Wednesday, 4 July 2012

An APP for that?


I was hanging a picture and needed a level to ensure that the picture was hanging correctly. I was just about the run to the garage to get the level when my daughter reminded me that I had downloaded a level App on to my iPod.
The current crop of graduates live and breathe technology. They socialize on-line, twitter, listen to music, watch their favourite programs, find their restaurants and did their homework using their mobile devices.
Innovative companies in turn are tuning in and adapting just as quickly and getting rid of their desk tops, servers and bulky boxes with cloud based computing and un-tethering their employees with mobile devices. Why own the software when you can rent it and run it as an App on a mobile device? Indeed un-tethering has an added advantage in that it no longer depends on the vulnerable fibre optic cable being accidentally severed. In April 2011, Hayastan Shakrian, a 75 year old Georgian cut a fibre optic cable while digging for copper consequently pulling the plug on 90% of the internet users in Armenia for 12 hours!
What is an App? An App is a piece of software that’s downloaded onto a mobile device such as a mobile phone or tablet computer. It integrates with the device’s features such as the videos and or sound and works on the device’s operating system e.g. Apple’s iOS or Google’s Android.
In the implementation of a company wide Quality Management System (QMS), it occurred to me that the reason most companies have such a hard time getting it right is that they are looking through the wrong end of the telescope. They view the QMS as another function within the organization. The Quality Department is viewed as another functional department like Finance, Product Development, Marketing, Warehousing, and Manufacturing etc. I view the QMS as the operating system (OS) through which the Apps work. In this analogy the Apps are the products and the QMS is the operating systems that makes it possible to offer the products with predictable and consistent performance specifications. Once you get the OS right, its simply a question of developing and designing the App to work on in. Similarly, once you get the QMS right, implementing such quality practices as Quality by Design, you design and develop your product to meet the criteria specified in your quality policies and procedures.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Two Wongs ……


I was watching television last night when one of those inane commercials for air fresheners came on. My family and I have always laughed at these commercials because if you don’t like the way your house smells, it seems obvious to us that rather than hide the offending odour with another scent, you should be trying to locate the source of the offending scent and remove it from the house. I wondered how many people actually go through life “covering or masking” in other areas of their life or daily existence finding the most expedient “Band-Aid” solutions without actually trying to find the root cause. I know that this occurs in organizations.
One organization I worked with employed about 100 but had over 800 Standard Operating Procedures (SOP). That was the tip of the iceberg. Each SOP had an at least on form to record the job described by the SOP or capture data generated by that operation. So there were a minimum of 800 SOPs and 800 associated forms. SOPs may be range from 3-7 pages long, the average SOP is however 4 pages. Each data capture form may be 1-5 pages long, the average form is 2 pages long. So, there were 3,200 pages of SOP and 1,600 pages of forms. In total, there were about 5,000 pages of documents or about 200 lbs (90 kg) of paper and that only accounts for the master copies! When the number of copies in circulation is added to it, this number explodes! The Document Management group literally was buried under the weight of all that paper! There was a requirement to review each document every 2 years. Assuming that they did not all come due at the same time, and are evenly spread out over the 2 years, about 33 SOPs and their associated forms were under review each month. The reviews often resulted in revisions and updating of the documents which inevitably caused a significant bottle-neck of outstanding revisions in the Document Management group - a literal paper-jam! How we managed to resolve that may be the subject of a different blog. How did things get so bad?
This organization was the victim of legacy systems, old habits, poor training, staffing turn-over and Quality Systems that were not integrated. Whenever a problem arose the easiest and quickest remedy was to write an SOP to cover the activity related to that event. No root cause analysis was performed to determine the source of the problem. This in itself created it own set of problems. The Quality department was so overwhelmed chasing all that paper that they had no time to catch their breath, sit back and go back to basics with the seven quality tools! They were hoping to get it right with two wrongs.
So you ask, “What does this have to do with the title – Two Wongs”? Once I was telling my friend whose last name is Wright about how I was told as a kid that in Chinese culture, there’s a strict taboo in two people bearing the same last name (represented by same ideogram) from marrying because they are likely descended from the same ancestor. She quipped “Two Wongs don’t make a Wright!”