Japanese got re-known for quality.. how about Americans? Remember, deming?

It was my 8th grade vacation and I was in my uncles house playing with my cousins. My uncle, a MD, came from his office, still busy in his phone complaining about customer loss. The customer had gotten angry and had filed a law suit. Uncle told us that he will not be able to take us out as there is a japanese team of quality experts coming to train the employees. Years later, when i got into my first job in polaris labs, the new customer was japanese. The team was worried that japanese customers are very tough and expect very high quality levels. They wanted an american customer :). As I drilled down further into world of quality, there was a considerable japanese presence in the minds of our colleagues. Japan had come to be synonymous of quality somehow in my mind. But why only japanese? Ofcourse, their products in automobiles like toyota, honda had special place even in european and american minds. However, wasn't japan an American colony at some point in time and hadn't it done anything worthwhile in Q?

It was post the second world war and Tokyo had suffered huge disaster. Its economy had gone for a toss too. It had to do something to survive... something special. The united states department of army brought in Edwards deming from America where he was preaching quality. Deming is equated sometimes brutally only with PDCA cycle. However, this Q master had brought in some of the biggest advances at mindset level in the japanese industry. Due to the special needs and due to hard work and geniuses too, japanese adopted quality. As quality improved, costs reduced and this combo was a deadly one. The world realized the high quality low cost japanese product's uniqueness and went in a crazy buying spree. Japanese manufacturers went mastering quality level after level and their economy boomed. Deming after getting several prestigious awards in Japan, went back to America where surprisingly he wasn't as big a hit atleast till then. It was ford's tumbling sales and loss of profit which brought him into loop again. And it started all over again. Deming won several awards for his noble work on quality in america too. The world knows the story of quality as it happened then!

What is a value?

Lean is basically a setup where you focus on values. Scrum teams are entities which deliver value. Product teams help identify values. However, did any of us ever wonder what the hell is this value? The value basically means something of importance. From lean perspective, value is something which is important and useful to customer.

I have seen teams and organizations doing things just for the sake of doing without ever questioning why not we not do it? Only if you know who your customer is, what is important to him and more than anything else, what will be useful to him, will you be able to understand what to deliver.

I beleive this is true not just for businesses / organizations but also for politics, governments, countries  and lot of other places including within a family. Have you taken time to understand what is the value before you have done something?

It is in this context that I have written the other blog http://qualityfromjagan.blogspot.com/2014/01/missing-customer-is-serious-challenge.html.

Please post your comments on this thought and share your experiences on the same.

Missing customer is a serious challenge in lean

Lean is all about adding value to customer. In our project, due to the nature of business, customers aren't involved in interactions with team. The product owner often is and has been the sole representer of customer interests. Given this condition, the challenge that I am faced with is how to bring the customer into picture and how to use these interactions to identify the value adds from his perspective and do onl ythose activities which are a value add.

The strategy often yields better results as finding the customer's real preferences without any assumptions often motivates any organization to classify wastes better and do those things which the customer values and pays for.

The identification and involvement of real customers is a real challenge given the realities and the challenge for which I am really bracing ahead and any lean practitioner should be.

What should the quality reviewer do in this situation?

Situation is quality review before shipment decision.
The reviewer : What is the automation history of the project? Are we meeting the metrics?
QM : There was no automation in the project because the targetted automation tool wasn't available in time by initial codeline closure.
Second QM : The technlogy had proved in the past to be dificult to automate.

What should the reviewer do in such situation? Should she exempt the project modules with these constraints as valid and recommend release or should she stop release?

Whether or not QA is a value add in lean?

Often times in lean, what is considered the value to customers is the code which gets delivered to customer. So when we are talking of increasing value delivered by development process to customer, it also means that the code which gets delivered to customer and gets used has increased. In other words, the throughput of the system has increased. The quality folks are often left with learning to code and to automate. In terms of increasing the skill set of quality folks, i beleive this is a step in right direction. However, what also saddens me is that the specialization which pure quality folks bring on to table goes missing. There is a lot which the quality community has to do by working together to findout the right path for the quality engineers and in inculcating the right definition of quality engineering skillsets at the right time.