Saturday, 18 June 2011

A Journey of a Thousand Li….


On June 15, 2011, Canadians all over the world were ashamed of and embarrassed by the wonton destruction and hooliganism broadcast into our living rooms and all over the globe via the internet. Loosing the Stanley Cup to the Boston Bruins after 7 hard fought games, disappointed Vancouver Canucks fans rioted through the streets of downtown Vancouver in contract to the moment of pride where less than 16 months before the same streets hosted the peaceful and jubilant crowns following Team Canada’s win in the 2010 Winter Olympics. More disappointing is the revelation that perhaps much of this could have been avoided had the Vancouver Police implemented the more than 100 recommendations from the B.C. Police commissioned report by Bob Whitelaw after a similar riot following the Canucks’ loss to the New York Rangers in 1994.
Adopting Lao Tzu’s “A Journey of a Thousand Li begins with a Single Step”, one would like to think that had the Vancouver Police Department adopted one recommendation a month since the report was released in 1994, by June of 2011, there should have been sufficient time to develop the processes and procedures to implement at least 165 initiatives to prevent a repeat of the 1994 riots.
In parallel to the above incident, I have observed that In the course of my career as a quality professional, on numerous occasions I encountered similar situations where my client organizations found themselves facing a long list of non-compliant findings after being audited by a client, a potential client or a regulator that had to be addressed immediately. As is often the case, many of these findings were previously identified in their own internal audits. The most common reason given for having ignored these findings is “I don’t have the time or resources to implemented any of these corrective actions”. Yet when faced with the prospect of the imminent cancellation of an order, loss of a potential contract or regulatory action, the same organizations suddenly finds the resources to deploy a team of experts at several times the cost in order to remedy the situation. The real tragedy is that so many organizations fail to understand the most significant phrase in Lao Tzu’s proverb is not the “Journey of a Thousand Li” but the “Single Step”. In Quality Management philosophy, taking that single step involves the implementation of a process for proactively identifying areas of improvements, ensuring that they are diligently acted on and followed-up to ensure that there are no recurrences. Hence, regardless of the complexity or magnitude of the task at hand, i.e. the proverbial “Thousand Li” (360 miles), the emphasis is on the “Single Step”.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Don’t break it

How many times have we heard “It’s a problem, we have to fix it”. Thinking along the lines of organizational behaviour, why did wait for it to become a problem? We’ve all be taught to be proactive and deal with an issue before it becomes a problem. Most organizations set lofty goals and mission statements and along the way get a little lost or side tracked by the process. Perhaps this quote from the American author, poet, abolitionist Henry David Thoreau; “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost, that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them”.
So, I asked myself, as a Quality professional, from the perspective of organizational behaviour what tools would offer a process that is proactive and helps to build those foundations and identify the issues and deal with them before they become a problem? Two key elements come to mind, Risk Management, the other Knowledge Management.
As stated in a previous blog, the concept of Risk Management is simple, define and understand the product and the processes needed to deliver the product, identify and develop the processes needed to be in place to meet the objective and identify the risks involved in the process and how best to mitigate those risks. Risk Management involves the use of any number of tools including; the Plan Do Check Act (PDCA) Cycle (or Deming Cycle). Ishikawa (or Fishbone) Diagram, Trend Charts, Pareto Analysis, Fault Tree Analysis, Failure Mode and Effects and Analysis. To demonstrate the power of deploying these tools. Below is a brief description of the PDCA Cycle and the Ishikawa Diagram.
The PDCA Cycle starts with the PLAN phase by focusing on the expected out put and identifying and establishing objectives and processes including the accuracy and specifications necessary to deliver results. The DO phase is the implementation often as a pilot to identify any deviation, the CHECK phase from the expected out put. ACT by analyzing the out put and correct and improve as necessary.
I like the Ishikawa Diagram because its easy to get up on a board and involve the entire team in an iterative process. This is one of the 7 quality tools inspired by the 7 famous weapons of the legendary Japanese Warrior Monk, Benkei. The diagram also known as a cause and effect is used product design and quality defect prevention. All possible cause and reasons that can contribute to the effect are listed along each of five arms on the fishbone representing Methods (and/or Process), Machinery, Management, Materials and Manpower. Each can be successively broken down in additional layers to identify the potential root cause or causes.
Although emerged as a scientific discipline in early 1900 Knowledge Management (KM) did not catch on as a tool in Quality Management until recently. Each organization has a wealth knowledge ranging from organization or institutional memory, process data, publications by the organization and others in the associated industry as well as acquired though new hires. This wealth of information is often lost for lack of a systematic effort to organize it. There’s growing appreciation to harness this knowledge through a formal KM program. One model involves the following steps a) Acquisition of Knowledge including tacit (implicit or internalized knowledge) and explicit (data), b) Evaluation of Data to ensure that its relevant and accurate, c) Filtering and Extraction of Information that contributes to the understanding of the product or process and d) Storage, Sharing and Retrieval of the Knowledge. IT Systems are often employed to facilitate KM.
In deploying some resources and employing these tools, organizations will find that there will be fewer incidences of tings to fix. Having built the foundation to support their dreams they will have more opportunities to actually sail their charted course. Henry David Thoreau’s philosophy influenced the thinking of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. If its good enough for Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., its good enough for me.