PICK UP THE SLACK.
In January, as part of the ASQ challenge to contemplate a new definition of Quality, I published the following definition.
Pursuit of optimal solutions contributing to confirmed successes, fulfilling accountabilities
While other submissions were commendable in their own right, this particular definition was the only option to specifically address the priorities of both success and accountability. Without the objective indicators and tangible rewards arising from success and accountability, Quality is nothing more than a philosophical derivation or distraction. In order to be relevant, Quality must incorporate measures of success and accountability, and nothing reinforces that point more effectively than FAILURE.
The raison d'être of the Quality profession is to
- anticipate potential failure conditions significantly contributing to rejection or dissatisfaction,
- identify leading indicators of those failure conditions,
- specify critical control points to identify and react to recognized failure indicators,
- instill preventative measures to eliminate or mitigate the causes of failure,
- advocate practices that would minimize or diminish the effects of failures on intended solutions or deliverables.
1. Unfulfilled Accountabilities
- Overdue or incomplete deliveries
- Illegal or noncompliant business practices
- Tainted products
- Corrupted systems
- Unintended side effects from product use
- Missing parts requiring substitutions
- Unavailable functionality due to network outages
- Order fulfilled but customer not satisfied
- Too expensive
- Takes too long to produce satisfactory outcome
- Solution is too complicated for customer to use
Summary-Lessons Learned-Action-Commitment-Knowledge Base
The failure can be categorized and recorded for future reference.
From each failure, a team or organization can derive lessons about causes and situations leading to the failure. This experience provides a coaching or learning opportunity to drive and justify improvements.
This refers to the follow up resolution or mitigation prompted by the failure. Actions can reflect changes in technical designs and non-technical support processes.
For each action, there should be a named resource responsible for the completion, and a due date for the necessary steps. This portion instills the accountability and helps to define the Cost of Poor Quality arising from the failure.
In order to preserve the knowledge within the organization, the knowledge base should be updated with the description of the failure and the actions taken to correct and prevent the recurrence. This can serve as a learning tool, as well as a source to justify the adoption of additional quality practices.
As an interesting coincidence, SLACK is also a synonym for casual or relaxed (slack being the opposite of tight). The Millennial Generation is often accused of having a "slacker" mentality. Several modern approaches to parenting and teaching have contributed to this undesirable ethic among today's youth:
- Competition has been diminished in favor of rewarding participation with the rationale that "we are all winners". This aligns with the Woody Allen rule "80% of success is showing up". Without competition, the impact of failure and disappointment is blunted.
- The relative prosperity and exposure to luxurious lifestyles has created an ethic of entitlement, where outcomes once available only after years of focused and disciplined effort are now available to young people simply on request.
- The proliferation and frequent intervention of "helicopter parents" arrest the independence and fortitude of youth, who are more inclined to "boomerang" back to their parents or elders in times of difficulty, even into their 20s and 30s.
- rigorous application of critical thinking skills (i.e. mathematical problems, scientific experiments)
- scrutiny of reviews by peers, mentors, and superiors (i.e. publications, presentations, concepts, prototypes)
- non-linear relationships between efforts and rewards (consider that designs at 50% effort are seldom 50% complete)