The introduction and video was a thought provoking opening to the week, specifically with regards to quality. The lack of unanimity between on what constitutes quality amongst theorists was particularly striking. As a result of this I too reflected on my own meaning of quality and I too differed with many of the definitions.
The video on Deming and his 14 points challenged my own views, which I believe to be pretty conventional. Whilst many of the points may be beneficial, to me the implementation of these points would in reality require a radical overhaul of mindset which would take a mammoth effort with both society and industries and thus may not be viable.
Policy deployment was interesting as I felt that because it felt like common sense it was easy to understand why it is sometimes neglected in businesses. The tools related to policy deployment were relatively easy to understand and will prove invaluable going into Network Rail should they be required as they are easy to be communicated and consequently understood by others I feel.
In contrast, I was unsure on the application of the six sigma principle on non manufacturing companies but the fact that I contemplated this shows it has stuck in my mind. Unfortunately I tend to reside on the argument that it could be a management fad that is currently fashionable but is rehashed with a new name every so often. I felt the DMAIC methodology had the potential to be wider reaching and as a result offer greater benefits in Network Rail should it be circulated and publicised appropriately. However, whether it is as unique as it proclaims to be could be challenged as I believe that certain aspects of the technique are already carried out just not in the name itself.
The economics of quality introduced several interesting concepts. It furthered my intrigue of the concept of quality and its related topics. Above all, it made me realise about how much I take for granted when I get a product and that I don’t necessarily appreciate what goes into it. It was interesting to consider the argument that quality should reduce costs. Although I understand the idea, I think the attempt to produce quality may in reality achieve the opposite. The QFD topic introduced a chart that was quite easy to understand although using it on complex rail projects may actually hinder its use due to the number of tasks on such projects. Finally, the exercise I think developed my skills with regards to questioning and the necessity to be efficient and to the point when it comes to a senior colleague’s time.
Statistical Process Control provided information on variability and control. As a project manager of the future it is inevitable that decisions I make will be questioned and justified. However, the tools and techniques we developed I feel allow me to do that, or at least allow me to understand where someone else is coming from if it was presented to me. However, a thought did occur to me that I wonder how other people may react if I was to be the first person to bring this sort of technique to them. I don’t want to bamboozle people so I think that it may either have to be a corporate decision or slowly become integrated into the workplace. If that was not to be the case then I am unsure whether the benefits would outweigh the time spent repeatedly explaining it. Being able to evidence and explain decisions was emphasised and I feel I have taken this from the week.
Reliability is generally important in everyday life however its importance was underlined when considering Network Rail’s operations. A daunting thought was the fact that we may have to make reliability decisions in our careers yet we may have to trust and rely on the information from others who have more expertise in the topic. Although this may seem scary now, I suppose all of this is common for a manager and demonstrating accountability through this trust is an attributes that a good project manager would show so it was good to give this scenario some sort of context.
The powerful videos were also explicit in delivering their intended message. The importance of designing a quality product and then ensuring that it is maintained properly was put across via the catastrophic circumstances of the train and plane crashes. The neglect of maintenance and the potential consequences of this was probably the most powerful message that we received all week in my opinion.
It was good to actually gain some further context and real life case studies of the whole module, such as the North Sea oil rig and the Chernobyl chemical plant accidents. The wide range of examples showed how essentially the same principles are applied irrespective of industry, and how many of the skills we have learned this week would prove to be transferable in our careers. The mapping tool Steve discussed also came across as a powerful yet relatively easy to use tool. Another thing that stuck with me from the product life cycle examples is how the perception of something being broken is actually very different and one person may think something is broken whereas another may think there is the opportunity to patch it up. Something that had never really occurred to me was the different approaches people take, e.g. waiting for it to break or being proactive and regularly maintaining equipment at certain points.
The presentations also were a good way of learning about the different standards and systems. I felt the fact that we all had some sort of overlap meant we interpreted it in different ways and the level of depth enhanced my knowledge on the subjects I already researched because of this different perspective. Additionally, we gained knowledge on topics our presentation did not cover. It did seem slightly bizarre that companies invest time and money for certification for something like ISO9000 and without staff buy in. In the future at least I know to base decisions upon the facts in front of me as opposed to certifications.
Overall I thought it was an interesting week which lived up to my expectations. It challenged my perceptions and got me reflecting on issues as I have discussed. The interactive style and use of different presentation formats was also particularly effective.