Tag Archives: Quality

Quote for Mar 14th

Quality is not an act, it is a habit.

Aristotle 

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Get to Know Your Customer

As a leader in your organization it is critical that you know your customers.  This means the end-user of your company’s products / services as well as all the internal customers.  While this is not a new concept it may be time to stop and reflect on what people need from you and your team.  When we are busy keeping up with all our tasks we can easily lose sight of why we are doing the things we are doing.  To make sure we are on track and doing the right things we must understand our customers.

To ensure your efforts are in line with what your customers need start with your closest customers.  Who inside your organization does your team support?  What do they need from you?  Have you asked their manager how things are going; is there something more that would help them do their jobs easier?  Having a frank conversation with them might reveal that some of the things you are providing are nice to haves but really add no value to your customer.  Here’s something that you may be able to stop doing.  You may find out that if your team provides a bit more, or on a slightly different schedule it would make it possible for your customer to get their job done more efficiently.  This improves the company as a whole.  Focus on what the internal customers need and you will find ways to improve the business as a whole.

Next, focus on the end-user of your organization’s products or services.  You may see these people every day if you are in a customer facing position.  Often however, we are several steps removed from the ultimate customer.  Do you know who the target customer is?  Do you know what they value in your products?  What makes them pick your company over another?  If you can get clear on these issues you may be able to find opportunities within your team’s scope of work to make changes that improve the customer’s value and save you time and money.  Without a clear understanding of the end customer making changes can cause you to miss the mark on your improvements.

In the daily hustle and bustle it is easy to just do what you’ve always done.  However, the world is always evolving and needs shift over time.  Make sure you are staying on course by checking in with your customers to see that you and your team are providing the things that will add value to them.  Strive to improve the experience your customer has with each contact.  Looking ahead to what is valuable to your customers will give insight into what you need to do.  To do this, start by getting to know your customer.

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Cheer the Team onto Increased Productivity

In a world where we have so much to work can all be a grind with little or no relief for the team.  This will wreck your team’s productivity, engagement and quality of work.  The harder the push is to get things done, the more important it is to step back once in a while and relax.  As a team leader part of your role is to be a cheerleader who encourages the team.  Short, fun team times can really help re-energize everyone and make it easier to get through all the stuff ahead.  It also will help each person feel appreciated and that their sacrifices are recognized.

So with all the deadlines looming, how do you find the time to stop and smell the roses?  It can be very easy and cost effective to make a little fun time for the team.  Keep in mind it should be voluntary to attend and if everyone is working long hours stay away from making time after work hours.  Another disclaimer, make sure what you choose is in line with your companies culture.  So here are a few suggestions to help de-stress and have a little fun:

  1. Buy lunch for the team and keep work out of the room for 30 minutes.  Get pizza and salads delivered, spring for soda and water.  Lead the conversation about funny things that have happened to you.  Keep the stories appropriate and free from HR land mines.  Laughing at yourself will help the team relax and learn more about you.
  2. Have breakfast brought in before a team meeting.  Enjoy some coffee, donuts / bagels, and fresh fruit along with some light conversation about non-project topics.  Taking 15 minutes to get everyone fueled up will help get things going later.  Make sure you manage the time without seeming to rush the coffee break.
  3. Have an afternoon break where everyone gets 15 minutes or so to have a snack and unwind before the end of the day push.
  4. Celebrate office birthdays once a month.  Gather everyone in a conference room mid-afternoon and enjoy a short break and some cake.  Recognize everyone who has a birthday that month. 
  5. Take 15 minutes or less each week to recognize the progress that has been made so far.  Make it an upbeat pep talk that focuses on how far you’ve come and that you will get through the tough days.

Most people are willing to work harder than they expected to if they feel appreciated.  When we slave away and all we hear is that there is more to be done there is little motivation to keep at it.  Have a little fun once in a while, recognize the hard work and provide pep talks to keep spirits up.  You will find that your mindset improves as does your teams.

What things have you done to keep your team energized during the tough times?

Photo from iStockPhoto.com

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Quote for July 17th

Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.
Steve Jobs

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Quality and Productivity

“Quality is not an act. It is a habit.” – Aristotle.

I often hear “I don’t have time to do it right”.   How does that work?  If you do something just to get done and you are not paying attention to getting it right then there is a high chance of creating the need to do it again.  This is counter to productivity.  Yet this mindset persists.

How can you fight the need to get things done quickly and the need to get it right, so it’s only done once?  Here are a few tips based on Deming’s quality cycle (Deming Cycle):

  1. Plan:  Before you start take a minute to be sure you know what is required of the task.  Clarity on expectations is one of the biggest keys to ensuring things are only done once.  If you are not sure what is needed then you should ask for clarification on the final product.  It gets frustrating to turn over a project only to have it returned for corrections.
  2. Do:  When you get started on a task make sure you have what you need to do the job correctly.  If you need input from others, collect it.  If you need materials, make sure they are on hand when you start.  If you need data or information, gather it first.  This allows you to keep the task moving smoothly.  As well, you won’t need to go back to add or correct something later.
  3. Check:  Review your work to make sure you completed everything that was in the expectations.  It takes a few minutes to proof read a document, verify the data in the report, or ensure an object is assembled properly.
  4. Act: If you find that certain assignments often need rework or cannot be completed correctly, look at the reason why that’s happening.  Is it due to incomplete instruction, insufficient resources, or lack of time?  If so, then go back to the beginning and get clarity on what is expected, make sure you have what is needed to accomplish the task, or negotiate the due date to ensure sufficient time is available.

While these principles of quality are normally applied to manufacturing or other business processes they are applicable to your daily tasks.  Taking a few extra minutes to ensure the quality of your work will save you time associated with rework.

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