They’re delivering a one-two punch to defects. They’re ridding the earth of process waste. They’re on the front lines delivering customer service perfection. They’re in leadership striving to make a difference in the world. They’re kicking process improvement butt! The Wonder Women of Quality are here!
This month in the Wonder Women of Quality pantheon we are honored to highlight Irene Longoria!
Born in Ensenada, Mexico, Irene is a Master Black Belt leading the Lean Six Sigma training program at Solar Turbines based in San Diego, CA. With a BS in Industrial Engineering at Instituto Tecnológico de Tijuana she has worked for over 16 years in Quality assurance, ISO and process improvement. Prior to her work with Solar Turbines she worked in a variety of industries: sports equipment, home and building technologies and electrical wiring equipment manufacturing.
Here are Irene’s answers to a few of our questions:
What is your Quality Mission?
- Help others to embrace the continuous improvement culture. There is always room for improvement no matter how good we are at what we do.
- Advocate for a culture where problems are seen as opportunities to improve and happy customers are the biggest priority.
- Use my skills to support and guide Green Belts and Black Belts to provide value to the customer.
What is your Quality Superpower?
- Integrity is my biggest asset. It’s not just about getting results, it’s about getting them the right way with the right tools without taking shortcuts.
- I have the ability to stay committed to the cause. That comes in handy when you face lengthy projects or complex changes. I can be the last soldier standing when others are discouraged or demotivated.
- I’m innately a positive person who looks for the bright side with every situation, especially when things don’t go as planned. A good attitude towards problems is the first step toward solving them, it helps to stay open to learning and improvement.
- I am determined, active, visionary, outspoken and organized.
What do you see as Quality Kryptonite?
- When leaders keep trying the same things and expect different results. A closed mind finds it hard to move beyond the status quo.
- Silo-like environments that promote process disconnects, When people try to protect their own job without considering the impact on others.
What are some of your Quality Victories?
- Early in my career I had the opportunity to take a job as an ISO Coordinator with a company seeking recertification — a job that three people abandoned after just a few days. It made sense when I realized it wasn’t a simple recertification — the management system was completely broken. Lack of management commitment was one of the biggest contributors, so I started a “Leadership Training” campaign that helped onboard leadership in conducting a management system overhaul. After an intense eight months of work, the company was re-certified with zero non-conformances for the first time in the history of that facility.
- Converting the most protectionist process owner into the best advocate for change. I was assigned to conduct a process improvement project in an area identified as the process bottleneck. The entire team was deeply skeptical they could improve the process at all, especially the process owner; an engineer with 45 years of experience on the job. Using the correct approach, along with Lean Six Sigma tools, the team was completely engaged in a few weeks and asked to replicate the improvements to other areas. The Process Owner committed to implementing the improvements and became the lead spokesperson for the changes. That was the same person who told me during the kickoff meeting: “Don’t expect me to make any changes to my process, I know everything about it and nobody is going to make me do something different.”
Do you have any Words of Wisdom?
- Start with respect for people. Being in a quality-related job means your success is tied to the ability of others to fulfill customer needs. People respond positively when they feel respected, included and valuable.
- It is okay to take care of yourself first. It’s great to help others learn and improve but don’t forget to invest time in your own learning too. A successful quality professional never stops learning.
- If your team learns something new, advocate to put it into practice immediately. This will motivate and engage the team. Procrastination is an obstacle to continuous improvement.
- Believe in yourself and don’t take it personally when people challenge your ideas. If your ideas are customer-focused then you know you are on the right track — don’t be discouraged!