E. Michael Gray
- Global head-of-quality executive at Silicon Valley technology companies, leveraging Japan manufacturing expertise to monetize quality and turn it into profit.
- Head-of-quality for $220m~$1b firms, leading up to 55 staff; regional roles at $2~14b firms.
- Leadership roles in quality at Symmetricom, Extreme Networks, Juniper Networks, Quantum Corporation, AlliedSignal, Bose Corporation.
- Saved employers millions of dollars in warranty/rework and tens of millions in retained at-risk accounts; added certifications which opened up new opportunities.
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Quality - How to Make Your Tech Products Do the Right Things Right
Quality (with a capital “Q”) is an organization-wide attribute. It pervades your products and services, your business processes, and your people. Quality includes not only product reliability and functionality but also such areas and capabilities as customer service, the buying experience, problem-solving and the ability to learn and adapt to new circumstances.
In too many companies, skilled, dedicated people work hard and yet the company still produces inconsistent results. In many cases this is because they're doing things right but they're not doing the right things right.
The first step to increasing quality and customer satisfaction is leadership and management commitment. This commitment to quality with a pivot towards the customer is the most powerful leverage point that makes the difference between achieving or not achieving your company’s objectives.
Business processes are the next most important area to improve with respect to quality and customer satisfaction. These processes include everything from organizational structures, to skill sets, tools, and methodologies. Businesses that fail to achieve their quality objectives are often those that have uncontrolled business processes. The results they achieve – whether they are positive or negative – are inconsistent and unpredictable.
Companies that do not control and measure their business processes rely solely on the efforts of teams and individuals, without providing the infrastructures and methodologies that help them to succeed. Your skilled contributors may strive for high quality, but an uncontrolled business will tend to yield unexpected results that damage quality, reliability, and customer satisfaction. Uncontrolled or dysfunctional business processes must be addressed in order to achieve your quality and customer satisfaction objectives on a consistent basis.
Creative problem solving is also necessary for achieving high quality. Many successful organizations take a systematic approach to problem solving using such methodologies as TQM, Six Sigma or Lean to identify defects or bottlenecks and to eliminate the waste that drives down quality. Businesses that are unable to either prevent problems from occurring, or that fail to contain or correct them when they do happen, put quality and customer satisfaction at risk.
Most often, the major breakdowns occur in the “white spaces” between functions and between organizations. The handoffs between functions – for example, between the R&D team and the marketing function – are particularly vulnerable. Having a common language shared by the various functions within the organization often helps to bridge the gaps between silos. A common language for problem solving enables a company to solve problems across functions, across groups and across geographies, and helps to ensure more consistent results over time.
No business is error free, but those businesses that consistently achieve high quality are continually learning. When they make errors, they treat them as valuable opportunities for growth. The company that learns faster than its competitors enjoys an edge. Developing faster learning cycles enables companies to improve, at least incrementally, on a consistent basis, which leads to higher overall product and process quality and more satisfied customers.
Other key factors that enable your company to do the right things right include:
- Benchmarking – Measuring your company against competitors both inside and outside of your industry.
- Product reliability – Designing products that function as designed according to the useful life and market expectations.
- Measurements and dashboards – Having the right metrics to drive continuous improvement and problem solving.
- Employee involvement – Engaging the wider organization in satisfying the customer.
- Quality strategy – Identifying objectives and methods and having a plan in place, with sufficient investment to achieve your objectives.