25 February 2015

quality management system
The statement is very simplistic, but if organizations would simplify their quality systems to just that one rule they’d be surprised how easy managing the system would become.

Whether you are following ISO 9001, ISO/TS 16949, VDA 6.3 or any other system, there are tremendous amounts of details and other rules that need to be followed. Most organizations will address the requirements through a series of processes and documentation from the beginning, but later struggle with maintaining the related documentation. 

Saying what you do and then doing it means nothing more than “follow the documented process”. If the actual process changes, then make sure the documentation is changed to reflect the new process.

Oddly enough, one of the biggest contributors to the disconnect between documentation and physical processes is continuous improvement. This becomes even more evident when processes are unstable and thus more improvement loops are taking place. Ironically, one of the reasons for why process stability is unachievable is because the current process is not documented properly. This opens up issues with ensuring consistency amongst your team, as well as a standardized point from which to measure your improvements.

The fix is simple, stress documentation integrity with your team. If a process changes, ensure instructions, FMEAs, Control Plans, KPI trees, and any other relevant documents to the affected process are updated. Drive this point home… Say what you do and do what you say!

Posted on Wednesday, February 25, 2015 by George R.

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17 February 2015

One of the phrases I get drawn to every time I struggle with accomplishing something is one coined by Albert Einstein:

Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
It is a rather funny, but true way to quickly shed light on an incorrect method or process being the culprit of a problem.  There is one absolute truth in business and manufacturing… Things change.
Customer needs change, technology changes, people change, and the list can go on forever. The odd thing is that many organizations fail to abide by this truth and they continue to conduct business the same way. A classic example of this is Blackberry. We all know what happened to them. They failed to change and kept doing the same thing over and over. Granted, they are still trying to reinvent themselves since they were nearly run out of business by the likes of Apple and Samsung, but they are now behind the curve and they gave up an enormous lead on account of not allowing the culture of change to permeate their organization.

Successful companies and more so, successful managers, embrace change. Change ensures many things for teams and individuals. The top three, in my opinion, are these:

-          It eliminates Boredom

-          It allows teams to learn from mistakes

-          Allows teams to shift focus towards anticipation (rather than reaction).

Boredom comes from doing the same things over and over. We are always taught to organize ourselves and make sure we follow routines. However, in those routines we must, and those of our teams, there needs to be room for adjustment, training, and continuous improvement. Although not at the top of the list, one of the answers I get most out of high performing candidates during interviews is that they are ‘bored’ in their current job.  

Make sure your team is constantly challenged and tested. Encourage them to try different approaches when current ones fail. Push them out of their comfort zones so they can experience other angles. Change their jobs, roles and responsibilities.

Learn from Mistakes
When your team’s actions are leading to less than optimal results it is sometimes hard to identify the reason. Hence, many times we are trapped into trying the same thing over and over. Trying a different approach at solving a problem will inevitably lead to a different result. If the result is worse, then the initial approach is somewhat validated, and if the result is better, then the initial approach has henceforth been improved. Either way the team learns something.

We have all heard about being proactive versus reactive. This is easier said than done. A proactive culture, one that anticipates problems in the future, can only be fostered with a culture that demands change. Blackberry did not demand change because it was successful at what it was doing, by the time it was evident that change was needed, the very first person removed from the team was the CEO. He had not embraced a culture of change, and thus his team was ill prepared for anticipating what the user friendly iPhones were going to do to the smartphone market.

Anticipation is what makes good organizations great. In my experience it’s always more fun and rewarding to improve things and to plan ahead as opposed to having to fight fires. Anticipation also has a great benefit, it allows teams to work under less stress where timelines are built around teams and resources.
When fighting fires, timelines are a moot point since the issues have to be addressed ‘yesterday’ .  Teams get worn out quickly when they are fighting fires on a daily basis. Most fires are not about getting ahead, but about getting back to ‘normal’, and because of this most individuals do not feel rewrded if they are putting out fires that could have been… yes, you guessed it… anticipated.

As a manager you’ll be well served by creating a culture of change; stay engaged with your team and encourage individuals to try different approaches in their daily routines.

Posted on Tuesday, February 17, 2015 by George R.

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