Sunday, July 24, 2011

Putting Quality in its Rightful Place

ASQ's Paul Borawski recently had the privilege of interviewing Tata Group's Dr. J.J. Irani about its quality journey to excellence. Tata Group's quality journey began in the late 1980's with the adoption of Joseph Juran's quality improvement methodology, then embraced the Malcolm Baldrige criteria in the 1990's. Dr. Irani states that every organization must have a Quality System - and it must be institutionalized throughout its operations. "A quality management system is the DNA of an organization; Quality is in everything we do.. it is our culture" states Dr. Irani. 

Paul Borawski asks, "I find hope in the wisdom of Dr. Irani , and ask myself—and you—how can we, you and I, and ASQ, raise the voice of Dr. Irani and other enlightened leaders to put quality in its rightful place in every organization and in our communities?

I attended the Pittsburgh WCQI and heard Dr. Irani's keynote address. To be honest, I was underwhelmed by his presentation.  While Dr. Irani brings solid credentials, and exhibited sincerity and genuine authenticity, his laid back style lacked that certain pizzazz - or what marketers call "Pop".  However, upon returning to my office and browsing the internet, I became very impressed by Tata Group. Tata's tagline is, "Leadership with Trust." Tata Group's website states their principle purpose is "To improve the quality of life of the communities it serves".  Dr. Irani stated that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is not a cost, it is an investment, built on trust, transparency, governance and ethics. Tata Group's quality philosophy is a model for every enterprise.

Which brings me back to Paul Borawski's question / challenge:  How can we raise the voice of Dr. Irani and other enlightened leaders to put quality in its rightful place in every organization? Tata Group's quality journey is on its 4th decade of continuous improvement. How many other organizations or communities have that type of staying power, that level of constancy of purpose? My initial reaction to Dr. Irani's WCQI presentation was rather subdued because I was expecting something more flamboyant, more polished, more entertaining. Yet Tata Group's quality story is very compelling indeed.  I posit that this need to be entertained, given our rather short attention spans are an indictment of our fast paced society, where change is accelerating exponentially. So, how do we capture the hearts and minds of the C-Suite to elevate quality?

First, we must always remember to speak the language of management... money. 

Second, we must demonstrate the direct relationship between quality and Social Responsibility - by focusing on the elimination of waste.

Third, executives learn best by collaborating with their peers and their bosses. The ASQ Executive Roundtable is an excellent forum that brings Enterprise member organizations together to discuss common challenges and share best practices.  The local MN ASQ Section recently completed its 3 year Long Range Planning session. One of its outcomes is to develop an Executive Roundtable of Quality Directors and leaders from all sectors of the local economy to collect VOC and match organizational needs with products and services - whether provided by ASQ or our partners.  In addition, we (quality professionals) must forge new alliances and partnerships with organizations that cater to the C-Suite; organizations like The Conference Board.  The Conference Board is a global, independent business membership and research association working in the public interest to help its member companies understand and deal with the most critical issues of our time.

Fourth, knowledge is increasing exponentially. C-suite executives do not have time to peruse all of the journals and other sources of knowledge sharing on their own.  The Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award showcases "role model" organizations in every sector of the economy.  However, recent budget discussions in the US Congress puts government funding support the Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award at severe risk. We must find new, innovative ways to keep the Baldrige Criteria alive, and increase its relevance to the executive.  Perhaps incorporate it into the MBA body of knowledge?

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