Zero Defect Efforts

What are they and what’s in it for my business?

Jul 27, 2018 4:00 PM2 Minute Read

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    We've all taken a shortcut here or there and likely paid the price. I once rushed through baking a decadent chocolate cake, only to realize the finished product smacked of scorchingly dry cocoa. After tasting one awful morsel, my eyes honed on the counter, directly to the forgotten butter. All my invested effort, ingredients and other resources (e.g. time, equipment, utilities and money) had been squandered and I had no time to rebake before the party. Off to the store I went, confidence in ruins, expending extra time on the trip and extra money on gas, wear-and-tear on the car, and the cost of a new cake.

    Each of us can recall a personal or professional example of this type of mistake. We can vividly recall the pain of the incident and the horrible feeling of "messing up." The key questions to ask ourselves and our organizations in these instances are: what led to the error and what can we learn from it? What kind of corrective and preventive actions are needed to fix the issue and stave off recurrence? How do we get everyone in our organization engaged in a culture of error reduction, continuous improvement and innovation?

    A Zero Defect initiative can help your company focus on what operational issues are facing you today, determine where you want to be tomorrow, and establish how you and your workmates can achieve your goals together.

    So what are some key attributes of a successful Zero Defect program? First, there's engagement. Look to early adopters to build the program. These individuals will spread their process knowledge and 'right first time' enthusiasm to others, giving your effort traction. They can best develop messages that enthrall others and ensure your business sees results across the organization. A second key element is information. The effort should focus on critical areas that, based on data, are starved for improvement. Understanding the current state of your error profile is critical to taking impactful action, to measuring success and for being able to tell a compelling story of achievements as they are realized. Data will quantify success and demonstrate proof of impact to the entire team. The more information people have, and the more they can see the numbers trending in the right direction, the more likely they are to buy-in to the effort and help you exceed your goals. Thirdly, leadership that consistently emphasizes the importance of the Zero Defect effort and the impact that it has on the customer, will clearly demonstrate to the organization that this initiative is not a 'flavor of the week' effort and that the results are critical to customer satisfaction, as well as to the long-term success of individuals and the business overall.

    We often hear that organizations are 'too busy' to focus on efforts like this, particularly when they are constantly 'putting out fires.' Our response to this reaction tends to include the words of John Wooden, "If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?"

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