Sumitra Vig on Lean & Quality: First Time Right or Next Time Right?


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My guest for Episode #446 of the Lean Blog Interviews Podcast is Sumitra Vig. She is a partner with her advisory firm Svakarma Advisory, LLP, based in Mumbai India. 

She is a customer experience specialist, an ASQ (American Society for Quality) Certified Manager of Quality & Organizational Excellence, and a master trainer & retail banker with years of hands-on international experience in Asia, Europe, Middle East, and Africa. 

Sumitra has designed & conducted successful training programs, mentored employees & created an impact across continents

Today, we discuss topics and questions including:

  • How did you get introduced to Quality?
  • First time right / first time quality from a customer lens — What is this?
  • Does this mean “no mistakes”? What do we learn from mistakes?
  • Does “first time right” put too much pressure on people?
  • How can we design the product or service in a way that ALLOWS first time right?
  • Design thinking — what does the customer really want?
  • Measures — Problems vs reported problems — how to handle unreported problems?
  • Customer is king? The employee is really king to then deliver a transformational experience??
  • The 5 Toyota Precepts
  • The book Atomic Habits
  • Women in Lean – Our Table group on LinkedIn
  • Has a master class available online on First Time Right
  • Working with a foundation – mobile hospital for villages, remote Himalaya

The podcast is sponsored by Stiles Associates, now in their 30th year of business. They are the go-to Lean recruiting firm serving the manufacturing, private equity, and healthcare industries. Learn more.

This podcast is part of the #LeanCommunicators network

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Automated Transcript (Not Guaranteed to be Defect Free)

Announcer (2s):
Welcome to the Lean Blog Podcast. Visit our website Now here's your host, Mark Graban.

Mark Graban (13s):
Mark Graban here. Welcome to the podcast. It's episode 446 for April 27th, 2022. My guest today is Sumitra Vig. You'll learn more about her in a minute, but if you'd like to learn more about Sumitra and her work, you can look for links in the show notes, or go to As always. Thanks for listening. Well, hi everybody. Welcome again to the podcast. Our guest today is Sumitra Vig. She is a partner with her advisory firm, and we're going to learn more about her and her work she's based in Mumbai, India. Sumitra is a customer experience specialist.

Mark Graban (53s):
She is an ASQ, or is this audience probably knows American Society for Quality, ASQ, a certified manager of quality and organizational excellence. And she's a master trainer and she's been a retail banker with years of hands-on international experience in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Sumitra has designed and conducted a lot of successful training programs. She's mentored employees and she's created an impact across continents. So I think there's a huge opportunity to, to learn and think about things that are transferable across continents and across industries. So Symmetra, thank you for being here today. How are you?

Sumitra Vig (1m 33s):
Thank you for having me on your show, Mark. I think after that introduction, that glorious introduction, I'm just hoping I can do just do everything that you said.

Mark Graban (1m 46s):

Sumitra Vig (1m 46s):
Amazing, sorry, Mark, that we can connect across continent with different zones. That is just so amazing.

Mark Graban (1m 53s):
Yes, you are my second guest in the history of the podcast from India. We've connected through Zoom from the US to India. So yeah, that's a very exciting opportunity to be able to do that again today with you. So there's lots of talk about around today around quality and customer focus and things. That'll be, I think, really relevant to people regardless of where they're listening from and what industry that they're in. But before we dive into that, you know, my, my kind of standard question Symmetra, I'll ask a version of it to you. You know, how did you first get introduced to quality in your career? Why did this become so important to you?

Sumitra Vig (2m 33s):
So when I first joined a global bank, I had no idea of how a bank runs because my summer internship had been in FMCG. So the experience was still delete diverse. I didn't get selected in the fright, in the final round of the summer internships. So as they say, every hurdle, a kind of a turning point and an opportunity of something better. So it was actually by accident that I landed up in a bank, but I had so much to learn. And I was actually placed in the operations floor where we processed high volume transactions of customers from across the globe.

Sumitra Vig (3m 19s):
So we had to handle funds, movements, and book deposits for them. I had to learn on the job and I think my interest and, you know, intention to learn started from there, where we were practically or what, when with volumes. And we realize that we have to serve our customers. Well, we have to figure out efficient ways to do it. So I think my lean learning scheme on the operations floor or of the bank, and we learned a lot, I have learned from my experiences and my mistakes. So, I mean, I know you do the favorite mistake podcast, which I think is such a beautiful title.

Sumitra Vig (4m 4s):
I see that I do throw the spotlight on the fact that it's okay to make mistakes. So yes, definitely. My learnings have been from those early days are huge volumes and trying to serve the customer in the best possible way, whether it's technology moving disconnects and processes and so on and so forth.

Mark Graban (4m 29s):
So it seems like there are different settings. Like what you're describing was probably what, what people might call the back office of a bank, like really high volume, maybe more like a factory that's handling paper or envelopes, and then information, as opposed to the retail banking setting, was that where there's that direct interaction with the customer?

Sumitra Vig (4m 52s):
Right. So lucky for me after my movement, after I worked in operations for like almost two years, the bank realized that now I know what it takes to run the organization from the back office point of view. And I could actually now use those learnings to serve the customer. And so I was transferred to a branch where I ran the branch and had to actually face customers. And my knowledge, my back office knowledge actually had me to serve the customers well. So you can say that I have experience in customer interface as well. And let me tell you, it's like, it's an absolute challenge to like be there and run to for gas and why, you know, this you're an experienced professional, so it's, you're right.

Sumitra Vig (5m 42s):
It's two different hats. One is the back office. And then the front office had where irrespective of what you may be going through at home, or any challenge that you faced, maybe a train that brought you late to work, you still have to smile in front of the customer and you have to be there, be very present, be very focused because in healthcare as well, they're trusting you with their lives in banking. They're trusting you with their wealth and their mind.

Mark Graban (6m 11s):
Yeah, I was, I was going to draw a parallel to healthcare because after starting my career in manufacturing, there was none of that direct customer interaction. But in healthcare you might be working in the back office, if you will, of, of processing and sterilizing surgical instruments where you don't directly see the patient, or you could be working in the part of the organization where they are having the face-to-face interaction with the patient, prepping them for that surgery that uses those instruments. But yeah, I mean, that, that, that was a huge learning opportunity for me being in a setting where you actually have the customer is not a concept. The customer is right there in front of you.

Mark Graban (6m 52s):
So I'd be curious to hear a little more Symmetra of, you talked about bringing lessons from the back office into retail banking. Can you think of an example of, of where that operations experience helped you in, in, in front of the bank customer?

Sumitra Vig (7m 7s):
Yeah. Sure. So I'll actually goat a something that I read and I don't know how correct it is, but I read that the comedian rich boss, I think is his name actually went to deposit cash at bank of America telecom. And the, the teller actually asked him for his ID, even though he was depositing cash. Are you trying to tell me that people are trying to put money in my account and you're telling them, no, I don't know how factually correct. That is. But the point is that when you have worked in operations, as I'm sure the bank of America teller has from there all your experience, you know, that there are rules and regulations and fortunately, which has to be complied to.

Sumitra Vig (8m 4s):
So in this particular example, of course, it's anti money laundering. And the fact that you don't want terrorists money landing up in your account, once the customer begins to understand those rules and regulations are for the safety and protection of the customer, they become more acceptable. And then the bank rule kind of becomes forced time, right? If you know what I mean, if we can explain that and that knowledge comes from back office experience from learning the rules and regulations. So that, I mean, we faced it every day, like customers were telling us why you're telling me this. So another example, since you talk about financial services is, you know, sometimes in a loan application, if our audience I'm sure has applied for a loan, you have to sign a zillion.

Sumitra Vig (8m 54s):
I don't know if you've experienced that. And the question to ask really is isn't this necessarily, how important is it? Can we reduce the number of signatures in some way, not only to reduce the time it takes, but just to make the experience more customer friendly, can we go in digitally, can be scanned some of the signatures and I don't want to jump to solutions, but yeah, these, these are experiences that come from a knowledge grinding.

Mark Graban (9m 26s):
Yeah. I mean, there's a couple, yeah. I've, I've been through that. Let's say especially mortgage documents, so many signatures, so many pages. It's interesting to challenge. Yeah. Like you said, without jumping the solutions to identify the problem statement, but then more importantly to challenge what, the way it's always been done. Like, well, we've always signed many, many times on many, many pages of paper. Well, the way it's always been done, doesn't have to be that way forever.

Sumitra Vig (9m 56s):
Absolutely. And it's interesting, you bring up the point because in one of the workshops that I, that I helped a company with and, you know, based on an assessment, I sort of felt they were doing a great job. And I asked the company to apply for a great place to work certification. So, and I'm really happy to know that they got certified my own learning. And that was that that even if one doesn't get satisfied or certified, you can still learn so many things along the way. The reason I bring this up is because I ha I got a chance to attend or human resources presentation made by, by, by IBM, which of course is a great place to work.

Sumitra Vig (10m 41s):
And it's exactly to your point behalf, have the concept of wild dogs, which is anybody in the organization can question the status of and can question, why are we doing something like this? And that is laying the seeds of innovation. So I think that questioning is, is, is absolutely key to bring about any improvement.

Mark Graban (11m 3s):
Yeah. And then the other thing to describe, I have heard of the comedian enriched boss. It's a name I haven't heard in a while, but I, I recognize that moment of like, yes, it's different, you know, putting money in versus taking it out. But I can imagine even if the money gets put in the wrong account, there, there are the things you pointed out, but then there's also the rework effort on the bank, right? So it's better. We'll come back and talk more about this depositing the money, right? The first time prevents rework, it prevents additional cost and risk and effort. But I think you, you, you made a really important point there that has broader application about explaining the reasons why I think that can help from a customer service standpoint, even from an employee satisfaction standpoint.

Mark Graban (11m 51s):
To me, one of the key points I learned about lean and standardized work is that you don't just tell people what to do or call, you know, employees don't tell each other what to do. You explain why, and that, that helps people understand. And it helps them embrace the standardized work in a way that's not based on compliance, but it's based on understanding. So I think that's a really, really powerful thing you said.

Sumitra Vig (12m 17s):
Sure. And I think you explained it very well and given, giving a rationale sometimes can help but speak first-time right. In many ways.

Mark Graban (12m 29s):
So on that point of first time, right. That was one of the things we were going to really take a deeper dive into today. Hopefully we're doing the podcast, right. That's the first time I think we are so far, I wanted to make sure I introduced you properly the first time. So, you know, there was a time to get it wrong or to ask during our pre recording. But, but anyway, this idea of first-time quality first time, right. Doing it right the first time, you know, I think that runs the risk of becoming a slogan, but I'm curious like really deeply what, what that idea means to you Symmetra in your experience.

Sumitra Vig (13m 12s):
It's a lovely question. And I'm happy that right at the beginning, we are talking about it because one thing I would, at least from my standpoint, one to create in mindset in the minds of the audience that that chooses to tune in to the podcast is that first time, right. Somehow has a connotation that there is no mistake, but I want to draw attention to your beautifully titled podcast, which is the favorite mistake where you have all of the presenters telling you about just one of the many that they have made Richard Branson of words.

Sumitra Vig (13m 57s):
He actually says there is only one certainty in business. And that is to make a mistake. And I feel when organizations come with that mindset, there is more of a human touch to the whole aspect of lean that it's okay to make a mistake. The point is, what have we learned from that mistake? How can we make sure that the same type of mistake is not made again and again, even if a mistake has been made, can we appreciate that human being for the effort put in because nobody comes to work, rolling up their sleeves and saying, you know, I'm going to make a mistake today.

Sumitra Vig (14m 38s):
So that's the mindset. And if it is okay, I want to actually suggest a paradigm shift where instead of first Stein, right. If we can think of next time, right. Not the, of letting everybody out of the hook, not trying to be lenient, not trying to excuse a mistake, but just so that we are constantly learning and there is a book and we can apply this actually even in our daily lives. So I don't make habits as a book written by James Cleary, which is that if we can just keep improving a little bit every day, then at the end of one year, we suddenly have 37% compounded improvements.

Sumitra Vig (15m 22s):
So the first time, right, that is what I wanted to communicate. Kind of a mindset of acceptance though. Sadly, today in many organizations, we still have the blame and the shame. And so that is why I wanted to create that first mindset before we go, Mark is

Mark Graban (15m 42s):
I think that's that, that makes a lot of sense. And I really like that framing of it because you, you mentioned the word fear or Blaine. So I was thinking about how a slogan, the problem with slogans of, let's say, if we put up posters to say, do it right, the first time people look at the poster and said, well, what do you think I'm trying to do? Like it might be insulting, but then I think there's this risk of, let's say if an organization says we have a zero tolerance policy for defects that might drive people to hide mistakes, covering up defects, things that are, you know, survival tactics individually that are bad for the organization.

Mark Graban (16m 27s):
What do you do? Or are you trying to avoid situations like that?

Sumitra Vig (16m 31s):
Right, right. No, absolutely. And I think that if we have this mindset, then we can go forward and actually define what is for Stein rights. So of course the definition is like very easy. It's from Six Sigma. You have a lot of lead practitioners listening in and has the benefits of low cost type productivity, improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, all of which are great for the business. And it's basically the concept of doing things, right. Not only the first time, but each and every time, but I want to go like two steps back and take it to the design, the product design stage, because I think Burstein right.

Sumitra Vig (17m 14s):
Starts right from the time an engineer designs, the product or service right up to the delivery. So it's a kind of intuition. It begins with what the customer expects. If you look at design thinking, the first step is really empathy. And what does a customer want? If you look at that example from financial services of the multiple signatures, the customer really doesn't want that the customer wants a loan. And so what does the customer expect? That should really be the starting point. If we can arrive at that and base all our of first-time right on that. And then we measure ourselves to that because as we know in quality, it's all that one of my quality gurus taught me that measure, measure, measure measure is one measure that I used a lot was problem incidence rate, which is basically you take the problems and number of problems faced by a customer in a certain measurement period.

Sumitra Vig (18m 15s):
And then hopefully there's a declining trend. So if you track the problems month on month, is that a declining trend and do like a Pareto analysis to figure out which are your main problems. So I'll give you an example from one of the companies I worked with, and this is also finance company, and maybe you can share help get so, so when we looked at the problems, because obviously a problem means the organization hasn't been first time, right? So a good way to measure first time, right. Is how many problems do you have? Because that's the easiest way to get a measure of first time, right? And there are a few more, if we have time, we'll go through that.

Sumitra Vig (18m 56s):
But if we just did problem incidence rate without giving the name of the company, so the top two problems that came out for them, the first one, and this is a big problem across, I think all industry is the whole aspect of communication, which is, we were not, I mean, they, as in, they were not communicating the charges to the customer properly, they were not communicating the documentation to the customer. As a result of that, the customer would keep coming back multiple visits, multiple visits only because the communication was done, not done. Right. And there are several world-class companies that do this. Well. I mean, I know that Disney, for example, has beautiful customers script when they take you, for example, to the jungle cruise ride.

Sumitra Vig (19m 43s):
And there's so many learnings across industry that can take place. So anyway, coming back to this company, so the first problem that they had when they were not first-time right, was communication. And the other big one that they were finding was done around time, which means that they were just taking too long in the process too. So this company actually gives loans, gives housing loans. So they were just taking too long and the customer would be waiting forever and ever, and ever. And there's just that much time that our houses available in the market.

Mark Graban (20m 13s):
Yeah. I was going to say that delay, isn't just annoying. It could jeopardize their ability to buy the home.

Sumitra Vig (20m 22s):
So basically the point here is that first time right. Is defined as customer expectations and we can have measures to track it. And if we track it regularly, we can bring down some process improvements, eh, the number of problems and therefore increase the first time, right. Score for an organization. So the first step is to look at it from a customer perspective, that would be the first step.

Mark Graban (20m 50s):
Yeah. So there's a couple of things I'd like to explore a little deeper. You know, one is that, that theme of customer focus, whether that comes from TQM or Six Sigma or lean, or like that's one pretty universal concept. That's part of all of these different frameworks over time. It's make sure you understand customers' needs because I think, you know, there's always, there's a risk that we do the wrong things more correctly, or I've heard people say doing the wrong things writer, we want to make sure we're doing the right things the right way. Like why, why focus on improving a process that doesn't add value to the customer to begin with?

Mark Graban (21m 33s):

Sumitra Vig (21m 34s):
The action is a very interesting analysis that we do in customer satisfaction. So reason sadly companies don't use it that often is that to do a performance versus important matrix. So for example, if a customer is, if companies or organization is doing a great job in, let's say providing 24 7 services, but the customer does not see all of the 24 7 services as that critical, because let's say at 8:00 AM, you may want to have access, do a online kind of a funds transfer where maybe you suddenly think, okay, I own my mom $200 and I want to credit it, which you can get onto your laptop and do, but, and nobody's one to nobody suddenly wants a bank loan granted, for example, because you would hope that people are more organized and companies sometimes spend so much of resources in getting that 24 7 services, right.

Sumitra Vig (22m 45s):
Which may not be that important from a customer perspective. So the first thing to understand is what is really important, what does the customer really want? And this comes out from asking, you know, customers. And so then you can save a lot of resources where you don't have to put a whole host of staff right through the night they can sleep and come back the next day, there's an opportunity cost straight. They can development work, they can add product features, they can do something else.

Mark Graban (23m 19s):
So when you, you, you're asking for healthcare examples, one that comes to mind from a previous guest who who's been a guest many times, Dr. Sami, Barbra, he's a dentist in Jacksonville, Florida, and we talk Symmetra about satisfaction surveys. So, you know, in the earlier stage of Dr. Baris dental practice evolution, you could maybe have a survey that asks the patients, how comfortable was the waiting room environment. Dr. Barbary question, the whole idea of like, well, why is the patient even in the waiting room to begin with, right. And you would talk about like, you can, you can improve the quality of the chairs.

Mark Graban (24m 0s):
You can have a better decor back in the day. You can have, you know, magazines that fit the demographics of your patients, but he eliminated the need for the waiting room even better. Right. And so instead of doing the way, it's always been the quote unquote, wrong thing better now, you know, patients would just come be greeted and go immediately to a treatment chair. Like I think that that's a better example of, you know, really focusing on the customer, meet the customer need is not comfortable waiting room. The customer need is effective, efficient, safe, high quality care,

Sumitra Vig (24m 37s):
And Mark with your permission, or if it's okay, I'll introduce an acronym. Because I found like as a student, when I was studying for, for, for anything like a college paper, I found that if I could put the key concepts into an acronym, it would be easy for me to write down my answers. So I'm proposing a smallest acronym and it's coming to my mind right now because of the example that you just shared about the waiting room. So I'll try to connect that. So basically the first time, right. Acronym, according to my vision is push time. Right? Isn't hard. I know you'll have audiences that say no summits writes of science, but anyway, bear with my thoughts.

Sumitra Vig (25m 21s):
So, so time right, is an art. So the acronym is ARC, stands for accuracy and accuracy is defined in terms of the customer's wants and needs and the type of service. So if you did airlines, for example, of course, it has to be better than Six Sigma because you want to arrive safely friend who flies when he to go back to her hometown. And she always says, perhaps I'll arrive. And I kind of shudder to think, because you know, in an airline, the last thing you want is for that to happen, right?

Sumitra Vig (26m 1s):
You cannot even think of the entertainment channels with the fancy food or the flatbeds, unless you can write safety. So accuracy in the airline industry is, is an absolute,

Mark Graban (26m 12s):
Oh, I was just going to say real quick. I always chuckle when somebody tells you and they mean, well, they'll say fly safe. I'm like, well, I'll do, I'll do all everything I can. I'm just sitting there.

Sumitra Vig (26m 25s):
Gary's another brilliant example of where if you're in surgery or a diagnosis, I know they always plan. The doctor tells you that, you know, this many channels, you, you hope you hope it's going to be a hundred percent successful surgery. And in healthcare, the nurse, while typing out your certificates, misspelled your name, it's fine. You know, you know, you know that you can get that corrected. So in the industry, that type of service, so accuracy again, you know, so let's, let's take a restaurant example if I don't like spicy food and then the chef would spice fine. I'll just drink a lot of water, but let's say I have a nut allergy and then I'm going to have severe consequences.

Sumitra Vig (27m 12s):
So I feel like accuracy is defined by the type of service and the industry and there's this. And there's an interesting example from the delivery industry to highlight what can happen, the consequences of not being accurate. So, you know, during the pandemic, when all the stores were closed, we were talking in our country, at least dependent on Amazon for even groceries and other delivery agents. I use the Amazon to order a honey bottle. And I don't know if you're guessing what I'm going to say next, but it was a Winnie the Pooh moment, you know, like when you sure that it's going to be empty and you'll have a sticky situation. So the honey bottle was broken, come on, has an excellent refund policy.

Sumitra Vig (27m 56s):
So you just take a picture, you upload it, there was a phone call, no questions asked. There was a refund. And I'm like telling the service rep that, you know, do you mind explaining to the supplier and my husband, you know, he heard me and he says, you're not here to change the world. So I go ahead and order the honey bottle again, because all the stores are closed and I still need my honey bottle. And lo and behold been in the pool moment again, third time, of course, they gave me the refund and they were very polite, but I didn't have the patience to wait. I just changed the brand brand, which I had been loyal to for so many years.

Sumitra Vig (28m 41s):
I used another brand, which I knew was reliable and everything. And it came beautifully back just like an action. And the point I'm trying to make is that when we don't do a root cause analysis, when we don't look at our feedback, when the employee handling the situation is not thinking is not enabled. Maybe not empowered, maybe not engaged. Then the cost is customer loyalty.

Mark Graban (29m 9s):
Yeah. Yeah. So let, let me, let me tell a quick example. As I fiddle around in my office, I've been holding up this you're you you've been kind Sumitra and mentioning my other podcast, my favorite mistake. So I have these coffee mugs and on three different occasions, I've ordered mugs and they've arrived like this. As I'm holding up in the video with the handles broken. And sometimes the mug itself is broken. And the company that I was using was very helpful about similar processes. Wasn't through Amazon, but send a picture, we'll send replacements.

Mark Graban (29m 50s):
We apologize. One time, I think it was like four out of the 10 mugs were broken. So they said, okay, we're going to send you four more mugs. Three of the four replacements were broken And there were different packaging methods. Like they could have even come from different production sites within this company. But as a customer, like, yes, they, they made me whole, they would send me replacements or they would at some point just send me a refund, but it was a hassle. Like I've started it. I started this mug was produced by a different manufacturer and they've managed to ship them without breakage and damage.

Mark Graban (30m 31s):
So I don't know how this other company makes money. They have other products that are less breakable, but if your defect rate is that high, there, there can't be any profit on making those monks. And I don't know where the learning and the feedback loops are. Other than, we're sorry, we'll give you a refund that, that shouldn't be the end of the story

Sumitra Vig (30m 50s):
Uni and the irony is that you're getting it on your, My Favorite Mistake mugs. So yeah. So coming back, so coming back to the acronym, so Ava's for accuracy, R was for responsiveness. We talked about 24/7 availability. So responsiveness can be in terms of time, how available is the organization. And again, it comes back to what is the customer expecting for that availability? However, responsiveness can be overridden by something called the relationship. And I, for that, I know if I mentioned before, my mother lives in a small town, which is four hours away, and we always tell her to relocate to Mumbai, but she doesn't want to favorite doctor lives in the same town as her and knows everything about her medical condition, but he is not available in the weekends.

Sumitra Vig (31m 47s):
However, relationship precedes that. And she knows that she can trust him. And she says, she's gonna be fine in the weekend. And nothing will happen to her. So responsiveness can be overwritten by relationship is what I'm learning. The other kind of responsiveness is distance. And to this, I'll refer to the mobile hospital that we run. My family has a foundation and we, you know, in the remote areas of the Himalaya, you'll be able to appreciate this smart. There are some villages where a villager has to walk sometimes one full day just to reach doctors. So we figured out this need, and there's a mobile hospital, which runs up to these remote inaccessible areas.

Sumitra Vig (32m 32s):
And there's a doctor on board with basic health care, of course at the base camp. There's a full hospital, but so responsiveness can be in terms of time or it can be in John's of distance. So that's the art. And then if we go to T T stands for timeliness, you talked about waiting in the room. I think timeliness has to be looked at both in terms of the wait time in the session. So very often organizations just say, oh, but I just took 10 minutes, 10 minutes to process this transaction. Well, how about the 20 minutes that our customer also waited? And I like to share this example from Domino's because they run a program where if they don't deliver pizza in 30 minutes, it comes free.

Sumitra Vig (33m 19s):
And I know a lot of teenagers wishing that it would be more than 30 minutes just to get it free. And they have a process, which is that you keep cut to the last minute, they have a seven minutes buffer. So that processing time is actually including the delivery is 23 minutes and seven minutes is for unforeseen unforeseen circumstances. So they know that they're going to deliver it on time. And it's amazing that they can have a whole marketing campaign around Disney, as, you know, if you go to, if you, if you wait, they manage expectations so well. And they expected with dying from this point is like five minutes or six minutes.

Sumitra Vig (33m 58s):
Well, that's timeliness. And if, if we have a minute, I'll share another interesting story. There's a personal story. And I call it my catch me, if you can. I don't know if you've seen the movie where like, so I'm done. So it's, it's an interesting film it's related to bank fraud. So I'll quickly go through it. I'm sitting at home. This is a true story. And it's really happened to me. So I'm sitting at home and I see a debit on my phone because that comes through an SMS. This is on my international travel prepaid card, just a dollar denominated card, because sometimes when I traveled to the U S it's not very easy to use my local India card because change, you know, fluctuations.

Sumitra Vig (34m 43s):
And it's just always easier to pay it in a dollar card. Now, the fact that I'm sitting in Mumbai and there is a debit on my card, it means that there is a fraud stone you'll know who's hacked into my account. So I quickly go, you know, there's a toll free number at the back of the card. It quickly call the number, and I know you must have faced it. You know, you face that AVR. And you're just like, I was very grateful that there's a 24 7 service because it is the evening. And at least there's someone to talk to, but I'm in a kind of a panic because there's already a debit. And as I'm waiting, there is another debit. And the card is with me. And the fraudster is just hacking into my account.

Sumitra Vig (35m 25s):
The customer service rep is extremely polite. Wishes me, understands my problem at all I say is that, you know, now that you verified my IDPs block the card so that there is no more movement and I'm not, and not using more money time is of the essence here. But the customer service rep says, hold on, I need to transfer you to the concern department. That's where I've lost the challenge because I can't catch the Leonardo DiCaprio character I'm stuck. And then by the time the person takes the call, a lot of the balance has already gone the next morning. However, I have to say the relationship manager dates, but by that time, so much of the money has gone away.

Sumitra Vig (36m 11s):
It takes six weeks for them to restore my balance. After I've lodged in a police complaint, proof that I was physically in Mumbai and fir and everything, the point of the matter, however, is that since I got my money back, the fraudster had his money. The financial loss clearly is of the organization that issued the card. I know it's a pittance because it's not, but if you add up seminar transactions, so that's the tea of timeliness. I lost my catch me, if you can moment. But as you notice that if dissatisfied customer tells an, an average nine to 10 people as for the technical assistance research program, I'm telling you this story, I've told this story earlier to other people, my friends, they know that this is my fat story complaining about timeliness.

Sumitra Vig (37m 2s):
So, so the point is that we lose out. So that's the art. And then I have one more adds a bit left in the acronym, but I'll let you speak before I otherwise I've seen like a Tyree.

Mark Graban (37m 16s):
All right. So let me, I'll let me share like two examples. I'd like to talk more about measurement, because I think one of the things that's really interesting when it comes to quality of the customer service level end customer, or even an internal customer in an organization, there can be a gap between the actual number of problems and the number of reported problems. There can be a gap between those two things where the data can be unreliable. I, I try like when I'm working with a client and let me use, like, you know, the internal example, let's say you're working on again, sterilizing surgical instruments in trays and sets for the surgeons.

Mark Graban (38m 3s):
There are unfortunately a number of problems. There might be missing instruments in complete sets. Something that maybe there's a risk that it might not have been sterilized properly, and that problem gets found. But then you'll see charts that will say something like basically, you know, number of defects delivered to surgery. I'm like, well, no, wait a minute. That number is actually the number of reported defects because there's a risk of people getting tired of reporting problems, because if things aren't being fixed in that quality feedback loop, they'll stop reporting problems.

Mark Graban (38m 44s):
Then there's a risk that executive see the chart. Well, the number of reported defects, or again, the chart says, number of defects. Well, that number is going down. We must be improving quality when that might not, that might not be the actual reality. So I think that's one risk. When we look at measurement, we need to think about maybe the ARC acronym. Well, part of it applies, what's the accuracy of the measure. What's the timeliness of the measure to make sure that it's not misleading in some way. Curious your thoughts about that scenario first.

Sumitra Vig (39m 18s):
Yes. So I think measurement is always a challenge. One way to get about this is that in the survey. And of course, so it also has its limitations. But one of the questions we tried asking is we asked the customers on a statistically relevant sample. Of course we ask, have you faced a problem with us in the last six months? And we computed the problem incidents rates from there based on what the customer is saying. And this may not actually be correlated with the problems that we are reporting internally, but as long as the baseline that we use is consistent.

Sumitra Vig (40m 3s):
So if we use the customer survey problem, incidentally reported from that question as the baseline, and you're on your track, the downward trend on that problem, incidence which ever measure you use, as long as you use that measure to consistently track, then you can show an improvement because like you said, you know, no measure is going to be for proof. I mean, now there is so much of CRM, right? In customer relationship management, you'll have a lot of organizations like Salesforce doing a great job where they can gather real-time information across all contact centers and give you actual information of problems.

Sumitra Vig (40m 48s):
But ultimately capture is such a human. There's such a human element to capture. Like, I can say that, you know, like the customer talked to me and I convinced him that that was no problem left. And so I didn't report so that these, these, these are issues and they will never go away. But if we always consistently use the same source and track a downward trend on that source, I feel like we're good. And we can, as you said, set goals, and the way to do it is to set standards, which are customer relevant. Absolutely. Like you said, in this entire spectrum, on the AI, on the R and D lore, alphabet left, which without which the acronym will be incomplete, which is kind of the link in my vision and mind mission, that is the most important.

Sumitra Vig (41m 39s):
And that's the C, C is culture. And that completes the acronym and makes it hard for me is always represents the closure of a sale. You know, like how, if you are shopping online, you put things into your shopping cart or a supermarket you'll be. And so, and cart also works backwards because if you work, if you look at it backwards helps you to stay on track, which is all the measures that we so culture to me is the missing link. And why do I say this? If, if first time, right? Isn't art, then culture is the landscape where that art comes to life. Culture is the roots of a tree.

Sumitra Vig (42m 20s):
Culture is the foundation of building Peter Drucker said, culture eats strategy. You can have the amount of strategy, but if the culture and the values are not aligned, then we're not going to go. Anyway, Chris Bosch is the author of culture works how to create happiness in the workplace, where there is some interesting data, which says that culture driven organization is actually 36% fewer in its defects. So therefore it's 30% more for Stein, right? It has 30% more customer satisfaction. And it has twice as much a chance of employees telling others to join the company and times the possibility of employees staying back in the organization, which I think in today's world of, you know, the, with the great resignation happening, if the culture is right, and people are feeling that this is an organization where they are appreciated, where they are engaged, they will want to stay back the whole issue of each employee, being a leader, each employee, having the chance for the organization to listen to them, each employee being tied to the values.

Sumitra Vig (43m 42s):
And, and so it it's basically how the organization behaves. And so that's why I feel culture competes the whole picture, but staying right.

Mark Graban (43m 55s):
Yeah. So I wanted to ask you more about culture because a lot of organizations will say that they are customer focused or that, that is their culture that may or may not like the statement may or may not line up with the reality, but let's say an organization is deeply customer focused. People use phrases like, you know, the customer is king. I'm curious your thoughts about that and how employees fit like is this customer is king mean it's only the customer that matters, or how do we think about different stakeholders in their importance?

Sumitra Vig (44m 34s):
So for me, you know, as, as you may know, mark, I have a vision. I have a dream to transform customer experience from this customer is the king mindset to the fact that an employee is the king who is delivering the transformational experience. I have a full program developed around this, but we don't need to promote the program as long as we promote this vision. And, and I feel that there are so many things. If you look at Toyota, for example, I'll just take that example because I know that everybody can resonate with that.

Sumitra Vig (45m 16s):
The fifth precept, I think, in, in the Toyota vision is that always have respectful, spiritual matters and be grateful at all times. You know, it's interesting that there's a business case for gratitude.

Mark Graban (45m 31s):
I think they called this, these, the Toyota precepts is that the one that they use

Sumitra Vig (45m 38s):
Yep. Precepts. Exactly. And this is the fifth prescept, you know, so there's a business case for gratitude. Apparently there was a research done of 2000 American employees and we, 10% said that they expressed gratitude. 35% said that they felt that expressing gratitude meant that they were vulnerable. For example, the American Express, I think his name was Ken Chenault. He said that if we express gratitude in a timely manner and authentic manner, we can still be very form on our deliberate deliverables and expectations. And it won't come across as a sign of weakness, all of this, because when we build in our value system like gratitude, we can actually help the employees to feel more appreciated, more engaged.

Sumitra Vig (46m 30s):
And that helps to bring their whole self to work, you know, going on the days when, when we are saying, okay, I'll have my fun at home work is a drag. It doesn't work like that. I attended a lovely talk by Francis Morales, the author of Tiki guy. And, you know, it's, the Japanese are living a long and healthy life. And I love that framework. And I feel that each of us comes up with our icky guy and our purpose of being an app purpose of working, irrespective of where we are. It's that framework of what you love to do. What does the world need? What are you good at? What can you be paid for?

Sumitra Vig (47m 11s):
If we can arrive at the intersection of that, irrespective of where we are at, then even a janitor can feel like a leader. So that is the whole concept of, then that janitor feels like he's linked to be organizations' vision and mission. And it's coming across, you know, in one of the organizations that I work with, we did an employee engagement survey and, you know, sometimes mirrors, it's the same organization where communication was the number one problem. They had two problems and I can say it because I'm not naming the company. So the top problem in employee engagement was communication.

Sumitra Vig (47m 54s):
And guess what? The second one was, was appreciation where employees felt that they were not getting appreciated for nothing. It's a no brainer. And that's why their customer satisfaction levels are where they are

Mark Graban (48m 10s):
And appreciation doesn't really cost anything. That's the powerful thing about appreciation.

Sumitra Vig (48m 16s):
And the other, the other point is that people think appreciation is the same as recognition. It's not recognition it's for performance for doing a great job. So you get a bonus and a promotion appreciation has nothing to do with your goals. And it's as beautifully explained by the greater good science center, which is run by UC Berkeley and the John Templeton foundation and leadership coach, Mike Robbins meets makes a brilliant case of how I think he played baseball at Stanford and he relates it to the coaching situation of how you can be appreciated, even though you didn't make the strike or you didn't make the goal. So yeah, there, there, there is a lot that we can go on and on.

Mark Graban (48m 57s):
I mean, there's, I mean, there, there's a couple of things that come to mind and again, I'm going to connect it to some things in healthcare. I think it's powerful when an organization, Cleveland clinic for one, and I've seen this in other organizations, they call every employee, no matter what they do, they use the term caregiver, right? So Toyota might call everybody a team member. Well, that sounds nice in one context, but to call everybody a caregiver and I've seen this in other organizations where they will make the connection to, to different frontline support jobs, janitors, or environmental services, or, you know, dietary services and connecting their job to the purpose.

Mark Graban (49m 39s):
You're not just cleaning the floor. You're not just cleaning the rails on that bed. You're helping prevent infections. And that that's really meaningful to people when you make sure that that connection doesn't get lost.

Sumitra Vig (49m 53s):
That is so beautiful. Isn't it, especially in pandemic situation, it could turn out that he really has a very important role and I want to quickly share because we sometimes feel, okay, fine. So there's this acronym. And is there any organization that's actually fulfilling all? And for that, I want to share, it's a Harvard business case study, which was done by professor gateway. He rated this organization Six Sigma and it belongs to the city where I am living in. It's a famous case study. You can Google it. They've called. It basically means a lunchbox. And while I means the career, and it's an, it's interesting how I remembered this case study.

Sumitra Vig (50m 38s):
I recently joined the BiPOC table in wWmen in Lean. And some, one of the members actually mentioned an indigenous story of continuous improvement. And then I remembered this story. They actually fulfill every single criteria that we stopped off. And it's interesting that Harvard business school thought of it as Six Sigma. They are very simple. They are semi-literate, they are, they have very low levels of automation. They go by food and bicycle and they use Mumbai very efficient train system to transport lunchboxes from people's homes. So people like home cooked food and their opposites, and they use all of the concepts of lean without even knowing what lean is.

Sumitra Vig (51m 21s):
So simple. Things like standardized lunchboxes, which they pick up and in wooden crates, they use a coding system without writing the address on the lunchbox. They called the resident that the neighborhood where the offices, the floor number and the number of the person picking it. They have a democratic system, they have equity partnerships. So they basically, if they know that they're going to make an X amount, 10 times the amount of what they're going to make, they put in themselves as a kind of an insurance fund, they hire and train their own people. The supervisors are from their own architects of improving the system.

Sumitra Vig (52m 3s):
They come from the same ethnic area and their single mission is how can they deliver the food on time? That is their mission. And so they have a one o'clock cutoff. They create that same buffer of 12 o'clock. They use the principles of system, where for customer particular customer is delaying cooking of food and not delivering it on time. Then the employee has the kind of an obligation to drop that customer so that the other customers don't suffer. And so many other concepts, the democratic principles, you know, the shared bonds, all of this coming together in one, in one simple organization, they don't even speak English.

Sumitra Vig (52m 49s):
And it was beautiful that I remembered that, you know, even very simple people that they follow a system and they follow a rigorous steps. They can achieve the impossible.

Mark Graban (53m 1s):
Yes that's that's that's. I love that thought. And oh, I want to go back to, you mentioned the women in lean group for, for people who aren't familiar with, that it's a group on LinkedIn and it's called women in lean our table. I can put a link to that in the show notes or women who are listening, who wants to connect with that group? Many of my guests are part of that group. Karen Ross, crystal Davis, Karen Martin, Elizabeth Swan, just to mention a few are a part of this, this community that's really grown the last couple of years. So thank you Symmetra for, for mentioning that group. And before we wrap up, you, you did mention a program and you said, oh, you don't need to promote it.

Mark Graban (53m 46s):
But I, I do think it's fair. You know, you've given us a time and stories and a lot to think about today. I can put a link in the show notes, but, but please do tell us briefly about the masterclass online and how people can learn more.

Sumitra Vig (54m 1s):
Right? So actually the whole topic of first time, right. Came because in one of the workshops that I did, the MD of the company said, Symmetra, tell us how we can be first Stein, right? So actually, whenever you put this up, I'm going to just play this. This is going to be my answer, but no, let, let it, but to be serious. So the workshop is basically online. It's customized for an organizations need, it begins with an actual assessment of their customers, which is kept confidential and all the findings are built into the workshop. And there's also an employee engagement assessment. Again, all the findings are shared. And then we build in the workings, it's interactive and it's called delivering customer satisfaction.

Sumitra Vig (54m 47s):
Do you awaken align, achieved masterclass and comprises of four modules? The first one is vision, which is like setting the stage. Like we talked about the Toyota preset. So that's an example, then there's a voice of customer. And then there's voice of process. I know you, for example, I know you interviewed Dan pink. One great example is his whole theory on not theory, but his actual advice on autonomy, giving autonomy to people with a FedEx days and the shipping days and taking their ideas. So voice of process, and then the last module is voice of employee where I believe that we need to bring the whole self to work. So it's the self-development piece as well as what your organization can do to help an employee feel more engaged.

Sumitra Vig (55m 33s):
Yes. So that's, that's the program. There are a couple of other programs which I'm working on one on communication, one on, you know, like breakthrough habits. So hopefully we won't get there in a continuous improvement situation. We will live walls.

Mark Graban (55m 53s):
Yeah. Well, I hope people, if they're interested, we'll go check that out. You can find Sumatra on LinkedIn. Her website is her name's, And I encourage people to go and check that out. And, and you know, one of the thank you for mentioning the foundation and, and the work that you do to bring health care to people who would otherwise have trouble accessing that. I think that's wonderful. And I feel like maybe at some point there's a whole discussion that we can have about all of that, but I, I want to thank you again, Sumitra for, for, for your stories and for the cart acronym and, you know, some, some thoughtful reflections and, and sometime, you know, at times things that were, that were funny.

Mark Graban (56m 44s):
So thank you for bringing all of that to the episode here today. I really, really appreciated learning from you and talking to you today.

Sumitra Vig (56m 51s):
Thank you, Mark. It's been my pleasure and a great honor. I wish you all the best in the work that you do, and I hope you don't have any more broken

Mark Graban (57m 2s):
Next time, right on those mugs. Thanks so much.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


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