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Article 13

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In Part 12 of this series on Innovation and R&D, I touched upon Testing in R&D and the Flint, Michigan, Water Quality Problem, a disaster.

This Flint Water Problem is so bad, so disturbing, Time Magazine covered it as a nation. 

The Flint Water Quality Problem is symptomatic of the catastrophic quality problem that can develop if we do not proactively test for quality. Even NASA had two major Space Shuttle disasters. 

  • Challenger Space Shuttle 1986 , O-ring seals failure in the cold temperature
  • Columbia Space Shuttle 2003, the impact of insulating foam loosening the heat resistant tiles enough to cause the loss of the shuttle. [ref. 4]

“The problem with these accidents is they really didn’t know they had a problem.” NASA’s Launius said in a phone interview. 

Testing alone is not enough. We need to increase vigilance. We need to involve people in communities, workers in factories. More eyes on the ball, the better.

Four Stages of Learning

Behavior scientists use the concept of Johari Window [ref. 2-3] to explain the four stages of learning (competence.)

1.Unconscious Incompetence

2.Conscious Incompetence

3.Conscious Competence

4.Unconscious Competence

An infant essentially knows nothing, and so the parents provide 24-hour supervision.

We send a child, a student, to school to study to reduce ignorance.

At the other extreme we have superstars like, Sachin Tendulkar. Sachin looks at a fast moving cricket ball, estimates its speed, direction and height, moves his feet, swings the bat, and dispatches the ball in a fraction of a second. It is instinctual. He may not even be able to explain why he did, what he did. “It just felt, the right thing to do.” He can, because he has studied the cricket game and practiced batting skill, for tens of thousands of hours. It is his second nature.

Michael Jordan was a basketball superstar. He could run, find his way through defenders with a step, twist his body, move the ball from one hand to another, and shoot the basketball like no one.

And yet, when Jordan tried to play baseball, his real passion, with a third league baseball team, he failed. He gave up after two years. He was not good enough for baseball!

A coach is never as good as the superstar; but the coach can explain, how to read the moving ball, how to move the feet, how to swing the bat, and so on. He just can’t execute like a superstar.

As we learn a subject, we occasionally make good progress from Stage 1 to Stage 4. Usually we do not! Typically we get stuck, between Stage 2 and Stage 3. And most of the times, we don’t even know:
We are stuck, and,
Where we are stuck.

The net effect is we are essentially blind to our follies. We don’t even know, what we don’t know! Recall NASA’s Launius:  “The problem with these accidents is they really didn’t know they had a problem.”  

How do we solve this problem?

“To solve the problems that we have created, we need to think in a higher plane than the one that created the problems in the first place.” - Albert Einstein

Build Awareness, Focus and Concentration

Dandpani [ref. 5], an Indian yogi turned entrepreneur’s explanation of “concentration” is pertinent.

He explains most parents tell their children doing homework to “concentrate.” But very few can explain how to concentrate. He says, concentration involves two things, awareness and the mind. Awareness is like a light bulb, mind is a map. To concentrate, one needs to move the light bulb, awareness, to the area of the map that is of interest. It is normal to be distracted, without training, one needs to bring the awareness light bulb back to focus, light the area of the map that is of interest. 

To improve organization wide quality, “Testing” alone is not enough. We need to involve people, involve workers. Train them to see the thing that matters. Use their awareness eyeballs, be hyper aware and focus on processes, tasks, events, track them. If it is a Pharma company, control chart:

1.Strength in milligrams per tablet.

2.Time lapsed between manufacturing a batch and testing/reporting. 

First is obvious, second is easy to miss, but critical.

Quite Often our problems are created not because we don’t know, but because we overlook the obvious. It does not matter whether it is Flint, NASA or an Indian pharma company. Issues are the same.

All the elements of quality are very easy to learn. 

Do we want to learn and master them?

Do we want to practice them, five minutes a day? Do we want to involve our people? Do we want to turn on many light bulbs - many eyeballs, to spot the problems? 

Do we have the will? Passion? 

What is missing? How do we fix it?

As Pogo, a comic character said, “We have found our enemy. It is us.” 

So crank up your Product Development engines... Let us speedup new product development and growth rates. And let the fun begin!

In the context of the Johari Window, we need to move from “Stage 1” to “Stage 2.” Move from “Stage 2” to “Stage 3.” 

 

For most all of us, it is not necessary to move from “Stage 3” to “Stage 4.” 

  • It is an order of magnitude more difficult. We may not have the passion, talent, skills, mental fortitude, physique, resources or time. 
  • It is possible, to cultivate unconsciously a few bad tweaks in your movement and lose the “superstar” performance. A superstar can fall into a slump. He has no idea what happened, what ails him. And since it is “Unconscious Competence,” the superstar does not know what he is doing wrong, he cannot fix it easily. Tiger Woods, the golf superstar, has lost his mojo and can’t seem to find it. NASA did not.

 

The ideal position to strive for is the coach status. A coach understands the mechanics, the cause and effect relationships, what to do and when. A coach can explain the technical details and intricacies. And since his job is to coach and not execute in real time like a superstar, he has time to teach, show the steps, play the videos, use blackboards, checklists, storyboards, and trouble-shooting guides.

 

In Quality arena, the coaches are called Six Sigma Black Belts, Statisticians and Quality Managers. They practice Deming’s motto. 

 

“In God we trust. All others bring data.”  

 - Edward Deming

In many organizations, “quality” is the responsibility of the Quality Manager.  It is not. He only generates reports on quality. 

Quality is everyone’s responsibility.  To improve quality we need to involve everyone.

Build Awareness, Focus and Concentration

Dandpani [ref. 5], an Indian yogi turned entrepreneur’s explanation of “concentration” is pertinent.

He explains most parents tell their children doing homework to “concentrate.” But very few can explain how to concentrate. He says, concentration involves two things, awareness and the mind. Awareness is like a light bulb, mind is a map. To concentrate, one needs to move the light bulb, awareness, to the area of the map that is of interest. It is normal to be distracted, without training, one needs to bring the awareness light bulb back to focus, light the area of the map that is of interest. 

To improve organization wide quality, “Testing” alone is not enough. We need to involve people, involve workers. Train them to see the thing that matters. Use their awareness eyeballs, be hyper aware and focus on processes, tasks, events, track them. If it is a Pharma company, control chart:

                  1.Strength in milligrams per tablet. 

                   2. Time lapsed between manufacturing a batch and testing/reporting. 

First is obvious, second is easy to miss, but critical.

Quite Often our problems are created not because we don’t know, but because we overlook the obvious. It does not matter whether it is Flint, NASA or an Indian pharma company. Issues are the same.

All the elements of quality are very easy to learn. 

Do we want to learn and master them?

Do we want to practice them, five minutes a day? Do we want to involve our people? Do we want to turn on many light bulbs - many eyeballs, to spot the problems? 

Do we have the will? Passion? 

What is missing? How do we fix it?

As Pogo, a comic character said, “We have found our enemy. It is us.” 

So crank up your Product Development engines... Let us speedup new product development and growth rates. And let the fun begin!

References:

  1. Time Magazine USA Cover Story, January 21, 2016.
  2. Johari Window, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_stages_of_competence 
  3. Johari Window, Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham,  http://www.usgs.gov/humancapital/documents/JohariWindow.pdf 
  4. http://www.space.com/4879-nasa-remembers-space-tragedies.html 
  5. Dandpani, https://dandapani.org/ 

 

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