quality fables competition
Features and Failures - A Bank Fable
Sample with Video

Multinational Banks are known to invest in excellent infrastructure and executives. The lowest designation for a new campus recruit two decades ago, in India, was nothing less than Vice President. Salaries matched the designation. The self esteem of these freshly recruited students was always at a zenith. They were the prize catch for the most popular campus recruiters - multinational banks.

I was invited by a multinational bank in South Mumbai, the fi nancial capital of India, to experience excellence. An autopsy of sorts. Yes, this branch of the bank had marble fl ooring, piped music, art that only a successful bank could afford, personal computers at every desk, and more. Perfect.

The head of the branch took me around to meet with several of his executives. I will focus on one 200 square feet section that was partitioned with a three feet high wall. This section seated four executives, in the four corners, facing the partition wall. All four in pin striped suits. Each of the four was very busy working on his dedicated personal computer.

I asked: “What is the activity of this section?”

Branch head: “They print the monthly statements of account holders.”

The qualitist in me: “Oh, they manufacture monthly statements.”

Branch head: ???

More of the qualitist: “What is the failure rate for these monthly statements?”

Branch head: “Can’t you see…it’s all computerized!!”

Yet more of the qualitist: “Oh. I see. Do any customers come back for a reconciliation?”

“Hardly any.”

“How many?”

“Perhaps one in 200.”

“Ah ha. That’s 0.5% failure rate.”

“So what’s the cost of failure?”

“Minimal.”

“Let’s find out”.

The branch head and I invested a half-day fi nding out what work the four executives actually did. As it turned out, one needed the equivalent of two persons to do 99.5% of the work right the first time and the equivalent of another two to correct 0.5 % failures!

So what is the cost of poor quality (COPQ) of this section? It’s 50% of the budget for that department plus the equivalent of marble flooring, piped music, and art.

The bank heard the alarm. They commenced their pilot projects by working on COPQ for the auto loan process in South India.

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Peels and Meals
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Once upon a time officers had separate canteen facilities to that of workers. Two decades ago the Earthmoving Equipment plant of a major auto unit in South India was no exception. A large workers’ canteen was operational, on a three shift basis, on the ground floor and a neat compact officers’ mess was designed for the floor above. The latter was also the regular venue for entertaining national and international visitors.

So what was the problem? The staircase leading to the officers’ mess was a challenge for the nasal system of the sophisticated visitors! Polite handkerchiefs partially came to the rescue. Why? The garbage containers were placed under the staircase and they chronically overfl owed! Quality was certainly not a way of life in the vicinity of the canteen.

The new President of the plant, who was a quality enthusiast, questioned the volume and cost of garbage. A key piece of information was that the local municipality refused to shift all the garbage, resulting in the daily rental of private dump trucks. These dump trucks cost the plant Rs 7,000 per day. Over and above this was the cost of wasted food. Collectively, we refer to this as Cost Of Poor Quality (COPQ).

A management team was appointed by the President to solve the problem.

In order to understand the situation the team set up two types of bins; one for avoidable waste (such as cooked food) and the other for unavoidable waste (such as peels and packaging). Avoidable waste accounted for two-thirds of the total canteen waste.

The team then embarked on a diagnostic journey, interviewing workers at meal time (remember, the plant worked three shifts). Here is a fl avour of responses to the question “Why do you waste food?”

“We are in South India and you serve us North Indian food.”

“The meal break is only 30 minutes, and the lines are too long. So I pile up food.”

“The ladles are too large. I could do with smaller servings.”

“The ‘thalis’ are much too large. So I pile up food.”

The remedial actions involved:
1. Inviting a team of wives, by rotation, to set the menu and supervise the same.
2. Scrapping the large ladles and ‘thalis’, and replacing them with smaller ones.
3. Investing the saved COPQ into worker welfare.

The workers canteen now doubles up as a recreation club with facilities for table tennis and carom. The walls are sparkling white and adorned with paintings done by the children of the workers. In fact they even published a calendar that showcased 12 of the best of these paintings.

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Daughter with Child
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This is a story I love to hear, again and again, from a member of the Qimpro Fraternity, about how the whale shark has been saved. And it is not fiction.

The whale shark is the largest fish in the world. It can grow to over 50 feet in length and weigh more than 10 tons. Each year, this gentle fish comes swimming all the way from the shores of Australia to those of Saurashtra, between September and May, to spawn in these waters. Whale sharks can live up to 150 years.

For years, its size and mellow temperament made it an easy prey to fisherman who profited from them. Until the turn of the century, these fishermen killed about 1,200 whale sharks each year. Not only was the whole fishing operation cruel, but by not allowing the fish to breed, survival of the species was in danger.

Thankfully, in 2001, the Government of India banned the fishing and trading of the whale shark.

Soon after, the Managing Director of a leading chemical company in Gujarat, set a challenging goal to save the whale shark along the coast of Saurashtra. But with the condition that it must become a world-class conservation project. He encouraged all employees from his company to get involved.

As a result, the ‘Save the Whale Shark’ campaign was launched, facilitated by this chemical company. The campaign had a team of logical, but unlikely, partners. The partners included: the company, Wildlife Trust of India, the Coast Guard, the Indian Navy, and the Ministry of Environment and Reefwatch. Besides providing financial assistance, volunteers from these organizations and institutions created awareness in the fishing community.

Street plays, games, posters, inflated flotillas, postage stamps, and school art competitions became the feed for building awareness. However, as always, building awareness had its own majestic pace.

Almost miraculously, the tide changed when the spiritual leader Morari Bapu, an interpreter of indic traditions, was co-opted into the campaign. In his discourses he reminded the community of the age-old Indian tradition of welcoming a ‘daughter with child’ into her parents home to give birth.

The analogy melted people’s hearts, and since then, the whale shark has not just been welcomed on the shores of Saurashtra but also fiercely guarded with parent-like protectiveness.

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The Mystery of Commitment
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In an English breakfast of bacon and eggs, which is more committed? The pig? Or the hen?

Organizations desire commitment at all levels.

But how do you get commitment for quality from the top management? It isn’t that they are not committed. What I mean is committed-committed.

The Chairman of a large steel plant, in the 1980s, resisted any formal quality intervention on the grounds that even the 3 percent seconds (read – rejects) of steel from his plant had a pent-up demand. Is seconds an opportunity or a threat? By translating the 3 per cent seconds into the language of top management, the opportunity converted to a threat. The language was that of money.

The alarm for 3 percent seconds was 30 percent of total cost! This is referred to as the Cost Of Poor Quality.

The Chairman compared that figure with his profit. He instantaneously became committed to drastically reducing the seconds. He assembled other members of the top management and declared war on waste! The Commander-in-Chief was none other than his legendary Managing Director. All the rank and file from all functions stood committed to the declared war.

Why had the Chairman not seen it this way before?

Ten years later the same steel plant became the lowest cost, steel producer in the world. A further decade on it acquired an ailing steel company in the UK. The UK company is a turnaround story today, importing the best practices from the Indian parent.

Finally, the answer to the original question on commitment is – the pig! He sacrifices his life.

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