Friday, August 5, 2011

Culture of Quality: Raise the voice of Dr. Irani

It was quite an interesting and insightful discussion between Paul and Dr. Irani.  I think that it was apt to have Dr. Irani as one of the speakers at the ASQ 2011 World Conference on Quality and Management. 

Let me quickly introduce Dr. J. J. Irani (for those who do not know him) and what he has done for quality.  Dr. Irani is a Director with the Tata group which is India's salt-to-steel conglomerate.   He received the Juran Quality Medal for 2001 from Indian Merchant Chamber.  He is the recipient of several other awards and recognitions.  Since 1994, he was instrumental in institutionalizing quality in Tata group.  He was the Chairman of Tata Quality Management Services.  I would suggest you to do a quick read of the article titled, "A never-ending journey" to better understand the association between Dr. Irani and Quality. 

Now, coming to the discussion Paul had with Dr. Irani.  Interestingly, Dr. Irani starts defining quality as a contract between the supplier and user.   One can look at quality as a contract between the supplier and user or vice versa.  The former, though, conveys that the supplier considers quality as a top priority and is part of the contract.  As with any contract, when violated one is penalized.  

Listening to the conversation between Paul and Dr. Irani, the Tata group seem to be more "quality" focused since the last 20 years or so.  The reason for this improved focus was due to international business opportunities and globalization.  The Tata group seem to have tried Juran's principles and Japanese quality principles before finalizing on the Tata Business Excellence Model (TBEM) that is based on the Malcolm Baldrige Quality Model.

Dr. Irani explained quality as 'q' (small Q) and 'Q' (big Q).  'q' is the quality of product where as 'Q' is quality of everything that includes trust, social responsibility and values.  'Q', according to Dr. Irani, stands for total quality.  I believe companies, supplier, customer and other stakeholders must practice 'Q'.  It was heartening to hear Dr. Irani say that, unless the value systems match, the Tatas won't look at Joint Ventures or Acquisitions even if the other business is a very profitable one.  

Today, as part of quality improvement, companies focus on practicing CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility).  Tata group too has a great focus on CSR activities.  I am an employee of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), a Tata company that focuses on IT Services, business solutions and outsourcing.  There are many initiatives with in TCS to contribute towards CSR.  I would like to highlight about "Maitree" which promotes CSR by involving the TCS employees and their families.  Per Dr. Irani, CSR is considered an investment and not a cost.  I have seen Tata look at CSR much more than an investment and it is embedded into Tata's value system.  The Tata code-of-conduct that every Tata group employee has to accept and adhere to ensures that the value system is never violated.

As quality of management systems have great significance, it takes time to build such a high quality management system.  A company that wins the Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award (MBQA) will, thus, enhance the "competitiveness" factor due to a robust quality management system being in place.

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