Friday, February 4, 2011

Fido Filosophy on Quality

Awhile ago I saw an email titled Fido Filosophy. One tidbit by the unknown author is: "If you're dog is fat, you're not getting enough exercise." After I stopped laughing, I realized as a former dog owner that this is true. Inertia is a powerful and contagious thing, affecting not only ourselves but those around us. (Thus it's important that most adults in the house have similar eating and exercising habits.)

In one company that had substantial labor content in its products, we had tried a lot of different things to improve quality. We tried a dedicated process improvement team (PIT) as a squad of internal experts to provide extra resources to fixing process problems. We tried more awareness: fake checks to the company from each employee showing what their share of rework costs were weekly, team goals, weekly meetings to review problems. We conducted MRB meetings to review rejects twice a day to get immediate effort on new issues, while our collective information was fresh as to the causes of the problems.

Nothing seemed to change. We had the same results. We rely on people to do the work and people are fallible. We all make mistakes. A few years ago, I went to a conference attended by C-level personnel from the aerospace and defense industries. You'd expect everyone there to have above average intelligence. At one point, we were assigned to break-out groups purely based on our last initial. Half of one group and the facilitator went to the wrong room. Oh, the despair of thinking that I could keep people from making mistakes having witnessed 20% of a group unable to follow a simple instruction given to them 2 minutes ago! How can I get others to follow complex instructions?

We audited our processes for a few months. The overall rate of finding visual differences in the work was 10%--an alarming rate. I thought it must be inattention--either our consciousness wanders off into a daydream, or we're distracted by others asking us questions or discussion about work schedules or... If we had the same rate of inattention while commuting to work, and the same level of problems, we'd have an accident once per week. I can't say that that's happening for anyone. Are the stakes higher while we're driving than we perceive them to be when we're doing work?

If someone's life depended on the accuracy of the information (spelling, grammar, correct information, etc.) in all of your communications, would you be maiming a few people? What would make you improve? Would it have to be a serious threat to your business, your livelihood, your

If you think you don't need to improve, remember this advice from Ann Landers: "Do not accept your dog's admiration as evidence of your wonderfulness."

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