Learning to Change

embrace-change

“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”George Bernard Shaw

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”Rumi

“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.”Wayne W. Dyer

Change is one of life’s most common denominators. Along with Benjamin Franklin’s famous “death and taxes” statement, you could add change to the list of those items in life that are predictable, that are certain.

No matter where you find yourself today, no matter what path you may be on at this moment, one thing stands true: it will change at some point in time.

I’ve spent more than twenty years in Silicon valley, working with start up companies as well as more established, mature organizations. In every instance, change was present. I’d like to share some thoughts with you regarding change as it relates to life and career.

1. Change happens. As previously stated, I can guarantee you that change is coming to your life. Lest you believe that what you are doing today, and how you are doing it, will (or should) never change, let me assure you–it will. Change is inevitable; it is a part of our lives, both as individuals as well as with our organizations.

2. Those who handle change well can thrive.  Think of it as an evolutionary skill.  Adapt and survive, or stay put and don’t survive.  My experience has taught me that if I want to be successful, no matter what the job may be, I need to be able to adapt, to learn, to change.  There’s a proper time and place for consistency, for predictability, for routine–please know that I value these as well, and I understand their place in our lives, as well as within our organizations.  But in addition to those things, the ability to handle change is what allows us the maximum opportunity for success.  It’s not merely having an open mind, but more so the ability to perceive the needs present within change, and determine the best corrective route to address and respond to change–to be responsive.

3.  Get creative quickly.  In my previous couple of roles I was in a traditional office environment–I had an office, and had the ability to close my door for meetings or telephone calls that required my attention or a focused conversation.  In my current role I am in a start up organization–housed in a vintage historic building that was once a movie theater.  It’s an open air seating arrangement, with common areas for collaboration or ad hoc meetings.  Even our CEO doesn’t have an office.  When I first arrived, I’ll admit I was thrown off by the noise and activity levels swirling around me.  Since then, I’ve learned to focus, leaning heavily on my earphones, and I have a seat near a wall and window which affords me a compromise between my new surroundings and my history.  I hardly notice the difference today, but getting to this point required me to adapt, to change.  Not that I don’t miss my offices from time to time (well, okay, I DO miss my plants, and my treasured artwork from my kids on my office walls) but I’m okay with the relatively new environment.  And I’ve learned to use the outdoors for telephone calls, or duck into the local coffee shop below our office to break up the day when needed.

4.  Learn from those around you.  I can’t stress this one enough.  No one fools themselves  more than the person who believes they alone have all the answers.  You really don’t believe you know everything, do you?  The longer I live, the more I realize how much I don’t know.  You need to be ready to learn new concepts, new ideas, from those around you.  I’m in the middle of a very talented group of people, both here and at home!  I learn new things everyday from my colleagues, my boss and my family members, and I’m thankful for the inputs.  I’m responsible for my role, both with the Operations team of my company, as well as husband and father at home, but I can become so much better at whatever I’m doing when I am willing to learn from those around me.  No need to “go it alone” with respect to change.

If you’ve gotten this far through this brief post, I’m going to lose your attention soon.  I understand, and I won’t even take it personally.   Be ready for change.  It’s coming.

“I wanted to change the world.  But I have found that the only thing one can be sure of changing is oneself.”Aldous Huxley

Hamster wheels and Marathons.

hamster-wheel-03.600If you read any of my blog posts and have wondered why I disappeared, I apologize.

I enjoy writing as it allows me to express myself and put “on paper” a fair amount of stuff floating around in my head (and heart) at various points in time.  But over the last couple of months (since January, really) I’ve been busy…too busy at times even to write.  And it seems, each time I try to carve out some space to be alone with my writings, I have been either interrupted or mentally challenged and unable to focus.  I know you know exactly what I am talking about…we’ve all been there.

Work and life in general can get to a crazy level of busyness at times.  I transitioned in my work life from a smaller, consumer goods start-up that I had been with the last three years, to a high-tech, “Internet of Things” company on a fast track with a major corporate parent company this past January….and life’s been a little crazy in the process.  I’m working with some genius level people with great ideas (product ideas) that will make life as we know it change dramatically over the next few years.  It’s pretty cool tech and some forward (almost Orwellian) thinking about our quality of life, what we do and how we live life.  In the not too distant future (aka this year) you’ll likely see products that I’ve had a hand in bringing to market appear on your television sets and in your local electronics retailers…very cool stuff that can improve your life, ease some every day stresses and will merge technology with your physical world.  Enough said–it’s exciting stuff.

At times, life in a start-up can feel very much like a perpetual hamster wheel...a lot of movement, without necessarily getting from point A to point B.   There are many (too many at times) “cooks in the kitchen”  and everyone offers their take on the latest project you are working on.  The office environment is wide open, and at times the noise level, given the activity level, can get downright crazy (thank God for noise canceling headphones).  In my particular case, I work in a renovated old school theater from the 1930’s (I’m guessing), in a downtown area about 3 or 4 blocks from the Stanford University campus.  It’s a busy place, to be sure, and the demand and pace of such an enterprise isn’t for the faint of heart.  I’ve done this kind of thing now for almost more than 25 years and plan to write a book about my experiences, all of which have been in Silicon Valley.

Given this pace of recent months, I have had to learn (anew) how to “gear down”, slow my own pace during my off hours, to try to balance life a little.  In my younger days, I’d just continue to run, but now, at this stage in life, I’m starting to appreciate more the journey than the arrival destination.  That’s important for me, personally and professionally, as it should be to you also.

Learning to appreciate and embrace where you are while you are there can tremendously improve your outlook on life.  I had this thought recently as I arrived home to find my wife attempting to build a security gate for our dog (something to keep Jazmine further in the back area of our home with less access to the front gates of the house).  I jumped on this project to relieve her struggle (my wife will take on just about anything–she’s pretty handy with most power tools) and because it provided me with a complete diversion from my day-to-day duties in the high-tech world.  I thoroughly enjoyed the project and the gate worked out well (great design by my wife, and I’ll take credit for the installation and locking mechanism)…and I can incorporate a piece of my company’s tech into it as well, just for fun and to keep tabs on Jazmine (sorry Jazzy–really, I do trust you).  And the life lesson is simple–find ways to keep a balance in your life.  Busy is fine and needed at times (busy and productive, not just busy, by the way, but that’s another topic)–but it’s good to balance life, to enjoy the journey and to pace yourself.  The longer I am here the more convinced I am that we are all in a long distance marathon, not a sprint race.

Having a Mentor

mentor

Taken from Wikipedia:

“Mentoring” is a process that always involves communication and is relationship based, but its precise definition is elusive. One definition of the many that have been proposed, is:
“Mentoring is a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career, or professional development; mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the protégé)”.
Fairly early in my career in Operations I had the benefit of reporting in to a tremendous mentor. I was working in the video game industry, and was hired by a local third party game products company to manage the supply chain activities, much of which revolved around strategic partnerships with several large Asian suppliers.
Although my mentor didn’t necessarily have to do so, he made a point of involving me in many high-powered meetings and trips abroad, both to Europe and the far East, as a part of my role within the company. It was a first hand educational process for me, and over the course of a couple of years the insights, discussions and training that I received were extremely helpful and shaped both my professional career as well as my professional ethics and conduct. The experience of working with this particular mentor (I’ve had the privilege of a couple of such relationships in my career) proved to be both immediately rewarding and valuable later in my life as well.
Recently I made a career move, heading back into a new tech startup full of bright, energetic engineers and staff that are now forging a new wave of technology and products that (I think) will soon shape everyone’s lives in one way or another—it’s just that big…anyway, upon leaving my former employer I wondered if I’d made any impact on my coworkers. A couple of days following my departure I received a card in the mail (very old school), from one of the young guys I had hired there, thanking me for my leadership, training and input in his life—and for getting him started, not only at that particular company, but with respect to his career as well. Without realizing it, I had been a mentor to him. Not only that—I had also yet another mentor in my own life while there—even in a smaller company, still a great opportunity to learn and grow.
Are you mentoring someone now? Making an impact in their life? Here are some suggestions for elements of great mentoring:

1. Great mentors are good communicators. They know how, when and why to communicate. They are generally easy to speak with, to ask questions, and they take time in their responses.
2. Great mentors have something to share. They are knowledge experts, not on every topic, but certainly on some topics. Through their own experience, education and career growth, they can offer insights not always found in the more mundane ways, such as a classroom setting. You can learn something from them.
3. Great mentors are reasonably humble in their approach. They don’t seek to be seen, or necessarily heard, they are sought out. Their wisdom becomes somewhat evident as you get to know them, not due to their own self-promotion.
4. Great mentors are an asset to their organizations. Fairly easy to understand this point—they make a positive difference in the lives of others on the team.
5. Great mentors are great people (based on my experiences). This will usually be the case—part of being a good mentor involves character qualities that are good and positive in other areas of life, not just while at work.

Are you mentoring someone now? Do you have a mentor in your life that is helping you grow, learn and become better not only as an employee but also as a person? We should all cultivate a spirit of mentorship within our lives and work communities. Education and experience are important attributes towards building a strong team, but do not lose sight of the importance of mentorship in your work and your life.  Have a relationship with someone who will teach you, lead you and help you to grow as a person–and do the same for someone else!

Housekeeping??

housekeepingI still laugh when I think about that scene from the movie “Tommy Boy” with the late Chris Farley and David Spade. If you don’t know the movie, and want some light, mindless fun, watch it some night, it’ll make you laugh.

Recently we conducted an end of the year physical inventory and while going through our records and reconciling all the data, the word “housekeeping” came to my mind. Housekeeping is an important part of a good operational plan–a very important part. Let me explain further.

Within Operations, and more specifically Supply Chain Management, we often focus on supplier qualification, capacity, lead times and costs. All of these are important ingredients that need our constant attention when it comes to producing a great product. Redundancy within the supply chain is another area of focus that we spend efforts with, to ensure we have adequate capacity in place as well as contingency plans for any changes or disruptions in our supply chain.

But what about housekeeping? Does your supplier (or contract manufacturer, or 3PL distribution partner) keep a clean house? When was the last time you visited them–possibly even unannounced (or perhaps with a short notice)? And I’m not referring to the cleanliness of their conference room or restrooms, but of their operational areas. This is a facet of supply chain management that is sometimes overlooked. Are materials properly inventoried, labeled and stored? Is it evident through looking at the various areas the type of work that is underway? How about documentation? In order and aligned with reality? These are just some of the questions that come to my mind when thinking about housekeeping as it relates to Operations.

I grew up in a household where there was much routine and order. My parents (although not from a military background) instilled in their children at a very early age the importance of keeping your room clean and in order. We had certain days of the week that were earmarked for certain activities, whether it be laundry, vacuuming, trash duty, etc. and we all had our chores assigned. As a teen it was a royal pain in my backside, but later in life I realized the importance of staying organized, both personally and professionally, and I came to appreciate the values I was taught. The concept stuck with me and grew with me, from just my room, to my house, my personal things (such as my vehicles), my office, and my operational responsibilities (suppliers, warehouses, etc.) in my career.

Great housekeeping can help your organization avoid issues such as incomplete or erroneous data, poor or inefficiency in space management and inventory management, slowed or difficult processes (such as inventory counts) and delayed or ineffective distribution of products through your fulfillment activities.

As you begin the new year, give some thought to housekeeping, and you’ll be rewarded immensely!

Fruitcake.

Fruitcake

I enjoy fruitcake.  There…I said it.

Don’t get me wrong–I completely understand why people don’t like fruitcake.  Some hate the little jellied cherries, some dislike the nuts or raisins, or maybe just the combination of ingredients.  But I like fruitcake.

My mom used to make fruitcakes around the holidays–maybe that’s the connection.  For me, eating fruitcake reminds me of some great family holiday time, growing up in a large family such as mine.  It was something that happened in our house every year.  Over time perhaps, I came to recognize the fruitcake as just a part of the holiday festivities and something my mom did for us.  Even later, after I’d moved out, gotten married, and started my own family, mom would send me some of her fruitcake around the holidays.  No one would dare touch it–nor did they want to.  But no matter, I enjoyed it every time.  My brothers and sister never developed the same taste for fruitcake as I did.  So, it sort of became my thing.  Even my wife and kids, to this day, have no interest in the fruitcake.

The comedian Jim Gaffigan  incorporates fruitcake into part of his monologue….he talks about it, wondering to himself why it is so disliked…he muses that “fruit is good…cake is great….fruitcake = nasty crap”…

Truthfully, fruitcake can be an analogy for many things in life.  We all have stories, we all come from various walks of life, each with our own unique qualities.  Separately, we are all various “ingredients” if you will indulge my thought.  But together, we create something.  Putting together a great team of people is very similar to making a fruitcake.  And with the right combination of ingredients, something unique and yet wonderful can happen, in your home, your company, your team.

Yeah, I know, it’s not a really deep concept, but it works.  And besides, we’re in the holiday season–so please excuse the shallow nature of this short prose.  I hope you’ve had a great year in 2014, and here’s to an even better 2015.  Happy holidays, enjoy some fruitcake, and thank you for reading my posts!

What’s in the Box?

Question-Mark-out-of-Box-1024x1000How’s your OOBA these days?  “Good question…what is it?”  OOBA is an acronym for “out of box audit”.  It involves a final pass that checks for quality, all components required in the product are present, correct firmware is loaded (if this is part of the product in question), the product has been packaged correctly and everything is in place, accounted for, and ready to provide your customer the best possible experience upon receipt.  Generally, this FQA (Final Quality Audit) is owned by your Quality group, or by Operations, or perhaps even some combination of both teams.  The purpose of this exercise is to help insure that the product works correctly, looks great (not good–great), and everything necessary for a successful customer experience has been done.

People who work in Operations are familiar with this terminology, and probably more so for those who have worked in companies that produce consumer goods (products that ship to end users directly).  What is your customer going to receive?  That’s certainly one question you should be able to answer confidently.  An even better question might be–What will your customer think of your product?  What will they perceive about your company when they open the product?

Earlier in the year I wrote a small piece about quality, and more specifically, about ownership of quality.  The OOBA is one tool to measure quality internally, but more than that, it is one method to constantly keep your customer’s experience in view.   It’s not only about product quality, it’s one way in which the Operations team can contribute to the customer retention level of any organization.

We’ve all been there–we’ve been pleasantly surprised when we’ve ordered a product and it showed up, pristine in quality, ready to be used, delivered as expected.  We’ve also had those less than stellar experiences when a product arrives that isn’t up to our expectations, or the hype, or what was promised by the company.  Keep the OOBA in mind.  When was the last time you really looked at your product from your customer’s perspective?  This is something important that should be a part of every organization!

Good Customer Service

customer-serviceweek

I’m not a shopper.  Don’t get me wrong, sure, there are some things that I love to look at (the new Harleys, guitars and gear, stuff at the local Sports Authority, camping gear–pretty much anything you can find in the Bass Pro shop)….but I’ll pass every time if I have to compete with the masses at the local shopping mall.

My home is about a mile and a half away from one of the larger shopping malls in northern California.  It’s a beauty as far as shopping malls go (I think)–it went through a complete renovation a little more than a year ago, and has just about every retail store imaginable.   Fortunately for me, I live in an older, established neighborhood with lots of large trees, brick houses, and pretty decent surroundings.  It’s a nice residential area with many of the homes gated and nicely landscaped.  You wouldn’t know the mall was so close to home, but it is.

Recently I was forced (coerced?) into having to visit this mecca of those enticed by such sparkle and prestige.  It was my wife’s birthday, and yes, as much as I’d prefer it, I wasn’t going to shower her with gifts shipped to home from Bass Pro (which I’ve done before, but more about that some other time…lesson learned).  My wife is great at dropping hints as we near October.  As we get closer to her actual birthday, the list is published, and I spring into action.  Fortunately for me I can often count on one or two of my daughters to assist, and they do a great job of running down that particular item or two….I dole out the cash and off they go.  Usually.

But this time, there was a final item or two that I needed to pick up, and to the mall I went.  I won’t name the store or brand, but it was a women’s wallet that rhymes with “roach”.  Yeah, you get the idea.  So there I am, in the mall, at the store.

It’s a Saturday, so I’m dressed in a pair of camo shorts, a favorite T-shirt (I have a couple of those), ball cap and tennis shoes.  Not a big deal, I thought–just a quick stop.  Nope. As I entered the store, the stares I received said it all–that I really shouldn’t be there, and seriously could probably not afford to be there.  I must be lost.

Basically the net of this short story is that I was met with some disdain and a total lack of customer service.  Despite the purchase I was making (and did make), which was substantial (not crazy, but substantial)–the woman that assisted me treated me as though I was an annoyance, that I was fortunate to even have been allowed in the store to begin with.

Here’s the thing:  whatever happened to good, old fashioned customer service?  I get that many people don’t particularly enjoy working in a retail environment.  I understand that sometimes you have a bad day, or maybe you just aren’t feeling well.  Hey, listen, if I’m a jerk, or rude, or in some way treat you wrongly, I get what I deserve.  But if I come to your establishment, I’m reasonably polite, have my money ready to spend, and just really need some help because I am not an expert in women’s fashion or accessories, what’s the big deal?  Why not be polite back?  Help me, take my money and maybe even say thank you for shopping at your fine location.

Maybe it’s just me (one of my kids suggested that I don’t get out enough) but I get the sense that we’re losing our notion of what customer service should be in our society today.  I know that sounds like a huge generalization.  But this isn’t the first time this type of thing has happened, and I get the sense it won’t likely be the last time.

Let’s have a quick reboot on this idea:  customers are needed, people.  They are a necessity, not an annoyance.  It isn’t enough to simply build a better mousetrap.  You’ve got to have customers to have a business.  That’s true for retail and commercial businesses as well.  We all need paying customers too, happy ones…the kind that tell their friends about our great product and great customer service.

Despite this recent episode, we all have had many positive experiences as well–those times we’ve bought a product, but more than that, we came away actually feeling good about the experience.  In business, we should consider the overall experience of the customer, the perception of the company, and where/how/when we can provide the best possible interaction with those that keep us doing what we do.

Handling Criticism

 

criticism

 

 

“To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing and be nothing.” –Elbert Hubbard.

 

How do you handle criticism?  If you’re like me, it depends on a few factors such as the topic of the criticism, the person who is providing the criticism, the value/importance of the criticism and the purpose of the criticism.  Like it or not, one thing we all have in common is that at some point in our career, we will be the recipient of criticism.  So, how do you handle it when it happens to you?  For the purpose of this short perspective, I am referring to valid criticisms.

Recently I was the recipient of some criticism directed towards me regarding the performance of some of my staff.  I listened, offered some responses regarding the particulars and made a point of agreeing with the person who provided me with the input.  I’ll admit it was difficult to absorb, and I came away from the discussion a little disheartened. The messenger was even courteous enough to suggest that I not take it too hard, which I appreciated, but inside, I did.  It felt bad, although it was reasonable and on point, and I walked from the conversation feeling pretty down.

Like a lot of guys (and some gals) in my generation, I grew up playing little league baseball.  For nine seasons I learned the fine art of hitting a curve ball, stretching for errant throws while keeping a foot on first base (my regular position), and dealing with both the triumphs of victory and the painful dismay of losses.  I was a part of teams that played in championships, as well as those that weren’t as fortunate.  But truthfully, I loved every minute of the game.  It was mostly about having fun (for me anyways).

Every season was a different season, and no two years were really ever the same.  Different teammates, different coaches, different team names and colors (my parents still have a framed photo of me, a black and white photo, beaming with pride as I show off my jersey and hat from year one, sporting the words “Lopina Orchards” on the front–our sponsor of the team shirts…yes, San Jose actually had orchards back then).

One lesson that I came away with from my early years was this:  You can’t win them all.  Certainly there is nothing wrong with having a desire to be successful, and I’m as competitive as the next guy ( I organize the fantasy football league for my company) but it’s important for all of us that we recognize there will be losses throughout our career—that’s a given.  And, when we don’t measure up on a particular objective or task, there may also be criticism.

When it does happen, be prepared.  Understand that it is likely not personal (usually it’s not…usually).  And, understand that there is probably some merit to the criticism.  Try to listen and not react immediately with a defensive response.  Take time to understand what is being said, why it’s being said to you, and how/when/where it can be corrected….the key here is to not give up!  Don’t allow the criticism to be the “end of the story” for you.  Take it as an opportunity, and truthfully, it’s okay to be a little thankful to the person that’s delivering the message–it may actually help you become better at what you do. 

In the world today many of us are zealous participants in social media, posting our latest stuff online, texting constantly, writing emails by the score, and sending out updates through Twitter and Instagram….all valid forms of communication…none of which involves active listening on our part.  It’s important for anyone’s career that they develop the ability to listen well.  Valid criticism has a role in our lives.  It can build us personally and professionally, depending on how we choose to listen and learn through it.  Always be open to hearing another person’s perspective, insight or measure of your performance.  By listening well, you will not only learn something new about yourself, but in addition you will be giving yourself an opportunity to grow.

Me and the Coach….Getting Close to Greatness

photoIt was the summer of 1977.  I was between my junior and senior year of high school, just starting to work part-time to earn a little cash so I could pay for the insurance on my first car, a 1973  AMC Hornet fastback.  Outside of  school and work, basketball was probably one of the biggest things in my life.  I had just finished a basketball camp held at Santa Clara University here in northern California two weeks earlier, but now, I was on a plane headed for southern California, to join my fellow future star athletes for a week in the dorms at beautiful Point Loma College, right on the beach.  I was headed down to take part in an amazing opportunity:  I was fortunate to be able to participate in the John Wooden Basketball Camp.

Many people know the name of John Wooden.  He was one of the all time leading college coaches, leading the UCLA men’s basketball team to eight consecutive national titles.  Many players from his teams went on to tremendous professional NBA careers, including Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar would later become his name), Bill Walton, Keith Wilkes and Marques Johnson. Known by many as “the Wizard of Westwood”, John Wooden built an incredible legacy of not only basketball, but of coaching, of mentoring, and of life itself both before, during and after his tenure with UCLA.  He was the first person to ever be inducted twice into the Basketball Hall of Fame, first as a player and then again as a coach.  If you follow basketball at all, you’ve probably heard of him.

I grew up with the notion that one day I’d attend UCLA, maybe even play basketball for John Wooden.  That was the plan I had, anyway.  But that just wasn’t meant to be.  Ironically, years later my oldest daughter would graduate from UCLA, first as an undergraduate with her Bachelor’s Degree, and then again a second time from their law school.  While in school at UCLA she’d send me jerseys and sweatshirts, and a John Wooden basketball T-shirt or hat…..great stuff!  But back to 1977….

At the basketball camp I had a great experience.  Each day began with exercises on an open basketball court 30 feet from the beach, looking out at the waves, and led by the coach himself, John Wooden.  After breakfast in the school cafeteria, we’d get a chalkboard lesson by Dr. Wooden on basketball fundamentals, followed by practice in our squads, and then an afternoon scrimmage or two, along with some lessons from the resident pro athletes at our camp that week (in my case it was Marques Johnson and Schwen Nader, two former UCLA players and NBA professionals).  Dr. Wooden was there at every session, involved and actively leading us.  What an experience, what an opportunity.

Each morning I looked forward to the “earlybird exercises”, as they were optional and usually had a smaller group.  I’ve always been an early riser, so for me it was a great chance to be outside, in the air, and with a basketball….and (now in hindsight), spending a few moments with one of greatest basketball figures of our modern time.  Although only 17 at the time, I can recall the importance of this time in my life, somehow knowing this was a rare opportunity.  Twice that week I was able to be out early enough to see the coach himself, exercising before the exercises….and remember, this was man already nearing 67 years of age.  Talk about preparedness…..

I put everything I had into that week at Point Loma.  Every scrimmage I was the guy diving for the loose ball, getting open for the fast break or the slam dunk whenever possible, just leaving myself out on the floor.  I wanted to learn, to excel, to win.  And I did it for one reason, really–I was inspired by my opportunity, my surroundings, and my leadership.

Do you want people to be motivated?  To perform in your business environment in the same way as described above?  There are many ways to approach this, but I’ve found over the years that people tend to be inspired by their immediate opportunity, by their surroundings (peers) and especially by the leadership they follow.  What opportunities are you creating for your team? What can you do to pull others into the opportunity?  How about peer relationships?  Are they active at all?  Do they even exist in your company–or do people run for the door every Friday afternoon, never to speak to each other again until Monday morning?  And your leadership team–do they lead?  Are they engaged in the efforts of your organization?  Or distant?

To this day I keep the small,  inexpensive award I received that week at basketball camp in my office (pictured above) and I’ll always remember the congratulatory handshake and pat on the back I received.  I had an amazing opportunity at an early age to rub shoulders with greatness, even if it was a brief moment in time.  It was something that made an early impact on me and will not be forgotten.  That week, in the middle of summer, 1977, will always be cherished.  Thank you Coach Wooden, for your inspiration, your commitment, your leadership.

 

Who Owns Quality?

Let me ask you a question…who “owns quality” in your organization?  Depending on the size and type of organization you’re a part of, the answer may vary a bit, right?  Not so fast!  It’s a trick question…

Allow me to elaborate through personal experience.  I own a small bluetooth external speaker called a Jambox (made by Jawbone).  I’ve had this particular item for a couple of years now (I’m using it now as I write this post, listening to music on Pandora, a great service for streaming music).  My Jambox has been through the proverbial “war”…I’ve taken it on business trips, on camping expeditions, out in the backyard while working on the latest landscape project, even using it as my speaker of choice in my 1963 Ford F100 pickup at times.  It’s rugged, has a clean, simple design, and it works every time I need it.  In short, it’s a great product, made with quality in mind.

How does that happen?  I don’t know the structure of Jawbone’s corporation, I’m not familiar with their quality department (if there is one)….but they produced a reliable, consistent performing product.

 

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Let me offer some insight from my experience within Operations as well as a consumer:

1.  Quality is owned by everyone within the organization.  From the board members to the CEO, the management team to the customer care representatives and sales team, through production and logistics, right down to the shipping and receiving team, the concept and the “character” (if you will) of quality needs to be present.  It’s not relegated to a designated quality control position (although there may be such a person who champions this element within your company)–it’s a commitment, an ongoing, evolutionary process, a mindset that must override everything involved in the product life cycle.

2.  Quality must be passionate in nature.  Please don’t assume that simply adhering to metrics will get you there.  There needs to be a passionate commitment to obtaining quality.  Metrics are a great way to measure performance in general, and to monitor your course with a given product’s life cycle, making certain that standards are adhered to, etc., but metrics alone will not insure true quality.  Quality is present when the product or service is not only consistent in delivering whatever it was designed for, but also when the recipient or user of the item in question places their confidence and trust in the product or service repeatedly, based on experience and performance.  Quality can actually have a “feel” to it, and real quality, when found, will move the consumer in a way that the lack of quality simply cannot.  You become a fan of the product (like I am with my Jambox).

3.  Quality occurs by design.  There’s no escaping this universal truth…we’ve all seen the bumper sticker that suggests that “s*&t happens”….pretty much true.  But quality, on the other hand, doesn’t “just happen”.  It is the byproduct of design, of passion, of experience, and resourcefulness.  True quality occurs because you want it to happen, not just by accident.

Think a moment about the experiences you’ve had, or the product you use, maybe the car you drive, or the clothing brand you gravitate towards.  Those items in our lives that we hold in high esteem, rely upon or just become our “go to” thing in our lives–they are there because of some element of quality.