- 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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- Systematic approaches to problem solving are becoming more widespread and more refined over time.
- There is currently an industry boom in tool sets that promise greater efficiencies and better problem solving. These methodologies include Lean, Six Sigma and Total Quality Management. Such tool kits are important for setting a standardized language for a culture of quality. However, American companies, particularly in Silicon Valley, tend to jump from fad to fad. Employees become wise to this pattern and tend to take a wait-and-see attitude to see if management really intends to change the way it does business.
Having a systematic approach to problem solving – any systematic approach – is more important than the specifics of the tool kit. As companies gain experience and tailor the tools to their business context, the tools themselves are improved.
- Companies are adapting more quickly after making errors; learning cycles are accelerating.
- No company is perfect and perfection is not an attainable goal. What is attainable is to learn from missteps and to adjust quickly to new information and new circumstances. The company that learns more quickly than its competition is the company that will gain competitive advantage. As companies compete on the ability to learn and adapt, these learning cycles are accelerating. Systematic tools for improving business processes and increasing overall quality, such as Six Sigma and Lean, are enabling these learning cycles to accelerate.
- The trend toward outsourcing and offshoring continues.
While the impact to domestic staff can be very disruptive, technology companies are continuing to move key parts of the manufacturing supply chain, as well as an increasing number of engineering roles and responsibilities offshore, through outsource partners, subsidiary companies etc.
In the quality space in particular, key employees need to take on larger responsibilities as companies expand their operations around the globe. By their very nature, dispersed operations are hard to control. The managers who are chiefly responsible for quality assurance need to make sure that they have the right rules and responsibilities articulated in their supply chain contracts and other working arrangements. Make sure that your business processes can be managed in an outsourced environment and that the appropriate infrastructure is in place before serious quality problems emerge.
- Companies are looking at the employee development side of the equation; they're leveraging industry certifications as a way to develop their talent and not merely as a box they can check.
- Many companies are now looking at certifications as not only a nice-to-have feather in their cap, but also as an engine to drive improvements in their businesses. They are looking at gaps in skills and seeing certifications as a tool for training and developing their people.
For instance, some organizations do a spectacular job at deploying and standardizing process mapping. It is one of the backbone tools across the enterprise, adding value to the organization while also featuring in certification programs. There is a direct business benefit to this skill that can have daily utility in terms of project leadership both within and across departments.
- More companies are concerned about issues around sustainability and corporate responsibility.
- As supply chains expand around the globe, issues around regulatory compliance and social responsibility have become vital. For instance, the mining of certain minerals has been responsible for fueling social unrest and warfare in parts of Africa. The Securities and Exchange Commission has implemented regulations that require U.S. companies to declare that their products do not contain minerals from certain areas. Many organizations are implementing a systematic approach to ensure that they have traceability at a minimum all the way down to the smelter level.
Regulations around greenhouse gas emissions and around such issues as child labor are also causing companies to take a look at their impact on the wider social and ecological context of their businesses. In a global environment, tech companies are taking a greater responsibility for their supply chain. There can be serious consequences for your brand in the public relations arena if your company ignores its social responsibilities.