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Martial Art Experts and Quality Warriors in the War Against Defects

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by Krishna Kumar in ARIS in practice posted on 2013-11-21

Do the words ‘black belt’ conjure up an image of Bruce Lee administering a lethal blow to a deserving adversary? Or a real-world karate champion beyond Hollywood, who just as impressively break bricks and planks with a single chop of his hand? There’s something attractively enigmatic about a martial art expert who trains long and hard for years before earning the coveted title of black belt. There’s a certain respect that goes with the honor and one almost expects the person who has reached such a high skill level to perform wonders. It’s a little like the expectations that some companies have from their business process improvement managers.

In the modern corporate world, there are different kinds of champions – champions of quality – the professionals who have been thoroughly trained in the art of war on defects. These individuals have earned the respect and dependence of companies that are looking to bring about change in the way they operate. They are the martial art experts who deliver blows to defects in business processes and the warriors who fight for positive change on the organizational front.

Soldiers of Change

We can draw many parallels between a battlefield and the equally challenging world of business process improvement. The opponents of a quality manager are many. It is imperative that any defect that causes loss of efficiency for a company be defeated as soon as possible. Quality managers are like warriors with a high level of skills, who must battle against any waste that they detect. As they march forward analyzing and identifying those issues, they use those skills to get rid of any inefficiency and unnecessary delays that occur in a particular business process.

Quality soldiers have several tools and weapons with which they wage war against defects or shortcomings in business processes. These tools are called quality standards and methodologies. When a company chooses to ensure quality in their processes they must first decide which evaluation tools and quality assurance methods are best for them.

Weapons of Choice

Depending on a company’s need, they can choose to ensure quality through various methods. Getting the company ISO certified is a popular choice for many organizations. Many other companies opt to help battle the quality-related defects in their processes through the concept of Six Sigma. There are several key differences between these two quality standard methods. Another standard - Lean Six Sigma combines Lean and Six Sigma principles with a view for eliminating eight kinds of wastes - classified as Defects, Overproduction, Waiting, Non-Utilized Talent, Transportation, Inventory, Motion and Extra-Processing. Lean Six Sigma aims to ensure that a company provides goods and services at a rate of 3.4 defects per million opportunities (DPMOs).

Earning their Stripes and Titles

The designation hierarchy of a Six Sigma team across an organization is similar to the titles in the world of martial arts. There are yellow belts, green belts, black belts, master black belts and champions, who each perform a different function. When armed with Lean Six Sigma Black Belt Certification, a quality professional is viewed as a highly trained and well-qualified manager who is capable of taking on a full-time leadership role in a company. Such an individual is well respected, knowledgeable and well versed in the tools and methods needed to bring about fruitful and effective change in a company, by helping departments improve their processes.

Important Characteristics of a Good Quality Warrior

Out on the corporate battlefield, a good-quality warrior will need more than a certification to survive. Here are key characteristics that are essential when fighting against the factors that impede quality.

Customer-focused: One of the goals of process improvement through Six Sigma is to help bring about greater customer satisfaction based on better products and high quality services. It is essential for a quality professional to first understand what a customer wants and expects, before he or she goes about trying to improve the processes by eliminating the defects that lead to poor quality.

Proactive Self Starter: Implementing change is never easy and a quality professional can and should expect some amount of resistance from various stakeholders within an organization. When evaluating and eliminating defects, quality warriors will often have to battle against the side that they are trying to defend and protect. This is not easy and it can be rather frustrating. This is why a self-motivated individual who believes in being proactive is best suited for the job.

Decisive and Convincing: Just knowing where change is necessary is not enough. A good quality warrior must be able to take strong decisions and be able to convince process stakeholders that the change is important. Those with leadership qualities who can be firm but understanding are excellent candidates for this job.

Good Understanding of Business: Implementing process changes that do not align with important business goals can be more detrimental than effective. A quality professional must understand clearly how any change impacts a business, both in terms of time and money. Without this understanding, a quality professional could embark on a crusade that is wasteful and harmful to the business.

Able to Influence and Motivate: Senior quality professionals must be able to take the lead and guide team members and managers towards a common end result – better quality for the company and its customers. Strongly enforcing mandatory policies rarely works. Trying to force people to do what you want often leads to dissent and dissatisfaction within a team and within an organization. A good quality professional looking to create positive change will be able to gently but firmly steer others towards his or her point of view.

Highly Organized: Planning ahead is essential for good quality management. Meeting regularly with stakeholders, employees and management, chalking out plans, sending out reports and monitoring progress, requires a great deal of discipline and organization.

So there you have it. Good quality professionals deserve their titles and when they earn them, they are fully capable of defeating wasteful activities. Business Process Improvement is the battle cry of such quality soldiers and a resounding victory is usually well within their reach.

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