Learning About Quality From Counter-culture

This is a guest post by Nicole Radziwill, an assistant professor in the Department of  Integrated Science and Technology at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. She writes about research in the quality field, quality consciousness, and innovation on her blog, Quality and Innovation. Nicole is also an ASQ Influential Voices blogger.

What can you learn about quality in the middle of a counter-cultural gathering in the desert? A lot. And that’s just the start.

Quality and innovation can be managed, but transformation must be catalyzed by new insights and experiences. It’s the process of inner transformation that allows us to see possibilities for creating future value.

On August 24, my partner and I embarked on our annual trek to the Burning Man festival to be transformed. Burning Man is a yearly gathering of hundreds of thousands of people in the harsh wilderness of the Black Rock Desert in northwestern Nevada, U.S.

Temple of Grace at Burning Man 2014. Image Credit: John David Tupper (photographerinfocus.com)

We joined 70,000 others in the creation of Black Rock City, a temporary community dedicated to art, technology, and radical self-expression that is dismantled (leaving no trace) a week later. The entire city is decommodified. No money is exchanged at all; however, gifts are given frequently. If you need something, it’s expected that you ask around. Someone will provide it! The community is guided by 10 Principles that include participation, communal effort, and civic responsibility.

A Quality-Minded Approach: A quality-minded approach is essential. You’ll be in the desert for several days, so you need to bring sufficient food and water. Your shelter must withstand mud, extreme heat, hypothermia-inducing cold, and dust storms with hurricane-force winds. You need to make sure you don’t forget anything; you can’t just run to the store and quickly pick something up.

Basic Quality Tools: Some of our camp mates learned this the hard way. When we arrived, they were building a 30-footdiameter geodesic dome. It would serve as the base of operations for a neurogaming event, which challenges two players wearing EEG headsets to see who can get into a meditative state the fastest. As they unpacked their gear, the discussion became heated.

“Where’s the projector? It’s the most important part of our installation!”

Without a projector, the competitors’ scores could not be displayed to the crowd. No one could find the projector.

The project manager asked, “Who was in charge of the checklist?”

Team members glanced quizzically at each other.

“What checklist? What do you mean?”

Unfortunately, basic quality tools weren’t part of their pre-trip planning.

“Didn’t you make a checklist so you’d be sure not to forget mission critical things like… the projector?!”

Fortunately, they found another camp willing to provide a projector on loan for a couple days.

Waste and Value: Burning Man also trains me to think about waste in a totally different way. There are no trash cans, so what you bring in you must pack out. You can’t dump gray water on the ground due to Bureau of Land Management requirements — it has to be packed out, too. Loose hairs are also considered MOOP (Matter Out Of Place).  I found myself choosing canned drinks instead of bottles (which are easier to safely crush and recycle), sparingly transferring dishwater of varying hues between dishes of varying dirtyness, preparing only enough food for each meal (and eating it all!), and being extra careful combing out my hair. In a socially and environmentally conscious community, I didn’t want to leave any MOOP.

The “out of place” component of the MOOP term is also very instructive because it encourages you to consider whether you’re dealing with true waste, or something that just needs to be somewhere else to add value. (Could MOOP become an established term in the quality profession?)

Embracing Variation and Innovation: What I love most about Burning Man, though, is that you are continually surrounded by technological innovation and beauty — all contributed by the participants. Interactive art installations are scattered throughout the city. For example, one night we sat in a “binaural beats therapy” pod, the size of a cargo van, that provided a light and sound show that stimulated a sensory deprivation environment. The environment encourages you to temporarily embrace variation, experience freedom from marketing and economic transactions, and practice giving, receiving, and expressing gratitude.

To quote another attendee: “To celebrate the collective expression and actualization of an entire city is nothing short of transformational. That’s what happens every second of every day on the playa. No one is just pushing paper or wasting time doing something they don’t want to be doing.”

Key Takeaway For Quality: This exploratory culture has been spreading around the globe for the past few years. Regional events can provide anyone with the opportunity to participate in this experiential, transformational culture that catalyzes innovation.

But you don’t need to attend an event as radical as Burning Man. You can find hints of quality and even transformation in any offbeat event near you. Quality isn’t something restricted to an office or manufacturing floor.

How can we implement liberating environments like this — that drive purpose, value, and meaning–while retaining a focus on quality?

Posted in Case Study, Current Events, Uncategorized, culture, innovation, transformation | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Charting A Strategy For Quality–And Beyond

Before joining ASQ, I spent my entire career in the U.S. Army. As you may guess, strategy was an essential part of my education.  I was fortunate to attend the British Army Staff College and the Naval War College, the Army having given up educating me at an early age. I had the chance to help develop and implement strategy at several stages in my career.

In recent months I have had the opportunity to work with the ASQ Strategic Planning Committee and see how the board and the staff work together to develop ASQ’s strategy.  I have been impressed by the passion, openness, and collaboration that characterized our process.

I am someone who loves the study of strategy and I firmly believe that the underlying principles of strategy apply to almost any field of endeavor, whether you’re working in a corporation, a nonprofit, a small business, an NGO, an educational institution, healthcare–you name it.

The purpose of strategy, after all, is to answer this question: How do you get from where you are to where you want to be?  What is your path?  How are you going to get there, what steps do you need to take, and in what order?

This month, I’d like to offer five key questions about strategy that you may find useful as you work on your own strategic planning. These principles served me well when I was in uniform, and I think they will serve ASQ well now.

One caveat: Determine how much time you have to spend on strategy and act accordingly. We all must get things done, so we must not fall to “paralysis by analysis.” We can only admire the problem for so long. A good rule of thumb many of us learned in the military is the one-third, two-thirds rule.  Each level of command (or management) takes one-third of the allotted planning time and leaves two-thirds to their subordinates.  If each level of command disciplines itself to that standard, there will be a fair allocation of planning time for everyone.

1.  What are your key facts and assumptions? All strategies are based on certain essential facts and assumptions. My suggestion: Write down your facts and assumptions.  Having them in your head isn’t enough. Expose them to the scrutiny of your boss and your colleagues.  If one of your key assumptions is the availability of a certain material, is it safe to assume it will be available to you at the price and in the quantity you need?  Finally, be especially aware of hidden assumptions—these are dangerous.   It’s an assumption you may take as a given, but, in fact, it may not be.

2.  What is your theory of victory? That is a way of saying,  okay, let’s say you can accomplish all the components of your strategy- will it get you to where you want to go?  There are many examples of both nations and corporations successfully accomplishing the vital aspects of their strategy only to find their theory about where it would get them was fundamentally flawed.

3. Can you actually accomplish each aspect of your strategy? I call this the feasibility test. Something in your strategy may sound good, “be first to market,” or “cut our price by 50%,” but can you actually do it?  If the honest answer is no, it cannot be part of your strategy.

4. Is your organization doing things that sit outside your strategy? These things may be good to do, but if they seem to be outside your strategy you should question them.  They are consuming resources – time, people, and money–, but you are not balancing their cost and benefit compared to the rest of your strategy.  I am very suspicious of activities that seem to be outside my strategic framework.

5. Have you left enough planning time to test your strategy? You must test your strategy before you deploy it.  The testing might be as sophisticated as thousands of computer-run simulations or it may be as simple as a bunch of your best staff people sitting around a table trying to poke holes in your strategy.  Ask others, especially other leaders, for feedback on your strategy before it’s finalized and presented.  I have learned that an 80% solution that has been tested can often be quickly improved and you will be far better off than a more polished product that is deployed with little or no testing.

That’s my approach to strategy. What’s your approach–in your organization, your business, your professional association, or even in your personal life?

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August Roundup: What’s The Future of Quality?

Last month, ASQ’s Influential Voices bloggers wrestled with a big question: What road will quality take in the future? In his August blog post, ASQ CEO, Bill Troy laid out two scenarios—one evolutionary and one revolutionary.  Some bloggers took one view or the other, while others explored how the counterpoints merge or complement each other. Take a look.

Evolutionary: Anshuman Tiwari writes that quality is evolutionary by nature, not revolutionary, and that’s fine. Edwin Garro notes that “we quality professionals surely are the basic units of an autopoietic system“–that is, one that can reproduce and maintain itself as necessary. Jennifer Stepniowski writes that a cautious revolutionary approach that doesn’t forget its roots generally thrives. And John Priebe adds that an evolutionary approach is superior to a revolutionary one.

Revolutionary: Aimee Sigler proposes that sustainability is the truly revolutionary idea in quality. Rajan Thiyagarajan makes the case that the future of quality will be revolutionary–as does Nicole Radziwill.  ”We’re going to need new models for business, new models for education, and new models for living if we are to satisfy the stated and implied needs of an increasingly interconnected Internet of people and things,” she writes. And Don Brecken sees the future of quality as a battle.

Both/And: Manu Vora predicts that the future of quality will be 80% evolutionary and 20% revolutionary. Jimena Calfa argues that the future of quality will be both revolutionary and evolutionary. Bob Mitchell also says the future of quality will be both–resulting in “resulting in uneven incremental, breakthrough and disruptive levels of performance improvement.”

Neither? Scott Rutherford asks if conditions exist for a quality revolution, finding that they do not, as quality is rarely part of educational curriculum.

John Hunter writes that the key to predicting the future of quality lies in the decisions made in the executive suite. Lotto Lai looks at the future of quality through the lens of the film “The Matrix.”

Guy Wallace writes about the role of marketing principles in the future of ASQ.

Dan Zrymiak believes that quality is moving from control and performance excellence to emphasizing innovation.

Michael Noble notes that the consumer has a key role in defining the future of quality: “But let me argue that ultimately change will not be driven just from within the professional community because the real driver of change comes from public demand on one issue or another.”

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Data From Forbes Insights and ASQ Points to Culture of Quality

This is a guest post by Laurel Nelson-Rowe, managing director at ASQ.

We didn’t bring up the topic—he did.

The “he” was Jorge Gerdau Johannpeter, Brazilian business leader, chairman of Gerdau S.A., and ASQ Juran Medalist, among his many roles and honors.

The “we” was the ASQ contingent: ASQ board chair Stephen Hacker, ASQ board member Joal Teitelbaum, and myself.

And the topic? Culture of quality. It was clear that culture of quality was far more than an abstract idea for seasoned executive Gerdau, as he noted at the PGQP annual conference in Porto Alegre, Brazil, a few weeks ago.

Why has culture of quality been a top searched topic on asq.org, the subject of a recent Harvard Business Review article, and a theme of ASQ’s 2013 Global State of Quality report?

Well, for Gerdau, it is top-of-mind because a culture of quality, with a strong, shared values base; with a strong executive leadership vision, voice and behavior; and with purposeful ties to business and to life objectives, is essential.

And, he went even further. A corporate quality culture connects to innovation and to sustainability outcomes and opportunities in the 21st century. It helps businesses to work with academic and government institutions and achieve through collaboration.

I found myself wondering if Gerdau has already read the Forbes Insights-ASQ Culture of Quality: Accelerating Growth and Performance in the Enterprise white paper? He couldn’t have—the report was just released.

So, now, it’s your turn. Read the white paper, produced in collaboration with Forbes Insights and ASQ.  You may have participated in the Forbes Insights research, which had led to this first report.

Take a look—gauge your responses on behalf of your organization against 2,300 other voices. Point to important data points, question questions, critique your culture, and accelerate your enterprise through quality.

And let us know your top-of-mind.

Posted in Forbes Insights Culture of Quality, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Future of Quality: Evolutionary or Revolutionary?

In 1835, Alexis De Tocqueville, a French political writer, wrote his classic work, Democracy in America.  His observations about America were a fascinating window into the times and issues of the day.  Part of the power of his observations was his detached perspective.  He could stay above the intense political currents, prejudices, and passions of the times and report on what he saw and heard.  His writings still resonate today and tell us about the American character and culture.

I am a little bit like Mr. De Tocqueville, abroad in a foreign land, albeit not as articulate, learned, or astute.  In this case, the land is the quality community. As a newcomer to the quality field, I don’t have an insider’s grasp of the culture, language, or heritage, but I have a great admiration for your passion for quality.

While being a visitor can be frustrating and confusing, I hope you will see it also gives me the advantage of a certain amount of objectivity.  The quality community has many different constituencies, each with its own perspective.  There is broad agreement on some things and sharp disagreements about others.

One of the things I bring to this post is my respect for what you know and what you do.  I came from a military background where you quickly learn that standards and certifications are serious business.  Being in a field such as yours, where we also value learning, standards and certifications, feels noble and right to me, and I bring the advantage of a certain detachment from one particular quality perspective, which I hope will serve the community and ASQ well.

One of my early observations is that I believe there are two very distinct views about the future of quality we need to at least acknowledge, if not actually reconcile.

Evolutionary change: I would describe one view as the ascribing to evolutionary change.  The quality movement has been immensely important and successful in many fields and will continue to grow and evolve, but will do so in recognizable and well-defined ways.  We will move down traditional paths but reach new destinations and make new inroads into fields that are underserved today. We will keep doing what we do well and find ways to do it even better.

Revolutionary change: I would call the second view as seeing revolutionary change in the future of quality.  Some of the ways we brought value to our businesses, industries, and communities will have to fundamentally change.  We will have to bring value to the C-suite as much as to the production line. We must have tools that will facilitate a meaningful contribution at ever more senior levels to make the impact our customers and colleagues want.  Knowledge, which we value so highly and have worked so hard to gather, organize, and refine, must be shared much more freely in the age of new media.  Even what we describe as quality may be subsumed by different umbrella terms such as “organizational excellence or “risk management.”

I predict a lively debate in the days ahead and I look forward to reporting what I see and hear among you who hold the keys to our future in your hands.

In the meantime, what do you think? How will the future of quality unfold?

Posted in ASQ, Current Events, case for quality, culture | Tagged , , | 22 Comments

July Roundup: What’s the Purpose of Vision?

Everyone agrees that a clear organizational focus is important, but how is it best achieved? In July, ASQ’s Influential Voices bloggers responded to a prompt about the clarity of focus at Volvo and Ikea, and offered their thoughts on how to achieve and articulate an organizational purpose.

What is vision and why is it important? Tim McMahon writes about the role of PDCA in finding organizational True North. Manu Vora says vision is an organization’s dream of the future. Jimena Calfa defines the differences between vision and mission. Babette Ten Haken writes about developing foresight as a leader. And John Priebe writes about the importance figuring out your direction before putting together the road map.

Is a vision really important? John Hunter writes that vision can be meaningful, but is often just pretty words. Guy Wallace is also wary of a formal vision statement—define one, but stay quiet about it, he says.

Which organizations have a clear vision? Dr. Lotto Lai writes about the vision and mission of two organizations in Hong Kong. Nicole Radziwill unexpectedly discovered a quality ethic during a trip to Japan. Bob Mitchell writes about 3M’s vision. Rajan Thiyagarajan writes about vision and clarity at Apple.

Jennifer Stepniowski writes about the success of Subaru’s vision. Dan Zrymiak ponders whether there is such a thing as a Scandinavian model of quality. Anshuman Tiwari gives three examples of companies in which he has worked that have a clear vision and what it accomplished.

On that note, both Scott Rutherford and Edwin Garro examine ASQ’s own mission and vision.

And finally, James Lawther suggests that vision is simply something you’re good at and that also helps people.

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Learning About Social Media With ASQ Bloggers

Maybe you’ve heard that blogging or using social media can help further your career and business. This month, ASQ Influential Voices bloggers are sharing their thoughts on the benefits of blogging and social media use–and where to start if you’re interested in doing the same.

Google+ Hangout July 23: On Wednesday, July 23, ASQ is hosting a Google+ Hangout about the value of social media to quality professionals. The Hangout will be held at noon Central Time (U.S.) and also recorded for post-event viewing. We’ll be speaking with some of the ASQ Influential Voices bloggers, including Dan Zrymiak, Jennifer Stepniowski, Edwin Garro, and Babette Ten HakenWatch the Hangout or get more details.

Updated July 28: Watch a recording of the Hangout!

Blog Boom: And you want a deeper dive into the hows and whys of blogging, readthe article “Blog Boom” in July Quality Progress. It’s an in-depth conversation with ASQ Influential Voices bloggers Dan Zrymiak, Jennifer Stepniowski, Mark Graban, Jimena Calfa, and John Hunter.

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Establishing a Culture of Excellence: A Conversation With Arun Hariharan

Arun Hariharan is a quality, knowledge management, and performance management practitioner. He has worked with several large companies and is the founder and CEO of The CPi Coach.

Written for both quality practitioners and business leaders, his latest book, Continuous Permanent Improvement (Quality Press, 2014), is a strategic distillation of experiences, anecdotes, stories, case studies, and lessons learned from successes and mistakes in nearly three decades of experience.

Hariharan has worked with business processes, systematic thinking, customer focus, quality, and performance measurements in a variety of companies and industries as diverse as financial services, telecom, manufacturing, conglomerate, and management consulting.

He spoke with ASQ about key lessons in establishing a culture of continuous permanent improvement.

Q. You talk often in your book about the need to establish a culture of excellence at an organization as a way to ensure success. Others would use profitability or market-share as a way to gauge success. How do excellence and profitability work together to define success in an organization?

Arun Hariharan: In a business, clearly, profitability and market-share are key measures of success. A culture of excellence is an important enabler to achieve financial results – in any event – to achieve them in a sustained way. A culture of excellence will ensure that the organization is proactive and does not miss any improvement opportunity. It can be said that financial results are the end and a culture of excellence is an important means of achieving this end – that’s how they work together.

I would like to use the example of Toyota and another automobile manufacturer (that shall remain unnamed out of respect for the dead!). Both started their automobile manufacturing operations around the same time some decades ago. Toyota decided to follow the path of excellence.

The other company, because it enjoyed a monopoly for many years in its market, made good money for several years despite palming off a shoddy quality product. The party lasted as long as customers had no choice. In the 1980s competition set in, but this company still refused to pay attention to quality or excellence. It believed that it would always have a bunch of “loyal” customers despite its poor quality and despite competitors offering better value.

The reality turned out to be very different. From the very first year that competition set in, the company that did not believe in excellence started losing market-share, eventually going bankrupt. An announcement of its shutting down appeared recently. On the other hand, Toyota, a company that believes in a culture of excellence, is a world-leader in profitability and market share.

Q. How big of a role should upper management play in establishing a culture of excellence versus regular employees?

AH: Upper management is the biggest make or break factor in establishing a culture of excellence. More than merely telling people that excellence is important, it is important to demonstrate to employees that upper management means this. The best way to convince employees is for senior people to actually get involved and spend time in excellence.

For example, I know CEOs who have spent time month after month for years in reviewing quality and customer related performance measures – with the same seriousness with which they review revenue and profits. Another important thing that upper management must do is to ensure that employees’ performance appraisals, starting with the CEO, include measures related to excellence – and that people’s bonuses and growth in the company are actually linked to this.

Perhaps the most important element in establishing the culture of excellence is for upper management to create an atmosphere where employees genuinely feel encouraged, not afraid, to make quality problems, defects and customer-complaints visible, so that they can be solved and prevented.

Q. Is there one particular tool or tools that you recommend are used every day in an organization that wants to commit to establishing a culture of excellence?

AH: We found that if strategic COPIS, root cause analysis, value stream mapping and simply listening to customers can become the organization’s habits rather than merely seen as tools to be used by a few, they will go a long way in establishing a culture of excellence.

Q. How should leaders capture, retain and apply organizational knowledge gathered in the pursuit of excellence?

AH: I look at customer-voice (which could include complaints or data obtained by surveys) as the most important part of organizational knowledge gathered in the pursuit of excellence. Once this knowledge is captured, some of the methods described in my recent book (such as root cause analysis to get to the root of the problem, identify the solution, and make the solution permanent by embedding it into the process) could be applied.

Another important part of organizational knowledge that we found worth retaining and replicating is completed excellence initiatives, including formal quality improvement projects. For example, an improvement project done in one part of the organization could be easily replicated in other locations if the organization has a structured way of capturing, storing, retrieving and applying relevant organizational knowledge.

Posted in Automotive, Management, Quality, Uncategorized, case for quality, culture | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

June Roundup: What’s the Value of Organizational Excellence Programs?

In June, ASQ CEO Bill Troy asked the Influential Voices bloggers about the value of organizational excellence programs such as the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in the U.S . What can a company learn after undergoing this exercise—even if an organization is not in the running for an award or external recognition?

ASQ’s bloggers assessed the value of excellence awards—from going through the exercise as part of continuous improvement to following through after winning (or losing). See their blog posts below.

Tim McMahon lists five practical ways to make the most of organizational awards—such as “use the feedback.”

Jennifer Stepniowski suggests a thought exercise: Apply award criteria to your organization even if you’re not applying for the award. In fact, Nicole Radziwill adds that you don’t need to use or implement all sections of the Baldrige criteria for it to yield immediate tangible value for your organization.

Dan Zrymiak assesses organizational awards in terms of a public relations exercise versus a genuine improvement tool. Anshuman Tiwari compares an organizational excellence journey to training for and running a marathon.

Scott Rutherford suggests SIPOC as a tool for organizational excellence. And Manu Vora writes about his extensive career experience with organizational excellence.

Some excellence programs are based on the Malcolm Baldrige model, but there are a number of other business excellence awards. Lotto Lai outlines the Hong Kong Quality Award. Rajan Thiyagarajan writes about the India-based Tata’s business excellence model.

And Jimena Calfa reflects on the next steps after winning (or not winning) an award. The journey doesn’t stop when you submit the application. It has only begun.

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Do You Have a Clear Vision?


European Organization for Quality Annual Congress: As I returned on Lufthansa Flight 436 from Gothenburg, Sweden, I found myself reflecting on some of the big ideas I was exposed to while attending the European Organization for Quality’s 58th Annual Congress this past June.  The Conference was organized by EOQ, the International Academy for Quality (IAQ) and several Swedish quality organizations.  Our Swedish hosts showed us the most gracious hospitality.  Sweden, as you well know, is an incredibly beautiful country and Gothenburg is a city that is both modern and historic.  With English spoken so commonly, it was a breeze to get around, and everyone we encountered was courteous and friendly.  I would like to briefly tell you about three presentations I attended and the one big idea I got out of each one.

Solving Current Problems vs. Preventing Occurrence: The first was Professor Noriaki Kano, an elected fellow of ASQ and the recipient of two ASQ Medals of Distinction: the E. Jack Lancaster Medal for 2002, and the E. L. Grant Medal for 2007.  He is one of the most respected voices on quality in the world.  He traced for us the history of the quality movement, and how Dr. Deming’s concepts were largely ignored here in the U.S. but found a receptive audience in Japan.  He posed a question for us at once simple and telling.  What’s more important, he asked: to solve the current problems you are facing or to prevent their future reoccurrence?

Well, when you ask a group of accomplished quality professionals that question, they naturally tend to start thinking about root cause analysis and finding metrics to help them see where you are going wrong, etc.  About two-thirds of the audience answered that prevention of future reoccurrence of the problem was key.  With a bit of a twinkle in his eye, Dr. Kano emphatically said “NO!  Your house is burning down; you have to put out the fire first.  Only then can you think about preventing a fire in the future.”  The idea I took away from this is that quality tools and principles are not just theoretical knowledge that may help solve some as yet unknown problems in the future.  They are every bit as much for today’s urgent issues and challenges: in our businesses, our communities, and our respective countries.  Quality is not magic, but quality tools can help right now with our toughest problems and it is a good thing for us to remember.

The Success of Ikea: The second presentation was from a gentleman from Ikea, Mr. Ulf Gustavsson.  Ikea has thrived for many reasons, but one reason, according to Mr. Gustavsson, is that Ikea stays in touch with its customers. By that, I mean they give customers what they want–stylish, practical products that are “cost-conscious.” (He explained that the word “cheap” is considered a curse word at Ikea and is never used!) They constantly think about the customer’s experience from the time customers get out of their cars, to finding what they need, to getting Swedish meatballs in the café.  Part of the process of staying in touch with the customer is that every executive at Ikea spends one week a year working in a job that puts him or her in direct contact with customers.  My take-away on this ethic of customer focus was summarized in a key question that Ikea continually asks, “Where and when is customer satisfaction created for your offer?”  That’s a really powerful question.  It forces you to think through what the customer is experiencing and where and when he or she will find satisfaction.

The Vision of Volvo: Finally, we went to the Volvo factory.  I have never been to an automobile factory before, so it was cool to see the big stamping machines and welding robots do their thing.  My takeaway, however, did not come from the factory.  It came from a visit to the Volvo Visitors Center, and the Volvo representative telling us about the evolution of safety features in Volvos, demonstrating their latest safety developments, and explaining the priority safety holds for Volvo.

My big take-away from this visit was discovering the clearest organizational vision statement I have ever come across, which Volvo calls Vision 2020.  It states simply, “by 2020, nobody shall be seriously injured or killed in a new Volvo.”  Think about that for a minute. They are saying that by the year 2020 (not that long away) you cannot be killed or seriously injured if you are in a new Volvo, no matter the circumstances of the collision.

The Key Takeaway: I came away moved by the power and clarity the vision can bring.  This focus on safety gives Volvo purpose and direction. It helps Volvo prioritize everything they do.  That’s what I found so enlightening.  We all understand focus isn’t going to solve all your problems for you.  If Volvo makes cars that are too expensive for their market, or lack the features people want, it won’t succeed as a business.  But there is only so much organizational energy, and if it is evenly distributed, you’ll never have a breakthrough.  There has to be focus–and a real vision brings real focus.

Here at ASQ I have been talking a lot about focus as we go through our strategic planning process.  Do we have the right focus and does everyone know it?  How about your organization?   Do you have a clear vision—and is it giving you the focus you need to succeed?

Posted in case for quality, conferences, culture | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments