Quality requires more than Fix Your Own Sandbox

Recent events have prompted us to preempt our CMMI requirements management series for this waste of company resources that we can only attribute to an overly politicized work environment and fear.  The downside of functional or siloed organizations is demonstrated in the sentiment “fix your own sandbox”.

Complications of the Organization

In general, the work of our organization is not getting less complicated.  For an organization to be operating at peak capability and delivering a quality product or service, may require numerous exchanges between a variety of departments (at least if you are functionally structured) and people.

Fix Your Own Sandbox (Quality)

I have heard, at least once from managers regarding quality and process improvement, that we should focus on our own part of the sandbox and fix only those things that are directly under our control.  That is all well and good, perhaps, when the quality concern or dysfunction is within our department only.  However, what if the problems originate or are more born out of the exchanges between departments or those problems are costing us more than our department internal issues?

Consider the department that has an internal problem that is costing them thousands of dollars. They also have a problem as a function of their interactions with other departments that are costing millions of dollars. Under the fix your own sandbox rule, we would neglect the hemorrhage of millions of dollars, opting to fix a problem that is costing the company only a few thousand dollars.  This is how companies go out of business.

Cost of Poor Quality

We may think we are doing the right thing in not recognizing and solving these imperfections that are costing our company BIG money, perhaps due to political sensitivities, but what we are really doing is wasting time, wasting money, destroying morale and eroding our company’s ability to effectively compete.

Quality and Long Term ability to Compete

If you want your company to be able to compete and thrive long term, then you must confront and solve the problems.  We use tools like Pareto, histograms, and scatter plots to and understand prioritize the work. We will also need a systemic and organizational approach, one that does not promote the “fix your own silo” approach.  The approach should be something like a Total Quality Management approach that considers the entire organization producing value for the customer, including the internal customers and culminating in the most important customer, the one that keeps your company thriving.  Call it whatever you want to, but ensure the functional barriers are eliminated and the organization has a continuous process improvement approach without fear.  It is almost always better to solve the multi-million dollar quality problem that is sucking the life out of your organization like a leech over solving a problem that is costing little.  It is an example of squinting at a gnat and swallowing and elephant. This approach is analogous to a doctor prioritizing a small scratch when the patient has an artery has been compromised and hemorrhaging.  This fear of taking on the challenge due to political discomfort does not reflect an approach that the leadership or management should endorse lest they watch the company disappear.

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