Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Finding the True North for Quality Management

My official title during the last year has been " Quality Management Office Analyst". There are different interpretations to it. The word "Quality" does not help because the first thing people have in mind when they hear that word, is "Quality Assurance". When we say "Quality Management", we mean Processes, but it is like saying to someone "Don't think of an elephant" and actually expect that they won't have an elephant in their mind. I am saying all this because we have been struggling for a while to come to a consensus for our team Vision. We all seem to want the same thing and create the same target system, but someone is always coming up with a different variable that when injected in the previous system, it changes the target system. Is related with the theory of system hacking I guess.
On our team site, we have this blurb where we have tried to encapsulate what we are trying to do:
"Our team is devoted to support continuous improvement in (insert here company name) product delivery.Our goal is to improve customer satisfaction with reliable and predictable product deliverables."

I guess it is not bad, but there is something there that doesn't make me (and some other people on my team) happy. We can't call this our "True North". 
Last week, I was trying to pick my next book to read. I had two options, Toyota Kata and Management 3.0. While debating over them, Andrew Annett "pulled" me toward Toyota Kata. So, that has been the book I have been reading during the past week and I am somewhere in the middle. For all of you out there that have read this book, you know where my mind is right now. I am now in the process of comparing how we are doing things now in our company, and how Toyota is doing them. I know that Toyota is a Manufacturing company and we are an Insurance company. But Toyota's strength is not on dominating the Manufacturing market. Their strength is on the way they think, and that is a feature that is independent of the market, independent of the service, independent of the product that a company delivers. 
This way of thinking, is drawing me back to the Vision of my team. I guess the easy thing is to take Toyota's vision and apply it to my team's:
Toyota: "Survive long term as a company by improving and evolving how we make good products for the customer"
My team: "Live long as a team that improves and evolves the process delivery of the company"
Although I know that this is just a draft and some cosmetic patting is required, I am still not happy with it. The problem is that we are looking at our team as a permanent team in this company, without an exit strategy. I know that a company needs continuous improvement and from that point of view, I can say that we should always be part of this company. But that statement gives me a sense of failure, not able to ever celebrate success. Makes me think we will never reach a desired target state, because there is always something to improve.I think that part of the continuous improvement is also the fact that my team, at some point, should not be required.

And that's where I got a Eureka! moment. Rather than adding to our Vision what we want our team to be, I thought to add to our Vision what we want the company to be. So, again, in a draft mode, fully aware of the need for cosmetic changes, I came up with something like this:
"Get (insert here company name) to a state where Continuous Improvement is natural element of the Vision of the company and all the structures in this organization"

I am happy!! Why am I happy with this?
I like the fact that we have:
  • An end goal
  • A way to measure the  Success Criteria.
  • A clear set of Recipients that will run with it, on their own, with a clear understanding on what to do
  • It's recursive (ok, that's the geek in me!)
I like the fact that we want to create a Sustainable System, where the need for improvement will be organic, not injected from my team or any other external team. The mindset of Managers at any level will be on the Continuous Improvement of the current process, whatever that process is at any point of time.

Now let's see what others think. Feedback appreciated!


  1. Great post, and a great book! What I enjoyed most about that book was how it describes that Toyota managers don't think about their short career there, they think in terms of the next 100 years.

    Adaptable companies survive, others who fail to learn how to adapt die, my objective doing this type of work has always been to become obsolete. "Quality management" is built on the notion of a low-trust environment and "quality checks" hide the underlying problems.

    How about "we aim to create an adaptable organization by developing capability that will allow to adjust to any change to their landscape"

    Maybe a bout fluffy, but hey, did you expect something different?

  2. Because is a Vision, can't start with "we aim" :)) instead of "adjust" I was thinking to say "improve" because sometimes adjustment means fire-fighting.And that's not what we want :0