Sunday, December 18, 2011

Taking Baldrige Global and Why a bit of Recession is Good for Quality?


I am reading A View from the Q with interest.  In this Blog, Paul Borwaski, CEO of ASQ, has provided an excellent round-up of quality as a profession in 2011. I am writing to add some of my random thoughts.

Firstly, removal of budgetary support to the Baldrige program was a huge step back. In doing so, we can again see how crowding a committee with only finance and lawyer kinds actually takes the world back. Nothing personal, but failing to see what the Baldrige has done and can do for a pittance of investment indicates some serious flaw in policy making in the USA. (Can’t say much because Policy making in my own country has hit an all time low and all involved are the lawyer kinds!) In more ways than one, the US leads the world and what it does may set a precedent in other countries. And that worries me.

While removing budgetary support to Baldrige cannot be understood, I do believe it offers an opportunity. The program has enough in the tank to be self-sufficient.  It could and we know it already is looking at cutting costs.  But in my view, the single most benefit of removal of budgetary support has offered is – It has freed the program from being a US based program. I have for years spoken in favor of an International Baldrige program. It is now possible and must be done!

2011 will be remembered for the Fukushima disaster.  While it can’t be termed a quality failure – I think there is a great lesson for quality professionals on how the damage was contained.  Hats off to the Japanese! 2011 will also be remembered for Bob Galvin’s passing away. But then we all have to go one day. He has left a lasting legacy which we will do well to cherish and maintain.

2011 will and should also be remembered for the first signs of globalization of ASQ.  The Influential Voices program is doing well. The New Voices has had a good debut. (Disclaimer: I am on both the list so do exercise caution in reading what we say. Haha.) Most committees are working and membership is on the up. In India I can see more members renewing their first year membership. I am hoping 2012 is even better.

We are all either in the midst of troubled times or fast accelerating towards it. While, this is gloom for some, I think for the Quality profession it is a huge opportunity. To make an impact on results.  I have been very disturbed with senior management in some companies and also quality professionals thinking of the Quality profession as a luxury item.  It is the thing that you don’t want but like to put in front of the client.  A recession changes all this.  Management realizes it needs quality and separates the men from the boys – the not so serious quality professional leaves the profession.  There is a lot of cleansing.

I also like a little bit of recession because it pushes the quality profession forward like nothing does. Not for nothing, the modern quality profession was built out of World Wars.  Adversity does give birth to great ideas and progress. Six Sigma and Lean both were embraced in troubled times, not in boom time. I love what I hear from friends in the industry.  Most management teams are demanding results from quality teams.  This means – if we deliver we get the credit. And also, we can demand and will get the support we need from management. What more do quality professionals want?

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t like when friends lose jobs. I could be one losing mine too. But for the profession, a bit of recession is good.  While I say this, I hope the world turns a corner sooner than later.

Wishing a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to you and your families.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

For Coco-Cola, Business is still simple – deliver good quality product.



As I read through a post by ASQ’s MD Laurel Nelson-Rowe two things struck me like lightening.  Firstly, for Coke, their business still is about delivering a good quality product. Everywhere.  How much more simple can anything get.  Second was the title of their quality head.  Carletta Ooton is Chief Quality and Product Integrity Officer.  Wow! Product Integrity. 

Coke is one of my favorite companies. Not that I love their product.  I deeply respect them for lasting this long, profitably. They must be doing many things right.  I was surprised when they did not make the Built to Last and Good to Great lists from Jim Collins.  Coke and Citibank, to me exemplify an old-school charm that endures forever.  Citibank did lose its way a bit but is getting back on track. Coke, meanwhile, has been a pillar.

For insights into how Coke manages to remain a pillar please do watch a video series at http://asq.org/blog/2011/11/coca-colas-quality-culture/

How is Coke so enduring?  I don’t really know but have some views.

1. Have a fantastic product that actually serves a need.  Now I know many will jump and say what need does carbonated water serve? It may not for you and me, but it does serve for tons of people. And has done for over a century.

2. Make sure your product is known to as many potential customers as possible.  I have travelled a bit and I am sure many of you have done more than I have.  Have you ever seen a corner of our planet (leave Antarctica and Arctics out) without a Coke bottle or hoarding around?

3. Once it is known, make sure it is available. For me, the real game for companies such as Coke is won in distribution.  And Coke knows this well.

4. Don’t over-charge. If you do, someone else will come along and challenge you on price.  Since Coke leads the market on this, others have no choice to follow or differentiate.  Following doesn’t make you a leader and differentiating is tough.

5. Retain the core but improve everything else. Yes, Coke did make a major change to its taste but was smart enough to change back when customers didn’t like the change.  Since then they have retained the classic product but brought in many new flavors.

Most companies that last really long follow fairly simple business practices. They don’t over-complicate life.  Coke surely doesn’t.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

How did I discover a career in Quality?

As we enter the International Qualiuty Month, Paul Borawski, CEO, ASQ asked us a question in his blog last month.  It reads:


How is it that you came to be passionate about quality? What was the connection between what quality means and how it became your passion?

Here is a video of my response.  I am also posting a summary below.

My interest in quality as a profession developed during the final stages of my graduation in Industrial Engineering. While selecting what project I should work on as my final year thesis I was attracted to the kind of work Prof. Ishwar Keswani was doing. I was keen to have him as my guide. That year, that is 1993, he selected implementing ISO 9001 at an organist ion in Nagpur as his project.  It was a live project and ISO was the pinnacle of quality knowledge for me at that time.  A team of four students worked with a valve manufacturing unit in Nagpur and the experience was one that defined my choice of career. I remain forever thankful to Prof. Keswani for introducing me to Quality as a profession. 

After two years of thinking ISO 9001 was the Mt. Everest of Quality I came across Dr. J M Juran’s work through an annual issues of an Indian Business Magazine.  This issue was prepared by Suresh Lulla, a man quietly committed to making quality a national agenda item.  I was hooked.  I read more and was even more hooked. I went on then to work with Mr. Lulla for eight years and learnt each day. For showing me the path, I remain indebted to Mr. Lulla.  The only way I can thank him a bit is to carry his agenda forward. Which, I will.

Quality to me is a responsibility. A responsibility to help processes work and see customers happy. Just as designers develop products we Qualitists ensure these products and processes work. Flawlessly.

Quality to me is also an opportunity. An opportunity to make a lasting impact.  To leave a legacy.

How did  ASQ happene to me? I was part of a large group of ASQ members in India who were frustrated and appalled at how we did not even exist for ASQ. This was 2006. I could have continued to complain and whine. Instead, along with two more members, I decided to raise the voice of Quality. We formed a volunteer group called Quality First and began conducting meetings for ASQ members, had a newsletter and a blog. And soon ASQ listened.  We are proud to say that the model we created is now ASQ’s chosen approach to building Local Member Communities across the world. Thank you ASQ for listening.

Raising the voice of Quality, for us, is not a slogan, it is a mission.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

No Spectators in a Quality Journey


A lot can be learnt by and from companies that come back from the dead (well, almost). General Motors is one such company. It has been in a hole and is trying to claw back. And early signs are good. 

While reading (and watching) Terry Woychowski, GM’s new vice president of global quality, speak to ASQ on GM’s three Ps: Promise, Personal, and Performance, I was surprised to see how clear the messaging was.  Clarity of purpose was one of Deming’s favorite principles and I could see it in action as Terry spoke.

Is GM out of trouble? Not yet.  Can we learn from it? Plenty, I think.

First and foremost. I loved the clarity of Promise, Personal, and Performance. Laurel Nelson-Rowe of ASQ says, rightly, that this could be a fourth P: Pointing. Pointing the company in the right direction. Consistently.

Terry says, and I am hoping GM believes, that customers trade their hard earned money with us for a promise – that our product will work.  Big deal. Everyone says this. I was very impressed with what he said next. Product promise is to deliver state and implied needs AND anything else that a rational mind would expect from a car.  Wow!

Terry then quoted H J Heinz (of Heinz) having once said “Quality is to a product as character is to a person”. Profound. Quality of products is a reflection of the character of the of its employees (though I think it is more a reflection of its management, but well said Terry.

The defining statement in the interview was when Terry announced that “There are no spectators in the Quality journey”.  This reminded me of a similar observation by Suresh Krishna, CMD of TVS Fasteners (Deming Prize winner) about their quality journey.  What he said amounted to – “I will try and convince you to join the journey, but if you don’t or cant, bad luck. Please get off the train or I will push you.”  

Change is not and should not be very democratic.

How do we know the quality journey at GM is working? They don’t have much to show yet but are doing the right things for sure. Warranty is down 50%. They are using the right quality methods such as DFMEA and DFSS in the design phase.  Cherry on the cake – Head of Quality calls two customers every week and ask if their service issue was resolved properly. I was at Qimpro (www.qimpro.com) when we used to advise CXOs to call customers. Some listened. Others did not. But I can assure you the effect of such calls is magical.  Of course, you have to back it up with performance.

The new GM is also speaking what investors like.  It is as if GM had forgotten that there is a customer and investor that actually run the company.  Terry spoke about a new board member who joined them recently (2010).  This board member narrated the story of his GM car breaking down in the 1980s!!! 30 yrs down the line he remembered every detail of the breakdown. That’s the impact of poor quality.

GM has actually done fairly well in India. And it is doing even better these days.  Watching Terry talk I got some hint why.  He spoke about quality surprises and mentioned the speed bumps in India.  Now this is a familiar grouse and I thought here is another ‘global professional’ admonishing Indian roads.  NO. Terry talked about how GM changed its design to suit Indian roads.  To me, that’s quality. Full marks, GM.

GM has dreams of being no.1 quality vehicle maker in every market, every segment it operates in.  Initial signs are good. All the best Terry and co.

What are some quick lessons we can draw from the new GM.

1.       Clarity always helps
If you want people to work for a purpose, please clarity to them what they are working for. By clearly saying GM wants to design, build, and sell the world’s best vehicles, GM has just done that.

2.      Have a Dream
You are never going to excite and earn people’s hard work with boring goals.  Jim Collins said have a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal).  GM has done something similar.  Even if you fail you do pretty well chasing the dream.

3.      Have a Plan to achieve the Dream
Having a dream is not enough.  Build a detailed plan to achieve the dream. But don’t get lost in the details.  Keep spaces for changes.

4.      Execute the Plan
Put your head down and execute. No one ever won in the marketplace for having a great plan. You win by execution.

5.      Customer Satisfaction is the only metric that matters.
Finally, have internal metrics but remember that the only metric that matters is how many customers are satisfied with you.  And how much? Are they voting with their money?

Do you have to be GM to follow these principles? No. You can be a department or any other company and these will work well for you.  I hope they do.  If you follow these suggestions, and have a story to tell, let me know.  All the best.



Thursday, September 22, 2011

Excellent service is more an attitude than a skill!

On my recent trip to Melbourne I finally decided to listen to advice. I am usually horrible at doing what I am asked to do. It doesn’t help that I am plain, LAZY. I was told if you are in Melbourne don’t miss the Great Ocean Road tour. Now, we all get such recommendations and I was all set to disregard it as advice from over-enthusiastic well-wishers. Something in me told, don’t miss this one. And I didn’t and am so happy I didn’t.

After much scrutiny of the options available we selected AAT Kings, one of three popular operators of tours in Melbourne. The product seemed good but service was exceptional from the time I made the first call. This was perhaps, the most consistent display of excellent service I have ever seen.

The booking was smooth and precise. In fact it was so smooth that I was worried something has gone wrong. I actually called back and checked if the right booking was made. We are so used to poor quality that when we do get good service we cant believe our luck. The bus was ready and left bang on time. Glad that we were on time!

The drive was made brilliant by Lance our tour operator. He is my new benchmark in customer delight. Lance was a teacher for 27 years before taking up this job. He has raised the profile of a tour driver by several notches. He knew almost everything about that was required to be known on the tour. This included history of the several towns on the way, flora and fauna, the 12 Apostles and the science behind their formation, and the list is endless. Lance offered and happily clicked photographs of tourists from the bus and never once broke a traffic rule in the 600 km journey.

On the way back he saw another tour bus had broken down and he volunteered to take as many passengers as he could. Lance was so thoughtful about his customers that he gave a quick overview of the various precincts in Melbourne where we could go for dinner that night. He even dropped us very close to one of the major Precincts.

Lance, if you are reading this – you are amazing!

I really wish Bill Bryson, author of Down Under had met Lance. I am certain his book would have been an even better read with Lance in it.

What worked for Lance but doesn’t work for most people in service industry?

Dignity of labour – Lance just did not think he was a tour operator or a driver. He thought his was the most important job ever. He loved it.

Knowledge and desire to learn more – Lance knew all that was to know about the whole route. But his desire to learn more was still vibrant at an age most people want to retire.

Wit and humour – he treated the passengers as his equals. I have for long believed that being subservient in a service situation actually works against the service provider. Lance had a joke to crack most of time and was happy to take one himself.

Compare Lance with Sandeep now. Sandeep is a waiter at the Shiraaj, a restaurant in Dockland’s Melbourne. Shiraaj was a self proclaimed fine-dining Indian restaurant. Now Indian food, such is its nature, will leave your fingers stained. As a practice I asked for a finger bowl and got a rude response that we are a fine-dining restaurant and hence no finger bowls. I almost blew my top but was only retrained by presence of colleagues and not wanting to create a scene in a foreign land. Now, I am not a foodie to the extent who would know if Indian restaurants are expected to have finger bowls or no but I am sure there was a better way to let me know there is none. Very poor customer orientation. This once incident spoiled the entire experience at Shiraaj and left us wondering why did we even want to have Indian food in Melbourne. Why not be Roman in Rome!

A third example is of Rohan, in-charge of catering at the learning centre where I trained while in Melbourne. Rohan was quick to notice that being a strict vegetarian I had diet limitations. Once he figured out what will work for me he ensured that every single meal for the next week I was taken care of. He did not have to do this but he was driven by by his desire to be excellent at what he was doing.

As I pondered over these cases I debated whether a training program would have made a difference for Lance, Sandeep, and Rohan?

I am more convinced than ever that excellent service is more an attitude than a skill. If you want to deliver excellent service look at your recruitment process, not training!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Future of Quality and thoughts from young minds (not mine!)


We all make our living through quality and should be interested in what the future for Quality looks like. Well, we are lucky. ASQ is doing this for us as they have done for last several years. Paul Borawski, CEO of ASQ and someone working closely on the report has raised a very interesting question. He argues that the future of quality perhaps is critical to the youth of today but the people working the Futures study are all well beyond being categorised as youth. Is there something that we will miss? What do the youth think about quality and its future?


I hate to admit, but I also don’t quality as young by Pual’s definition of 35 years.  But I am not that far off so I can probably answer his question. I also speak to people in quality and many are younger. I spoke to a few for this response. So, I am well prepared, which is not usually the case.


What do professionals under the age of 35 see as the future of quality?
    • Firstly, they want products and services that just work.  No surprise. As long as human kind makes products and delivers services there will be other humans who will want these products and services to work. Or they won’t pay. 
    • Secondly, they want more features. As I discussed more on this I was surprised, more features don’t mean more features necessarily. It means simpler features in most cases. Example: An iPad actually has more features but makes its simpler to do things. The ‘Senior’ phone on market is another interesting feature phone. It’s simpler.
    • Thirdly, they want lower prices. Again no surprises.

What do young people in quality think about the future of quality? This is more of a worry for us (oldies) than to the youth. I interview a lot of people to try and fill positions I have and more often than not I am appalled at the quality of candidates who wish to make a career in Quality. To me this is very strong lead indicator for where our profession is headed.
I know I am a magnet for poor quality, but I don’t want to believe that only the candidates coming to me are causal and shallow on their quality knowledge. 
I do sometimes, land good candidates. And it is a delight to meet them and interact and they resurrect my confidence that the future of quality may well be in competent hands.  Here are some of the themes I hear from them:
    • Quality should and will be on the CEOs desk. I have met some high quality young professionals who want to make a future in quality and they want to interact with the CEO.  Otherwise they will find another profession!
    • Quality should be tied to company strategy for us to make a difference.  The good candidates I meet are very keen to work with companies where they see quality is a company strategy and not just a Six Sigma program.

I was also intrigues by Paul’s lament that the youth today doesn’t even know who Deming and Juran were. Well, I would blame the current generation of quality professionals. How many of us know about Deming and Juran and an even more depressing question is how many of us take the trouble to talk about them when we conduct training sessions.  How will the youth know, if we don’t teach?
What can we do about the future of quality today to make it better tomorrow? I have written about it earlier and will repeat:
    • Don’t tolerate poor quality…raise your voice
    • If you want the youth to be interested in quality, be a role model.

Is it that easy? Maybe not.  But we have to start sometime and the best time is NOW.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tata Steel: Values Stronger than Steel

I was delighted to know that Dr. J J Irani, the poster boy of Quality in India was recently recognized by the American Society for Quality by inviting him to be the keynote speaker for their annual conference.  An honor, a bit belated, but richly deserved.  His presence at this world stage is indicative of the respect the Tata Group has acquired across the world, the growing importance of Indian industry, and a growing realization at ASQ that there is a world outside America!

Paul Borwaski, CEO of ASQ, interviewed Dr. Irani during the world conference on quality and improvement and the interview is a gem.  You can watch it here.   Paul has asked some very compelling questions and Dr. Irani has responded with his characteristic candor and maturity.

Tata Steel, Dr. J J Irani, and an Amazing Quality Story
I have a slight advantage as I write about Dr. Irani.  I have met him a few times and each time came back impressed with his depth or understanding ability to convey his message in terms that all can grasp.  No easy task.  I have also been an Assessor for a MBNQA based assessment at Tata Steel.  In my career I have worked with several quality professionals who honed their skills at Tata Steel.  Even after years of leaving Tata Steel these professionals were grateful to the time they invested at Tata Steel.  Many professionals in India consider Tata Steel the Mecca of Quality.

Tata Steel was not always like this.  In late 1980s Dr. Irani reluctantly recalls, Tata Steel’s marketing department was more a rationing department than a marketing department.  Dr. Irani has often also said that if a customer would dare complain about our quality in those days, we would punish him by denying any supplies for several months till the customer would return and beg.  Such were the days when the vision of Rusi Mody (Dr. Irani’s boss at that time) and Dr. Irani decided to walk the quality path.  I have always considered this decision as a turning point in India’s quality journey.  Dr. Irani raised his voice for quality that day, just as ASQ is doing globally.

The story thereafter is long but simple.  Dr. Irani and team worked initially with Suresh Lulla, my mentor and often called the Juran of India, to deploy Dr. J M Juran’s quality improvement methodology at Tata Steel. This work formed the bedrock of quality improvement at Tata Steel. In mid 1990s Tata Steel and other group companies embraced the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award criteria and established the JRD Quality Values Award in honor of the group’s founder.  Dr. Irani’s decisions to adopt Juran’s methodology and then the Baldrige program were masterstrokes and revitalized a lazy giant into a rockstar company.

Lessons from the Journey and Raising our Voice for Quality
What can we learn from Dr. Irani and Tata Steel’s journey. Plenty.  Some key lessons are:

- Make wise judicious choices about what you are going to deploy
- Once decided, support your quality program – don’t sit at the edge
- Be a role model yourself.

Paul Borwaski, has asked how can we raise the voice of Dr. Irani and other enlightened leaders to put quality in its rightful place in every organization and in our communities. We can do this if we:

- Tell Tata Steel’s and Dr. Irani’s story over and over again (just like we used Jack Welch’s story)
- Not tolerate poor quality – just as Dr. Irani refused to do once he had tasted quality
- Focus on the society around and offer selfless service.

The Real Impact of Tata Steel
Tata Steel is not the revered name it is only because it makes the best steel.  It is the work with the society around which it works that makes Tata Steel special. I have first hand seen the work and its impact on rural regions of Jharkhand and I had tears in my eyes.  Tata’s run perhaps India’s only privately managed city – Jamshedpur.  I have seen a balanced scorecard for societal work and it being reviewed as rigorously as the business scorecards are.  The passion that Tata Steel’s employees show can only be believed if seen. 

The villages around Tata Steel in Jamshedpur are forever grateful.  And all this in an area which affected by violence from the tribals around it. No Tata employee is touched by this violence as a gesture of gratefulness. TO me this is amazing proof of the power of service.  Several governments could learn from Tata Steel.

Tata Steel is currently running a series of TV Adverts with a new tag line – Values Stronger Than Steel.  For those who know Tata Steel’s commitment to quality, society, and values couldn’t agree more.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Top 10 Quality Gurus in India - Respond with your nominees.


It’s now been over two weeks with the post on ‘Top 10 Quality Gurus of India’ being out on my Blog and three groups on Linkedin.  We have had over 30 responses with multiple nominations.  Here are some quick insights.

My definition of Guru surely was not clear.  People have responded with names of quality managers (good ones I am sure) to P C Mahalanobis.  This points to the lack of clarity in my original post. Apologies.

We are seeking Gurus – so they have to be in between your managers and P C Mahalanobis. Gurus should have had some original and pioneering work. I agree consultants have an advantage here.  These Gurus should have done majority of their work in India.

I will be setting up a small panel to evaluate the nominations.  We have support from ASQ India to help in this study.

We may have to divide the list into Gurus and Leading Practioners (or a similar title).

Early nominations include:

Gurus
P C Mahalanobis
J J Irani
Suresh Lulla
R V Ramchandran
Essae Chandran
Manu Vohra
Hans Bajaria
Gopal Kanji
Janak Mehta, TQMI

Practioners
Satyendra Kumar
Debashish Sarakar, Avery Deninson and ICICI Bank
Mukesh Jain, Microsoft
Ramaswami Viswantahn, QAI
N C Narayanan, SSA Academy
Deepti Arora, Nokia-Seimens
Hemant U
Nilakanta Srinivasan
Anil Sachdev
Amitabh Saxsena




Original Post - 19 June

I am looking at building a list top 10 quality gurus of India. Who are your nominees?

Some ground rules for the search.

1. You can nominate multiple Gurus. Please limit one nomination per response to this post to help me sort later.

2. Nominee must be an Indian or POI (Person of Indian Origin).

3. Most of his/her work should either have been performed in India or has benefited Indian companies.

4. Nominees can include professionals, academics, consultants, or any others who have made a significant impact.

5. Don't just lick up and nominate your Bosses!

Feel free to share this post to get more response. I aim to keep this search open till 20 July 2011.

If you are a member of ASQ India or QualityNet groups on LinkedIn, you may post your responses there as well.


Friday, June 17, 2011

So is Ford a Manufacturing company or a Service one?


Does Bennie Fowler, Group VP of Quality and New Model Launch at Ford, read my blog? I have just finished watching a four part video post of Bennie talking to Paul Borwaski, CEO of ASQ.  (You can watch it here.) And I am grinning ear to ear as the first part of the video post has Bennie talking about Leadership taking a decision about Quality and then demonstrating the right behaviors. This he is says is what is ‘under the hood’ at Ford. My post last week talked about exactly this – quality culture is about intolerance for poor quality and delivering on promises. And demonstrating the right behavior. Sounds similar. Isn’t it?

While closing the post, Paul says, “I was struck by Bennie’s remark that today, quality must focus on more than product—it must focus on the entire customer experience.”

Brilliant comment Bennie.  So true.  Finally product companies are realizing what Drucker said years ago – all companies are service companies.  (I am not sure if these were his exact words but he did say something similar).  Think of Ford.  Do you just buy a car? You buy the ambience at the dealership, the courteousness of the sales staff, the professional advice you get, the timeliness of deliver, the maintenance service of your car…the list just goes on. Ford (or any other car company) has 100s of chances to spoil their reputation well after they have delivered the product to you.  So is Ford a manufacturing company or a Service one?

In the last 15 years while I have been active in industry, the more I have looked at manufacturing companies the more I see a service company hidden under the hood.  Look around yourself.  Everything is a service.  A product is part of the experience, at best.  I can’t claim to be a trend spotter – but seeing all companies as Service companies could the next big trend in Quality!

A lot of industries are yet to make this journey.  In many ways financial services and similar industries have skipped a generation – and have focused on customer experience far earlier in their life cycle as other companies.  This could be because of the competition they face or maybe because they face the customer far more directly and often than a car company would.  But this is changing.  Most car companies make more money on service, insurance, and resale of old cars than they make on their core-business.

So what can we learn from the NEW Ford.  First, choose your leader wisely.  Alan Mulally was a brilliant choice. There is no better business leader today who is so focused on quality.  Boeing’s loss was Ford’s gain!  Second, choose your priorities wisely.  When other car companies were crying hoarse for government aid to revive their fortunes, Alan and team put their head down and worked on reviving Ford.  They took responsibility and changed how they worked. 

A good example of Ford getting it right in India after Alan moved in is the new models they have launched.  They do not now bring outdated models to India.  They realized the Indian customer is now as aware, if not more, as the American one.  Launch of Figo was a sucker punch in the Indian market.  The model is a huge success and Ford has learnt its lessons well.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Building a Quality Culture - Intolerance for poor quality and delivering on promises does it!


Had an engaging discussion with couple of friends yesterday.  Among the topics was the troublesome topic of building a quality culture.  What is it and how do you build it?

I am not qualified to comment on it but then have I cared about my qualification on anything? Haha.
IMHO building a quality culture is about having the right behaviors and achieving results. Everything boils down to this.  If we all don’t behave in interest of quality ALL the time there is little chance we will build a culture that supports quality.  And even more importantly if we don’t collectively achieve the results we set out for we don’t build the credibility that is so essential for a quality culture.

Intolerance for poor quality all the time is a key behavior management must demonstrate.  This is even more crucial in moments of truth. Haven’t we seen leaders/managers talk much about customer and quality and then when rubber hits the road and the going gets tough these leaders/managers are the first to suggest cutting corners?  If they are not the first they look around the room hoping and praying that someone even makes a hint of a suggestion for them to jump on it and agree.

Achieving results is critical to building a quality culture.  Good results come from good processes (Yes, I know there is more to it…but this is a blog not an article).  Good processes come from good people.  Good people come to companies which have good results…and so on.  If you want a quality culture, deliver on your promises.

In summary intolerance for poor quality and delivering on promises builds a robust quality culture.  Agree/disagree?  – let me know.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What is the future of Quality? Does that bother you? Well, if doesn’t then you are probably on Jupiter.



Paul Borwaski, CEO of ASQ has opened an interest debate on what is the future of quality? ASQ has commissioned a research every three years since 1996 to look into what is the future of quality.  And they keep coming up with interesting drivers for quality. For a current list seehttp://asq.org/blog/2011/05/180/

Here is my list of the questions quality needs to help with if it wants to have an impact on our future.

·          How will quality help in making the earth last longer?
·          How will quality help the changing demographics of the world?
·          How will quality help the world a safer place?
·          How will quality help business become more competitive?
·          How will quality help leaders be more inspirational?
·          How will quality help managers be more effective?
·          How will quality help kids study better and get smarter?

Making the earth last longer is about preserving our natural resources and taking care of the environment. Quality principles and tools such as Hoshin Kanri and House of Quality could be very useful in the planning process of organizations that are trying to prolong the useful life of our planet.  X-Matrix for policy/plan deployment in the execution of these plans will surely help such organizations.

Peter Drucker had predicted in early 2000s that one of the key frontiers for management will be the changing demographics of the world.  In summary what he said is that world will have a lot of young people (that we all know) and it will have a lot of older people with disposable money. In any case if there are lots of older people the world will need products designed for them.  So from old age homes, to special bank accounts, to adult diapers, to security systems…quality principles can help companies design these products better.

The Fukushima disaster has again pitches safety at the centre of most debates.  Surely better planning and some practice can help in such cases. I actually think the Japanese were able to handle the crisis fairly well and this maybe because of the excellent quality orientation they have.  The world needs to learn from this disaster and I suspect the tools they used would include FMEA.

Quality has been the key driver for competitiveness.  While speed and service have emerged as other drivers, they make a difference only if quality is of an expected level.  So what was luxury 10 years ago is expected now.  Companies will increasingly use models such as the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award of the USA and Six Sigma to achieve higher levels of excellence.  Lean principles could help save a lot of money by reducing waste and improving speed.

More industries will embrace quality.  I am hoping education and healthcare sector across the globe realizes how much of an impact they can make using quality principles. 

The one area where I feel quality will make more inroads than others is with leadership. Alan Mullaly of Ford has made quality speak by CEOs fashionable again.  He is the new Jack Welch.  Maybe better.  Now, if only other CEOs embraced quality and drove it from the corner office.

Quality tools and methods will continue to be used by managers.  New methods may emerge to help balance quality, cost, speed, and service levels.  We could see industry wide metrics being standardized.  I can see industries publishing quality metrics in public domain. 

Finally, can schools embrace quality and help kids learn more and better?  Could we equip kids with basic analysis and root cause skills? Wouldn’t that make these kids smarter for later jobs?  And it will bring tons of cost down for industry which then trains people when really they are beyond training.  The best place for quality training is in schools.

Dreaming? Yes, I am.  But we have to dream to make some of this happen.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Improving Education through Quality Principles - some thoughts


Paul Borwaski has a raised the voice for a topic very close to me – quality tools in education.  Much is said about children being the future and education being the key to a better world – but not much is done.  Paul has shared some examples from the US where select institutions are using quality tools to make a difference, for the better.  There are surely such institutions across the world. But these exceptional institutions are exceptions. Very far and few.

There is no denying that quality tools, methods, and practices can play a huge role in changing how education is provided and managed. There are enough examples of successes for institutions to follow.  If companies could learn from successes of other companies, why can’t institutions?

Well they can, if we looked at the forces at work and did something about it.  I am responding more from my exposure to the education system in India.  Don’t get me wrong, I am very proud of being a product of this system.  For understanding what quality tools to use, we try and understand the macro characteristics of the company we are trying to help – let’s do the same for our schools.  Here are some macro forces:

Competition
 I know I have not said this but whoever did was very smart.  Competition drives all improvement!  If we did not have enough competition, no company would be interested in improvement.  Competition when mixed with scarcity is a key driver for improvement.  This is not the case in education.  There are far too many students and too few schools.  Imagine a situation where fewer students were chased with a lot of schools!  Utopia I know.

Customer:
The customer – provider relationship with companies is insulated from damage that the provider can inflict.  But in education, our children study and stay (up to eight hours sometimes) with the people and system that we want to complain against.  It’s tough to gather courage to complain in such a situation.  And schools take full advantage.

People:
Who gets into teaching? If we leave out some exceptions, it is the people who do not want or can’t get into a so-called proper career. This is one of the biggest paradoxes of the developing world – the people who should and want to become teachers never become one.

What can be done? I am not qualified to comment but then I do have an opinion.  Here are some thoughts to improve education through management and quality tools.

It is time to forget teaching is the noblest profession.  Why? Well, the profession itself forgot its nobility years ago.  Noble profession is now only used as an excuse for incompetence and corruption.

Organized commerce:
Schools in India remain largely unorganized.  It’s way too easy to start a school if you have some seed capital and it’s even easier to run it without any regards to rules if you continue to have the money.  Yes – corruption rules here as well.  If school enterprise is made organized by then there is hope.  Just as industry is regulated by rules and guidelines, it is time education is governed too.

Complaint management:
If you buy a service you can choose to complain about it.  If the complaint is not addressed or is repeated you can choose to walk away as a customer.  You cant do this if your children are studying at the school you want to complain about. If the government or another agency can develop a fair and vengeance-free system to manage complaints then we could have true feedback pouring in.

Parent partnership:
A key quality principle is developing partnerships with customers or stakeholders.  If parents became partners in the management of a school, the school would know what the customer wants before they make a huge mistake.
If this and more is to be done, the Baldrige model for schools is a solution I completely support.  There is no other model/framework which can help schools/colleges from understanding who their customer is, what their mission could be, what strategy to adopt, whom to recruit, what processes to put in place, what to measure and monitor, and what results should matter.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Use ROI to determine ‘What’ and ‘How Much’ of social investment not ‘If you should’.


Quality has many dimensions.  While process and system quality often takes our attention, there are many companies focused on management and organization quality.  If Quality of Life, (borrowed from brand promise of the TATA group from India), is what we seek and work for then SR and Quality cannot remain far away. 


In my MBNQA training sessions and workshops I have often stressed that there are two aspects of the MBNQA core values which separate it from the similar models.  One is Agility and the other is Social Responsibility.


I have observed over 50 companies from close quarters during Performance Excellence assessments (based 
on the MBNQA) and found an interesting co-existence of superior business performance and social responsibility.  I am not suggesting a cause and effect relationship between social responsibility and performance excellence – but a co-existence is surely assured.


Perhaps, companies which do well find it their duty to serve the society OR since they serve the society well their conscience is clear and they take better business decisions! I don’t know and frankly I don’t care.  I am not a keen supporter of the ROI angle in social responsibility.  ROI won’t let me decide weather to do SR but it surely can help in decide ‘how much’ and ‘what’.


Jim Collins in his works Good to Great and Built to Last also alludes to the link between social responsibility and performance excellence.  Again, we don’t know which one leads to the other.  And we don’t have to know.


During the assessments I have carried out I came across some brilliant applications of social responsibility. Most interesting ones include:


TATA Steel manages a whole city – Jamshedpur in India.  This is perhaps the only privately managed city in India.  What is the ROI? Tremendous brand appeal for TATA group, respect, excellent education infrastructure leading to students who serve other companies as well, and much more.


Several TATA group companies manage their social responsibility programs just as they manager their business.  I have seen a balanced scorecard and monthly review being conducted on the same for Social Responsibility.  Titan (India’s leading watch and jewellery maker) employees differently-abled staff (who would typically be rejected by other companies because of their disability) in same roles as with able staff.


TATA group funds several leading institutions of eduction including the Indian Institute of Science, Institute of Fundamental Research, Institute of Social Sciences, a Cancer Hospital etc.


Read more: http://www.tata.com/company/Articles/inside.aspx?artid=HCy+RNqd0vk=


Birla Group in India supports rare performing art forms where there is negligible government interest.  What is the ROI – some art forms may survive and our next generations will see our rich heritage. 
A Birla Group company, Indo Gulf Fertilisers, established a vocational training centre for villagers to be trained in skills that could fetch them jobs.  ROI – Indo Gulf had les pressure from society to offer jobs at their own plant (something they could not do any more).  Indo Gulf also ran a fantastic program to bring government agencies and needy village societies together to allow government aid to reach villagers directly.


In my career as a Performance Excellence I have advised companies to consider offering their skills to society rather than just money.  For example – a leading IT Services company worked with local universities to improve curriculum and study material.  In my view this is a more far-reaching service than donating money. 


All these and many more companies follow the basic premise:


Social Responsibility is just that – a responsibility.  It is not charity.  It is our way of saying thank you to the society that allowed us to do business.


What can we do to interweave SR and Performance Excellence?  Well we just have to adopt the MBNQA in letter and spirit.  Item 1.2 is all about societal wellbeing and community support.  One of my favourite questions in this is about what are the communities you support and why?  A client of mine interestingly interpreted this by selecting people with vision-impairment as a community and offered the option of sending their electric utility bills in Braille! Brilliant.