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
- The key interfaces between functions or groups within an organization are unclear or not fully under the company’s control.
- Each function tends to have its own language and its own strengths and weaknesses. This creates the silo effect that, in many companies, impedes communication, which in turn inhibits problem solving. As a result, breakdowns that have a negative impact on quality often occur in the interface between functions and in the handoffs between groups that have different assumptions and different data requirements. If your company’s intention is to improve overall quality, then first examine and assess each of these key interfaces.
- The measurements used by different groups are misaligned, leading to wasted energy and resources.
Often times, data types are misaligned between one department and another. Expensive data collection systems are put in place in one function, but the output of the system is formatted in such a way that it is not useful to another group that has a different data requirement. When the data types are misaligned between one group and another, the two groups may even form entirely different views of the facts on the ground.
I have seen cycles where two or three people were taking more than a day per month to generate reports while 90 percent of the report went into the trash. Of the remaining 10 percent, half of it clashed with the data derived from another department. Such data mismatches cause interdepartmental strain. By eliminating that inefficiency your company can save days per month in cycle time as well as mitigating the inefficiencies caused by inconsistent data and organizational infighting.
- Employees become jaded with "programs du jour;" this leads to cynicism and lack of buy-in for improvements and programs that could truly make a difference.
When the rubber hits the road, leadership, and everyone down the line, must demonstrate the values and behaviors that are expected, in terms of quality, customer satisfaction, and customer delight. If you’re living those values and you’re contributing to the organizational learning and the organizational results, then your workforce can perceive the measurable difference your actions and values are making for the business. Then, your improvement and quality initiatives matter, they matter to employees' careers and they matter to your opportunities as a business.
Unfortunately, too many managers become enamored of the business book-of-the-month and the wider workforce knows they are dealing with a "program du jour." They go to another four-hour, half-baked, watered-down training session. They check the box on the to-do list and promptly forget about what they learned. This isn't only a waste of time and money, but it is counter-productive since it generates cynicism. When such attitudes become ingrained, it becomes very difficult to dislodge them when management wishes to demonstrate its commitment to real improvements.
- Many high-technology companies are strong on innovative features but weak on product reliability.
Engineers often become dazzled by innovative features, but even startlingly innovative products needs to operate effectively over time. Particularly in Silicon Valley, many companies are inconsistent with respect to reliability. Here's the equation: Reliability = quality + time.
Every product needs to be designed for an appropriate life span. Technologies are not useful forever, but too many products do not work as designed during their expected, useful life and require unexpected maintenance or repairs during their life cycle. This not only drives down customer satisfaction but it can be a huge financial drain on companies, in the form of warranty and excess damages claims.
Many enterprises, especially those that are selling to large entities like the federal government, foreign governments, large banks, or large manufacturers, enter into contracts that have penalties for lack of performance. Failure to create reliable products can do a great deal of damage to such firms.
- Companies do not plan sufficiently around quality and customer satisfaction.
- Companies often rely on their technical brilliance and their expectations regarding the marketplace. They plan diligently around these areas, but under-plan, and underperform, with respect to product quality and customer satisfaction. They do not take into account the full spectrum of the customer's experience. When customers get their hands on the product, it often has gaps in performance and disappointments around quality, reliability or durability. These disappointments can cause customers to either shun the product, return it, or to demand discounts.
The impact of these disappointments is amplified when customer expectations are high. This can happen, for example, if your company is touting itself as a disruptive player, with a product that has features or functionality that are very exciting and enticing. When these products also come with disappointments and a poor overall customer experience, the cognitive dissonance between the promise and the reality is a good way to turn customers away in droves.