ASQ’s A View from the Q covers Professional Training this month. I will mention a few results from the ASQ Global State of Quality Research: Discoveries 2013 (download for free here) and then I will share some stories related to the benefits of quality training.
First, let’s take a look at the numbers. According to the study, only 29% of all staff receives quality related training. That is, accountants, HR and marketing personnel, etc. Still a long way to go here, it seems that we are not even close to Kaoru Ishikawa’s CWQC (Company Wide Quality Control) philosophy. I noticed Japan is not included in the countries studied, so I wonder if this particular result would have been different there. When it comes to quality related personnel, 81% (manufacturing) and 51% (services), get quality training. Shouldn’t it be 100%? See the following chart taken from the mentioned study.
There is a typo in the chart. Manufacturing quality related training should be 81% and not 51% as shown.
There are other interesting facts in the study. Only 5% of all companies in the sample (n=1,991) do not have quality training at all, most training is audit or ISO related (70% and 60% respectively) and there’s still plenty of room for Lean (38% of companies in the survey) and Six Sigma (only 30%) training. Check this and more results in the complete study, pages 22 to 25.
I will share some of the benefits of quality training through several stories.
1. FROM QUALITY MANAGER TO CORPORATE QUALITY DIRECTOR
The regional quality manager of a huge textile corporation started to prepare for his Black Belt certification even before there was a Six Sigma program in his company. I remember his plan to read thoroughly 10 pages a day for 90 days to cover his Black Belt Primer. He became an ASQ Black Belt and completed a bunch of highly visible Six Sigma projects just before the retirement of the previous quality director. When the position became available the company offered the “quality throne” to him and not to his boss (corporate quality manager) who thought the position was securely his and did not update his studies/training in years. The corporate quality manager, now reporting to his former employee, resigned shortly after the announcement. BENEFIT: Personal career advancement. INVESTMENT: Black Belt training, long study hours.
2. A REGIONAL BANK FOLLOWS G.E. TRADITION
BAC is one of the largest banks in Central America, with offices in seven countries from Mexico to Panama. At one point in time it was owned by G.E. Capital and Carlos Pellas a well-known businessman in the region. Of course being part of G.E. they started a thorough Six Sigma training program. Senior executives were trained as Champions; local quality managers, and a group of quality specialist in each country, were trained as Black Belts; hundreds completed Green Belt training and all middle managers were required to take at least Yellow Belt training. The first year of the program they relied on external help, and after that, they prepared internal trainers to take care of the program. Every year the Regional Quality and Productivity Department, responsible of the Six Sigma Program, reports several million dollars in savings to the corporation. The bank was recently sold to Grupo Aval from Colombia in the largest financial transaction ever in Central America. BENEFIT: Direct impact in the corporate financial statements. INVESTMENT: cost of training around 200 employees per year.
3. TRAINING AS A MOTIVATION TOOL FOR SHARE SERVICES AND CALL CENTERS
There is an industrial park just outside of San Jose, Costa Rica, that looks like a familiar site taken from Silicon Valley. HP to the left, Dell to the right, Intel and IBM just behind.
HP offices in Costa Rica
Competition for “agents”, as employees are often called, is fierce. Alienware, the beloved PC for gamers, started its Six Sigma training program a few years before it was bought by Dell. Through Six Sigma training the Alienware call center was able to win the Call Center of the Year award (twice) and the National Excellence Award in the category of Innovation (yes, due to its Six Sigma training program). The first Black Belt of the site was the general manager himself. The site used to look like and episode of The Big Bang Theory, with a strong nerdy culture and a very relaxed dress code. Six Sigma training became a matter of pride. Those picked to become Green Belts and Black Belts were set apart from the others.
The same is true for HP. Many employees have directly stated that one of the reasons why they stay with the company is the Lean Six Sigma training program. Training became a strong motivator.
BENEFIT: employee motivation.
INVESTMENT: cost of lean and six sigma training.
These stories are far from being isolated anecdotes. Benefits at the personal level, benefits at the financial level, and benefits at the motivation level are just some of the advantages of company quality training.
A recent training session
Training, and specifically quality training, is among the noblest of corporate activities. The last chapter of my CMQ/OE Primer (Training and Development) starts with this Lee Iacocca, the legendary automobile executive, quote: “In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something else”.
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