission.
I think of this from the standpoint of the customer’s need. When I hire a consultant to do some marketing or editing tasks, I do it to relieve some of my pain, namely, the pain of time constraints. I choose service providers because I know that I am going to be better off with them than without them. I also believe that I will be delighted with the end result, particularly the quality of the service or product.
Why should I assume that my clients would feel any differently?
The client believes they are going to be better off by having me on the team. My work should help them get out of pain into relief, then into being satisfied with my work, then into being delighted with the end result.
The key driver in this is that customers hire me to relieve their pain. From a project management standpoint, this means demonstrating that (1) I am progressing, (2) things are under control, and (3) they are going to achieve their goals. That’s why I’m there.
Hogan’s Heroes Leadership Lesson #5: Collaboration, confidence, and persuasion (7/16/2010)
There are plenty of situations in which Hogan must convince his team of the feasibility of a given assignment. His method is to demonstrate confidence in the crew’s ability to pull off even the most challenging tasks. He prefers persuasion, not coercion.
This is particularly interesting, given the fact that Hogan is the senior officer in a time of war and could easily order the men to carry out his plans. His approach clears the way for him to get buy-in on a solution without beating his team into submission. In addition, he assumes the lead role in a given task when the level of risk calls for it.
This collaborative method is usually the more attractive and more sustainable means of mobilizing an organization, because the members become intrinsically motivated. Rather than being compelled by the rank of the person in charge, they are inspired by the mission and the significance of their role in achieving it.
Hogan’s Heroes Leadership Lesson #4: Confident yet transparent (7/16/2010)
Confidence is a hallmark of Hogan’s leadership. He believes his team can pull off anything even when no one else does. He is neither cocky nor arrogant, however, and is able to identify the risks involved.
Sometimes Hogan’s confidence is tempered by cautious optimism, especially when the only choice is to take a high-risk course of action that seemingly has no chance of succeeding. He is completely transparent in these situations and does not hesitate to share his concerns or misgivings. This is when he is at his best. He is able to lead in the midst of his own fears, which bolsters the commitment and confidence of those around him.
As a reminder, this week’s blog posts cover the nuggets of leadership wisdom mined from the sixties hit TV show Hogan’s Heroes. Here’s what we’re looking at today. Enjoy!
Hogan’s Heroes Leadership Lesson #3: Leaders take the blame, but they give the credit (7/14/2010)
It is interesting to note that Hogan takes the blame for failures, and he rarely takes credit for the successes. He gives credit to the team for every win, and gives significant praise to the lead on the assignment.
Hogan is also quick to acknowledge his mistakes and take responsibility when things don’t work out. There are instances where he agonizes, but only briefly. He never dwells on defeat. Typically, the team discusses what went wrong, another scheme emerges from the ashes of failure, and they move forward with the new plan. Key point: move forward!
About Clarity Management Consulting
Clarity Management Consulting transforms businesses from the inside out by improving quality and productivity as well as reducing waste and cost.