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Problem about quality is once we achieve it, we tend to relax

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CIOL Bureau
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Mr Richard E. Zultner (Richard@Zultner.com) is an international consultant in software quality. His primary focus is applying Total Quality Managment to high-tech softwre intensive products and services. He received advanced training in QFD from Dr Yoji Akao, "The Father of QFD". He sopke to CIOL Bureau on a variety of issues pertaining to quality. Excerpts:







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Can Deming’s teachings be followed in such organisations as government departments, where no products roll out? Only in some departments we have services being offered. Do we have any example where they have been consciously been adopted?



There are in fact a whole series of government organisations in the US that is applying Deming’s methods. One of the most interesting example is the city of Madison, the capital of Wisconsin. About 10-12 years ago, the city government decided to adopt Deming’s methods. As a result of the success of Madison, the state government has now decided to apply Deming’s methods. And, some of the innovations in public education are being done in Visconcin and they are offshoot of this method.

The first area the state applied this method was in motor vehicle registration, because everyone who has a car is expected to get their vehicle registered. Now this is not something people look forward to. As you might expect with government service, the lines were long, people were not nice, you had to get the right forms filled, you had to go back. People did not like the process.

The administration then decided that they had to make improvements in the service so that they get noticed. So here is something people do not like, and if we improve, we will get noticed. So, they did a process improvement exercise on the motor vehicle registration process. They went to the voters and asked what they did not like about the process. They were told that the process took too long, people were not nice. "We did not make mistake on purpose. It’s because it’s not clear". The administration then went back and systematically sorted out the issues. In fact, they did a better job. For instance, earlier the staffing was on a level all the time. However, most of the

people waited for the end of the month to go for registration. So, there was
rush. They changed the staffing level to have more than usual people when they

have more customers and fewer people on other times. They then looked at the

process including the forms and redesigned it so that it was easier to fill them

up. Some of the information they would ask the people every year and it would be

stored in the computer. These information were sent to the people, who would

just have to sign, if there were no changes.

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They looked at the process from the customer stand-point, changed the process

and measured the change. And, since they were providing the service in more than

one place, they could bring in a change in one place and check it. They could

try many changes to see if it worked. If it did, they could spread it to other

areas.

The staff was also given an opportunity to suggest changes. They were not

nice to the customers because their work was hard and did not like the work any

better then the customers themselves. They were now given a chance to change

their process to make it easier for themselves.

What role do the consumers have in improving quality in organisations?



The primary role of the consumer is to try and find the best product and
service that they can. And, when they find something better, they switch. And

that sends a clear signal to the organisation they switched from that they need

to improve. That works best when there is a choice. When there is only one

choice, what can they do?

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What happens when the consumer is not aware of the quality of the product?



One of the trends in privatisation of services in the US is that if not a particular customer, there is choice across the state. Because, one service is not being provided by one organisation. In New Jersey, the state does not do the motor vehicle inspections any more. They have contracted out to several groups. So, one year to the next, they see which group did better job and that group gets more stations to manage. So, there is essentially a market share in service stations and the groups have an incentive to learn and improve. Though there is no choice for the individual, the state is trying to establish a system so that over time the customer is ensured better services.

What happens when not all players in a supply chain focus on quality?



The key issue is not so much of adoption of quality standards as it is of
improvement. If you are working on improvement, no matter where you are now, at

some point you will get to a level where you will get the quality standard. But,

you should not stop there, you should continue working. The problem about

quality standard is that once they achieve it, they tend to relax.

The main player in the supply chain has a key role because they are in a

position to communicate the need for improvement both upstream and downstream.

But, even if they don’t, any link in the chain, they should work on

improvement. And, by doing this, they can offer better result and should be able

to extend their business.

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What are the unique factors that India has in terms of adoption of quality

in organisations?




Certainly there are cultural differences. However, I do not believe that
these differences are obstacles or an impediment to adopt quality standards. It

makes a difference in implementation. In a high phase culture, to implement

inspection will be a difficult task. Because, we are looking at someone else’s

work and finding errors. In Japan, it is difficult, while in the US it is not so

difficult. That also applies to management styles.

India is currently going through the first phase of e-commerce revolution,

where scores to dotcom companies are getting established by the day. Most of

them are either busy increasing their market-share through promotions,

strengthening their products or raising finance through various available modes.

Do you think they are neglecting quality during their current rise?

I would not say that they are neglecting quality aspects. But, they may be unaware of the quality standards that would allow them in understanding the needs of the customers and to meet those needs more efficiently. At some point of time, the consumers will ask, what is it in the product that they get. That will be important.

In the example of Microsoft, despite the fact that there are some defects in

the products of the company, how are they leading in the market? What does it

mean?




The quality of the product is from the consumer stand-point. The defect is only a small part. The point is what the consumer get out of the product. If you speak to people, most of them will not have any problems. If it goes up, it is restored in five minutes. The value one gets outweigh the defects in the products.

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