Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Quality Moments

I want to share my quality moment from organizing ASQ Northern Illinois Quality Conference (NIQC) in 1998. Five Chicago area ASQ Sections' member leaders came together to form an alliance with an objective of providing state-of-the-art quality management conference for both ASQ members and non-members.

A cohesive team of 8-10 Section member leaders put together a fantastic program for one-day conference at an affordable price. The response was overwhelming with over 300 attendees participating in the conference. At NIQC, the quality moment was understanding the member needs for such conference for their continuing education and delivering an outstanding program.

Learning from the positive results, we pursued this journey and continued hosting NIQC for total of 15 years, ending in 2012. In 2003, we added one-day workshops for in-depth knowledge sharing. The entire NIQC process was managed well both technically and in fiscally responsible manner.

In summary, my learnings and quality moments came when we understood ASQ member needs, forged alliance with member leaders from various sections, and delivered world-class conference with workshops at a very reasonable price and with high value.

I look forward to learning from your quality moments.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Quality Beyond Manufacturing

As we all know quality control and quality assurance concepts first started in manufacturing sector. In recent times, those concepts have been broadened under a quality management umbrella. From the U.S. Baldrige Performance Excellence Framework, there are some basic tenets which are equally applicable to manufacturing and other non-manufacturing sectors.
These tenets are:  

  1. Enlightened leadership to guide and set directions for an organization
  2. Strategic planning to achieve organizational objectives
  3. Singular focus on customer delight
  4. Effective information and knowledge management
  5. Employee engagement
  6. Continuous process improvement
  7. Sustainable results through streamlined processes
There are several non-manufacturing sectors which can be best served by the above tenets. These sectors include:
  • Service (e.g., banking, insurance, retail, auto dealership, etc.)
  • Education (e.g., Prekindergarten, K-12, undergraduate, graduate, postgraduate, etc.)
  • Healthcare (e.g., hospitals, physicians, nurses, health research laboratory, etc.)
  • Government (e.g., local, state, federal)
  • Non-profits (e.g., foundations - charitable and social)
  • Socially Responsible Organizations
Many of the quality control and quality management tools used in the manufacturing sector are equally applicable in non-manufacturing sector listed above. Some of these tools are:
  • Good Governance - Leadership Excellence
  • SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity, and threat) analysis - Strategic Planning
  • Balanced Scorecard - Strategic Planning
  • Voice of the Customer (surveys, interviews, focus groups, report cards, market research, etc.) - Customer Delight
  • Benchmarking - learning from the best-of-the-best
  • Teamwork - employee engagement
  • Meeting Management - employee involvement
  • Recognition - employee motivation
  • Process Mapping - SIPOC (supplier, input, process, output, customer) - Continuous Improvement
  • Tree Diagram - decision making - Problem Identification
  • PDSA - Plan, Do, Study, Act - Deming Cycle - Continuous Improvement
  • Pareto Diagram - Prioritization
  • Cause-and-Effect Analysis (Ishikawa Diagram) - root-cause analysis - Problem Solving 
  • Project Management - initiate, plan, execute, control, and hand-off - Change Management
  • Risk Management - risk identification, prioritization, risk response, mitigation strategies - Change Management
  • Organization Assessment - ISO, Baldrige Performance Excellence Award, State & National Quality Awards, etc.
For sustainable results, an organization need to delight the customers, take care of employees, and continuously improve processes. They should be ingrained in the DNA of the organization.

I look forward to your views on Quality in Fields "Beyond" Quality and other applicable quality tools and techniques.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sustaining Excellence for the Long Term

Here are few ideas around how to sustain excellence for the long term.

Sustaining Excellence is synonymous with Sustainable Change Management. The Change Management foundation hinges on Enlightened Leadership, Great Project Management, and Excellent Talent Management. The Change Management Model calls for 1). Determine the need for change, 2). Prepare and plan for change, 3). Implement the change, and 4). Sustain the change. World-wide organizations have adopted Eight Stages of Change Management from Prof. John Kotter, a professor emeritus from Harvard Business School.

Sustaining excellence is the responsibility of leadership to steer the organization in a right direction and be there along with your people throughout the excellence journey. Now this is a tall order. This will require leaders who clearly communicate need for change and coach people to remain on the mission to implement change.

To implement the change successfully, there is a need for great project management. Nearly 70% of change initiatives fail. The main reason for this failure rate is lack of good project management. One needs to implement aggregate project plan to inventory all the projects in the organization pipeline, prioritize those projects according to importance to customers, and allocate proper resources to complete those selected projects/initiatives. And have periodic reviews to assess project performance and risks.

Ultimately to sustain the change, one needs to select and nurture the talent. To effectively manage human capital, leaders need to create engagement through participation, external motivation, and development initiatives. People who are sustaining the change must be recognized and rewarded.

In summary, it is a challenge to sustain excellence. The roadmap is already there, however, organizations that execute the change management well will succeed, and rest will perish.

I am eager to learn about your views on sustaining excellence for the long term. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Quality Training

Here are my observations regarding quality training at my previous employer, AT&T Bell Laboratories:

At the Naperville, Illinois location of the AT&T Bell Labs, we had a major initiative to embark on a quality improvement journey in the Switching Systems Business Unit (SSBU) in mid 1980's. The following projects were implemented:
  • Quality 101 for Executives and Employees - This involved sending a core team for crash quality management training (e.g., 3 days with Dr. Deming). The core team designed a 2-day Quality 101 course for Directors and delivered to division directors (train-the-trainer approach). Then these directors cascaded the training in their departments. The entire SSBU was trained in basics of quality. 
  • Process Management Teams - This involved formation of process management teams and documenting key processes using the SIPOC (Supplier, Input, Process, Output, Customer) diagram and necessary training in the use of SIPOC Diagram. This effort required identifying key processes within SSBU, forming process management teams which received training in SIPOC use. The teams then captured their processes using a uniform SIPOC diagram approach. Understanding customer requirements led to key metrics and the continuous improvement journey started using facts and data. As a result, we received the ISO 9001 certification in one year in 1991 for the entire SSBU (6,000 employees across three countries - Netherlands, UK, and USA).. 
  • ASQ Certified Quality Engineer (CQE) preparation classes - As I have already shared in my previous blog posts, between 1990 to 1995 around 350 colleagues enrolled in the CQE preparation classes, 200 took CQE exam, and 89 became ASQ CQEs. The pass rate was 66% as compared to average ASQ pass rate of 33% for CQEs. The number of CQEs at the Naperville Switching Design and Development location was the highest among all ATA&T Bell Labs locations including manufacturing units.
  • Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award Assessment of all AT&T Divisions and necessary training in Baldrige - This initiative required each division to form a core team of directors and engineers to use the Baldrige criteria to annually assess the division. All executives received appropriate training in interpreting the Baldrige criteria. Under this initiative AT&T received three Baldrige Awards - one in Manufacturing and two in Service.
Another example I can share was with our three Medicare Contractor clients who were getting ready for ISO 9001:2004 certification. Here we organized a 1/2 day training for the Executives to provide ISO methodology and its importance. Then we trained the entire staff an Introduction to ISO Process. The teams then started mapping their key processes using the SIPOC diagram. Before the Auditor came for certification, the entire workforce was trained in the ISO Process. As a result, all three Medicare Contractors achieved their ISO 9001:2004 certification without any non-compliance.

In summary, when appropriate quality training is provided with alignment to the organization's strategy, the employees get motivated and achieve great results.

I look forward to learning about your experience in quality training.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

My Certification Advice

After joining the American Society for Quality (ASQ) as a member in 1987, I decided to take the ASQ Certified Quality Engineer (CQE) exam in December 1988. At that time I was with the AT&T Bell Laboratories and already working in quality management area.

As we had embarked on a journey of quality excellence at Bell Labs in Naperville, Illinois, my Vice President (Edward Prell) in the International Switching Customer Business Unit had an expectation that I should become certified in quality discipline. Also, help prepare others at AT&T Bell Labs to get their ASQ certifications.

I enrolled in a CQE preparation class at the Oakton Community College in Des Plaines (about 30 miles from my home). There were 10, three hour sessions in the evening. One interesting thing happened in the class was to form a buddy system. I paired up with another class participant, who served as a sounding board. That buddy system helped me a great deal in clearing up my doubts and answering difficult questions. I did pass my CQE exam at the first attempt (pass rate was 33% at that time).

To follow up on my VP's expectation, I started an ASQ CQE preparation pilot in 1989 with 5-6 colleagues in the quality department at AT&T Bell Labs. Once they got their CQE, in 1990 we started offering ASQ CQE preparation classes at AT&T Bell Labs, twice a year (April-May and October-November). From 1990 through 1995, we enrolled around 350 colleagues at AT&T Bell Labs in these Prep classes. Out of 350, 200 decided to take the CQE exam, and 89 got their CQE (Our prep class passing rate was around 66%). This was one of the highest numbers of ASQ certifications among all of the AT&T locations including manufacturing sites.

Here are some tips and tricks to prepare for ASQ Certification exams:
  • Have proper credentials to qualify for taking a specific ASQ certification exam.
  • Have adequate preparation - either join a refresher preparation class through your local section or join a refresher class at a community college.
  • Always use a buddy system - pair up with another exam candidate from your area. 
  • Have good practice solving prior year exam questions (e.g. Juran & Gryna textbook).
  • For an open book exam, take only relevant reference books with you. I saw several people bring bags full of books - it does not help, it wastes your valuable time.
  • The certification exam needs good time management:  
          1). First answer those questions, where you know the answer.
          2). Pass on most difficult questions in round 1.
          3). Tackle difficult questions in round 2 - you may need to look up a right reference.
          4). In multiple choice questions, 2 out of 4 choices are incorrect, eliminate them.
          5). Do not leave any questions unanswered. If unsure, make an educated guess.
          6). Always check your answers at the end.
  • Prior to the exam day, have a good night rest - do not cram at the last minute. It is counterproductive!
  • Once prepared, focus on taking the exam and passing it at a first attempt.
If you are certified, I look forward to learning about your tricks and tips.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Social Networks and Quality Professionals

Personally, I use LinkedIn, Facebook, Tweeter, Blogs, YouTubes, and Discussion Boards for professional networking with others in quality field.

1). Joined LinkedIn in February 2007. I use this network for professional sharing and learning. I have joined several groups of like-minded quality professionals.

2). Joined Facebook in July 2011 and using it to connect with the American Society for Quality (ASQ) professionals and others. Periodically, I post interesting articles and blogs on my Facebook account. 

3). Joined Tweeter in November 2012. I use this social network as my digital library. When I read an interesting article/blog, I immediately retweet in my Tweeter account.

4). Joined ASQ Influential Voices in January 2012. I respond to official topics and add my own topics of relevance through my blog posts.

5). I have learned how to create an YouTube for special events in August 2011 and have created few YouTube videos.

6). Using Discussion Boards when I teach quality management and operations management courses in an Online setting for well over two years.

Overall, the social networks are the best ways to connect with quality professionals on a global basis. It is effective and fast. I continue to learn through these interactions and able to add my value along the way.

I would welcome your views on the use of social networks for continuous learning and sharing.

If you are on any of the social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Tweeter, you are welcome to send me an invite to be socially connected! 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Quality Today: Key Challenges

The most important challenges the quality community faces in ensuring that the value of quality is fully realized for the benefit of society: 
  • Engaging senior leaders to accept the critical role of quality and its impact for the benefit of their organization and the society.
  • Creating a culture of quality with the help of senior leaders who lead the way.
  • Creating leaders at all levels who appreciate the importance of quality and provide commitment, support, and get personally involved.
  • Focusing on customers by understanding their needs and expectations to deliver superior quality products and services.
  • Focusing on internal customers (employees) by engaging them through participation, motivation, and development to serve external customers.
  • Using few effective measurements to manage the enterprise.
  • Continually improving systems and processes to provide improved quality of products and services.
  • Ensuring that all major activities of the organization are managed in a socially responsible way to protect economy, environment, and the society.
The best-in-class organizations on a global basis continue to strive and create sustainable value for their stakeholders. The national performance excellence award winners are good role models whose practices we should adept as appropriate. This is where the quality community can play a critical role as quality champions.
Key questions the quality community most need answered in order to advance the state of quality practice in the world:
  • What are all the pain points in the organization? - Show the need
  • Which are the top 3-4 pain points if tackled will create superior value to the organization? - Prioritize the need
  • Who are the champions with right talents to solve the top pain points? - Create a guiding coalition
  • What is the vision to tackle the top pain points? - Focus on big picture
  • How do we communicate the urgency of top pain points in the organization? - Share it widely
  • How do we empower our internal customers to work collaboratively in tackling key pain points? - Take actions
  • How do we reinforce great work done by internal customers to keep them fully engaged in addressing key pain points? - Recognize good work
  • How do we sustain the results over a long time? - Create a new quality culture
I look forward to your thoughts to fully realize the value of quality for the benefit of society.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Exponential Power of the Gift of Giving - TEDxIIT Talk

I am happy to share the talk I gave at the TEDxIIT (my alma mater, in Chicago, Illinois) on April 13, 2013.  

The live streaming link is at: 
http://new.livestream.com/tedx/events/2015174/videos/16259789Advance the video to 6:37:40 when my intro and talk comes up. Eventually, an YouTube will be posted at the TED website.  

I am also delighted to receive the American Society for Quality (ASQ) 2013 Spencer Hutchens Medal for Social Responsibility at the ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement in Indianapolis, Indiana on May 5, 2013. You can view photos from the ASQ Award ceremony at:

I am privileged to be an IIT Chicago alumnus and will be talking about the “Exponential Power of the Gift of Giving”. 

For the first quarter of my life, I have received a gift of education and it took me almost half a century to give back. 

First let me share my gratitude for the opportunities received in India and the US…..
  • Both my parents were gone by the time I was six. My extended family provided great support.
  • The Government of India subsidized 80% of my undergraduate education at the IIT BHU in India.
  • The J. N. Tata Endowment Scholarship made it possible to come to the US for my higher education. 
  • At IIT Chicago, Prof. Wasan offered me teaching assistantships for completing my graduate work. 
These acts of generosity made me realize that now it was my turn, to start giving back. And my IIT Chicago days gave me opportunities to practice the art of giving back. As we know a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. 

My giving back started in small ways….
  • During 1970-1971, East Pakistani refugees had crossed the Indian border. We screened Indian movies at IIT to raise funds for the CARE International which provided blankets to thousands of refugees. 
  • There were several other projects such as raising money for drinking water during a draught in India and shipping clothing for needy people over 10 years. 
  • At AT&T Bell Labs, led the Save the Children Holiday Campaign for 15 years raising funds during Christmas time from coworkers. We sponsored 50 children in 20 countries globally. 
  • Served as the Vice Chair of “Investing in Quality” Capital Campaign at the American Society for Quality and raised $1.75 million. 
  • I began to appreciate what President John F. Kennedy said, “For of those to whom much is given, much is required.”
Now let me share my story of the exponential power of the gift of sight in India. 
  • I want to take you back in time to my high school days and visualize an incident when I am playing with firecrackers during the festival of light celebrations. One of the firecrackers did not go off. When I put a puff of air, that firecracker did explode in my face, and I lost my eyesight. During that darkness, I pondered about my future without eyesight. Luckily, with help from an eye doctor, I regained my eyesight after 24 hours.
  • That incident in 1959 left an indelible impression on me about the plight of blind people. The God planted a seed which would germinate 30 years later, when in 1989, the Blind Foundation for India (BFI) will be established.
  • In 1988, Dr. Rajendra Vyas, an Indian lawyer by profession, but blind due to an accident visited with us. He gave a challenge to help over 15 million visually impaired people in India.
  • Inspired by him, we started the BFI in 1989. The mission of BFI is to prevent and cure blindness, and educate and rehabilitate permanently blind people in India.
  • Using quality principles we built a lean organization. We have only six Directors, 100 plus Advisors, an Overseas Coordinator (Kishobhai Shah), and a Field Officer in India.
  • There is a massive issue of blindness in India. One out of every three blinds in the world live in India. On one hand, youngsters 4-6 year old go blind due to lack of Vitamin A in their diet. On the other extreme, elderly people with Cataract do not get any support from their family for Cataract removal. Hence, they are needlessly staying blind.
  • The Johns Hopkins University studies have shown that Vitamin A not only prevents blindness in children but also prolongs their life span. For a young child, Vitamin A doses over a two-year period cost only $1. When a child stays in school and finishes education, he/she has a lifetime earning potential of $100,000. A true exponential power of the gift of giving.
  • Our medical partners examine the eyesight of students, provide glasses, Vitamin A, and in some cases free Cataract operations. Around 2-5% of students with eye problems drop out of school. Thus, they become a burden to their family and society facing destitution. So far, over 500,000 children have been examined.
  • During our visits to India we saw several BFI child sight projects. Here children are gathered for morning exercise before a screening camp. Next an eye doctor is checking boy’s eye sight for lack of Vitamin A. Again children are gathered for their eyesight checkup and Gita in far right is having her eyesight examined.
  • Let me explain the exponential power of the gift of restoring sight in India. It takes only $20 for a Cataract removal in India, as compared to $4,000 here in the US, a multiplier of 200. That mere $20 creates an exponential impact for elderly people to enjoy the beautiful world around them and become useful to their family and society.
  • BFI has supported over one million free eyesight checkups and performed over 110,000 free Cataract operations. Here Gangaben is recovering at a hospital after a short 10 minute Cataract operation.
  • We have donated 104 vans for transporting eye doctors and patients, and also provided 10,000 Braille Kits to blind children for their education.
  • At BFI it was a slow and difficult journey. However, with the power of collaboration and teamwork, we were able to stretch our resources. There is an Indian saying that ‘every drop of water when collected fills up an ocean’.
  • With special help from a Rotarian friend Godrej Billimoria, BFI received matching funds from the Rotary Foundation worth $500,000. And we went exponential! 
  • Since 1989, the BFI Team has raised over $3.5 million to support all the projects. We have provided hope to children and elderly through the gift of sight. Watching joy on their faces is priceless.
  • Let us remember what the 18th Century French Missionary, Etienne de Grellet said, "I expect to pass through this world but once; any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again."
  • Through the grace of God, I am privileged to have touched over 1.2 million lives around the world through philanthropic, academic, professional, and corporate service. 
  • We all have a potential to replicate the BFI model and find low-cost solutions to social issues. To create an exponential impact, we need to engage human capital and use simple quality tools such as process mapping and problem solving.
  • I want to close with a positive story. Here, after a treatment, Kamla with squint eye has much brighter future due to a simple surgery. There is a silver lining to the massive problem of blindness in India, 80% of blindness is preventable or curable.
  • Finally, all of us should find a cause which touches our heart, join hands with like-minded people, and recognize donors and volunteers. Philanthropy requires three things: your gift of Time, Talent, and Treasure. You too can experience an exponential power of the gift of giving.
Thank you!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Quality Awards and Personal Experience

Let me share two Quality Awards (State and International) and my personal experience serving with them.

1). Illinois State Team Excellence Award (Chief Judge - 1993-1999):

In 1992, this award was established in the State of Illinois in the US to spur economic development among  Illinois organizations and recognize them for their outstanding achievements through teams. Major players included the Illinois Manufacturers' Association, Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity, ASQ Chicago Section, and Motorola Corporation. The award focused on team participation in manufacturing and service industries. It was based on the State of Ohio Team Excellence program and enhanced using Motorola's Total Customer Satisfaction focus.

For seven years nearly 25-30 organizations competed in 5-6 State-wide regional competition leading to final judging at the state level. Each team (5-7 members) wrote a simple summary and then made a 30 minutes presentation to the panel of judges. Winners at the state level were honored by the Governor with Gold, Silver, and Bronze trophy for their team excellence accomplishments.

It was my honor to serve as the Chief Judge during the life of the program. We also recruited well qualified judges from ASQ Sections in the Chicago area. Motorola provided Judges' training material and an instructor.

This program created a lot of buzz in the business community. However, during late 1990's, organizations were too busy with increased production demands. Therefore, this award was phased out after the 1999 ceremony.

2). Asia Pacific Global Performance Excellence Award (Board of Examiner - 2004-Present):

In the late 1990's, the Asia Pacific Quality Award was established to recognize best-of-the-best organizations which have already won their national quality award among 44 countries surrounding the Asia Pacific rim. In 2011, the award name was changed to Global Performance Excellence Award in line with the name change for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award to Baldrige Performance Excellence Award. The Global Performance Excellence Award uses the Baldrige Performance Excellence criteria for  judging applications.

I am serving on the Board of Examiners from 2004 to present time. Every year, I judge 5-6 national winner entries and provide scores with valuable feedback to the participating organizations. Winners in various categories get global recognition at the annual Asia Pacific Quality Conference. For more information about the 2013 conference, visit: http://apqo.org/files/19thAPQO/19thapqoBali,Indonesia_r3.pdf.

From my personal experience serving on a State and International Award program, I have seen number of best practices implemented globally leading to better economic development and prosperity for people in various parts of the world.

I would welcome your thoughts on other national and international quality awards. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Leveraging Social Responsibility to Unite the World - TEDxIITBHU Talk

I am happy to share my talk from the TEDxIITBHU, (my alma mater, in Varanasi, India) on April 7, 2013. 

I am privileged to be an IIT BHU alumnus.  I will be talking about “Leveraging Social Responsibility to Unite the World”. 

You can view my talk on a recorded video at: http://youtu.be/94kXi9WTl04

From the dawn of the civilization, per our Hindu mythology, the universe is guided by the Trinity; Destroyer - Mahadev, Creator - Brahma, and Sustainer - Vishnu. We are so fortunate to be in Varanasi, where the lord of the Universe, Mahadev has a permanent presence. 

Let me define Social Responsibility as managing the triple-bottom line; Profit, Planet, and People, the 3Ps. It also translates to the Economic, Environmental, and Social trinity. To effectively manage this trinity, there are International Standards; ISO 9001 for Economic, ISO 14001 for Environmental, and ISO 26000 for Social aspects. These standards provide assurance that organizations consistently follow International requirements and guidelines in the interest of commerce, environment, and the society.

I will discuss all three elements of the Trinity by connecting spirituality to reality through quality.  I will also share a 3P’s Action Model. 

  • The Agriculture Age started some 10,000 years ago and up until year 1800, the world relied mainly on animal and manual labor. With the perfection of the Steam Engine in the UK, the world was ushered into an Industrial Age. With machines taking over muscle power, the quality of life substantially improved, and the standard of living went up.
  • Then in 1947 three scientists at the AT&T Bell Laboratories invented the transistor leading the way for more advanced digital computers. And thus the world was ushered into the Information Age.
  • In the 1950s and 1960s, military, governments, and other organizations had computer systems, and the Whole Earth Movement of the 1960s led to the inspiration and eventual creation of the World Wide Web released to the public in 1991.
  • However, all the economic progress over the years came with a price. Over the last two centuries, we have witnessed Colonization, human exploitation, and two World Wars.    
      Call to Action:
  • Let us look at the Harvard Business School which opened its door in 1908. Their initial mission was   to “educate leaders who make a decent profit - decently.” In the current time their mission has changed to "educate leaders who make a difference in the world." The organizational Accountability, Responsibility, and Transparency are critical to effectively manage global resources. 
  • Organizations should adopt ISO 9001 Standard for continuous improvement to derive economic benefits. Businesses play a unique role in improving quality of life through economic prosperity. As the President John F. Kennedy said “a rising tide lifts all boats”, the world needs visionary leadership to engage human capital, leading to economic prosperity for all.
  • Before the Industrial Age, life was simple and pure with a healthy lifestyle.
  • In the last two hundred years with the Industrial Age we created air pollution, water pollution, and land pollution. Also in the last 60 plus years, there is information pollution. We are on the path of destruction of our environment; just look at the release of greenhouse gases, melting of glaciers, and shrinking ozone layer resulting in climate changes.
  • In the early 1970s, the city of Los Angles was always under the cloud of smog due to auto emissions. As a result, new environmental laws were enacted in the US, and the State of California cleaned up its act. Now the Los Angeles is not the same.
  • Going forward, water will become a scarce resource. Watch out for water wars breaking out! Globally, around 1.1 billion out of 7 billion plus people on this crowded planet, do not have access to clean water.
  • During our recent trip to India in December 2012, we saw a pristine Ganges first in Rishikesh, then in Haridwar, then in Allahabad, and finally in Varanasi. Here not only the pilgrims but also buffalos take bath in the Ganges and pollute the river.
      Call to Action:
  • Paying a tribute to our famous alumnus, the late Prof. Veer Bhadra Mishra, we at IIT BHU need to initiate community service projects around the cleanup of Ganges. Remember the teaching of Swami Vivekananda “Arise, Awake, Stop not until the Goal is reached”. 
  • Organizations should adopt ISO 14001 Standard to keep the environment clean and safe resulting in healthier conditions.
  • Over the ages we have seen degradation of human interactions. In previous times, people nurtured others and cared for their neighbors and community. Migration to urban areas has created indifference. And fighting over limited resources, we see increasing hostility.
  • As a positive example, let us look at the country of Costa Rica. Since 1948, it has abolished its Armed Forces. Since they do not waste resources on defense, their budget for education is around 28% of GDP. They boast 96% literacy for citizens 15 years or older.
  • I want to share a personal example of social responsibility since 1989 by founding and leading the Blind Foundation for India (BFI) in the US. The BFI’s mission is to prevent and cure blindness and educate and rehabilitate permanently blind people in India. There are over 15 million blind people amounting to 1/3rd of the world’s blind population in India. There is an exponential impact of prevention; $1 in Vitamin A saves a child’s eyesight, resulting in a lifetime income of $100,000. For Cataract removal we can see another exponential impact in curing blindness. The cost of Cataract removal is $20 in India versus $4,000 in the US. Next weekend, please watch my talk on “Exponential Power of Gift of Giving” at the TEDxIIT Chicago on April 13, 2013.     
     Call to action:
  • We can take a page from the Emperor Ashoka, the only military monarch on record who abandoned warfare after victory. His universal message of Peace, Love, and Non-Violence is as relevant today, as it was during his time in 250 BC.
  • We need to maximize the spirit of cooperation, collaboration, and co-existence and minimize tendencies of competition, self-centricity, and divisiveness.
  • Organizations should use the ISO 26000 Standard to establish ethics, good governance, and promote universal understanding of Social Responsibility.
  • As we know we are all fellow travelers on this earth. Some came before us, and many more will follow us. What kind of legacy do we want to leave for our children and grandchildren?
  • In the 21st Century we are dealing with a global economy. To unite the world and make it a better place, we need to leverage the power of businesses by strategically aligning their practices with standards of social responsibility. This will ensure better management of global resources, improving global labor practices, and creating sustainable economic development worldwide.
  • In a documentary the Journey of Man, Dr. Spencer Wells, a Geneticist concluded, “You, and I, in fact everyone all over the world, we are all literally African under the skin. Brothers and sisters separated by a mere 2,000 generations.”
  • Look at a miracle of sustainable development at the Hiware Bazar in the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra. The village first focused on rain water harvesting which improved agriculture production. With economic prosperity they improved their schools and tackled sanitation, health and hygiene issues. As a result, out of 294 families they have 60 millionaires; only 3 families live below the poverty line. The per capita income, number of wells, and milk production improved dramatically. Over two decades, they have proven that looking after nature makes both economic and ecological sense. 
  • Let us all remember a verse from the Mahopnishad, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, “The world is a single family”
  • All of you at IIT BHU should acquire a great education, master soft skills, find your passion, and follow your dreams. Along the way identify a social cause close to your heart. We should uphold Malaviyaji’s ideals, the founder of this great institution, by serving the world with technical knowledge and accepting social responsibility for all sections of the society. We all have the power to effectively leverage economy, ecology, and society to unite the world.                        
It is our Social Responsibility to Unite the World!

The TEDxIITBHU talk official YouTube video will be available in about 3 weeks post 4-7-13 event.

I look forward to your views on Leveraging Social Responsibility to Unite the World. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Quality in Unexpected Places

Let me share a great story of supply chain management with excellent quality from a service sector in India. 

The Mumbai India Tiffinwallas (Dabbawallas) are international figures now thanks to Forbes Global. The Forbes story details the efficiency which with they deliver the Tiffins (lunch boxes) of their customers. Around 5,000 Tiffinwallas deliver 175,000 lunches everyday and take the empty Tiffins back. They only make One Mistake in 2 months.

This means there is one Error on every 16 million transactions. This is a more than Six Sigma quality performance.

Following are the excerpts of the Forbes 1998 story:

These are the men who deliver 175,000 lunches (or "Tiffin") each day to offices and schools throughout Mumbai, the business capital of India. The meals are prepared in the homes of the people who commute into Mumbai each morning and delivered in their own Tiffin carriers. After lunch, the process is reversed. And what a process - in it's complexity, the 5,000 Tiffinwallas make a mistake only about once every two months, according to Ragunath Medge, president of the Mumbai Tiffinmen's Association. That's one error in every 8 million deliveries, or 16 million if you include the return trip. "If we made 10 mistakes a month, no one would use our service," says Medge.

How do they do it? The meals are picked up from commuters' homes in suburbs around central Mumbai long after the commuters have left for work, delivered to them on time, then picked up and delivered home before the commuters return.

Each Tiffin carrier has, painted on its top, a number of symbols which identify where the carrier was picked up, the originating and destination stations and the address to which it is to be delivered. After the Tiffin carriers are picked up, they are taken to the nearest railway station, where they are sorted according to the destination station. Between 10:15 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. they are loaded in crates onto the baggage cars of trains. At the destination station they are unloaded by other Tiffinwallas and re-sorted, this time according to street address and floor.

The 100-kilogram crates of carriers, carried on Tiffinwallas' heads, hand-wagons and cycles are delivered at 12:30 p.m., picked up at 1:30 p.m., and returned where they came from.

The charge for this extraordinary service is just 150 rupees ($3.33) per month, enough for the Tiffinwallas, who are mostly self-employed, to make a good living. After paying Rs. 60 per crate and Rs.120 per man per month to the Western Railway for transport, the average Tiffinwallas clears about Rs. 3,250 ($65 per month). Of that sum, Rs. 10 goes to the Tiffinmen's Association. After minimal expenses, the rest of the Rs. 50,000 a month that the Association collects goes to a charitable trust that feeds the poor. Superb service and charity too. Can anyone ask for more?

Let us recap the Supply Chain Drivers: 

1). Facility - They use railway platform as temporary facility for tiffin carriers crates assembly.
2). Inventory - There is No inventory to maintain, as the fresh home-cooked food is delivered daily.
3). Transportation - They use hand-wagons, bicycles, and railway system for delivery.
4). Information - They use simple chalk sticks for marking tiffin carriers, no fancy computers needed.
5). Sourcing - There is no need to source any raw materials, as the food is supplied by the customers.
6). Price - Customers pay only 150 rupees ($3.33) per month for tiffin delivery.

And what is more amazing is that this is run by people, most of whom are illiterate.

If we keep an excellence focused mindset and empower our employees, we can delight the customers with great quality. Then our operations will go on for a long time like Mumbai's Tiffinwallas, who are providing service since 1880. 

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on quality in unexpected places. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Overcoming Education Challenges in India using US Baldrige in Education Framework

In 2020, average Indian is expected to be only 29 years old against 37 years in China and the US, 45 years in Western Europe, and 48 years in Japan ("Harnessing Indian Youth Power", The Economic Times, May 25, 2009). This youth power in India is a double-aged sword, if it is not managed effectively. The youth in India needs to get proper education and training, as education is an engine of economic growth.

Primary (up to age 14) and Secondary Education (age 14-18):

Let us explore some challenges and opportunities for educating Indian youth. The World Bank statistics found that fewer than 40 percent of adolescents in India attend secondary schools (age 14-18). The Economist reports that half of 10-year-old rural children could not read at a basic level, over 60% were unable to do division, and half dropped out by the age 14. An optimistic estimate is that only one in five job-seekers in India has ever had any sort of vocational training (The Economist, December 11, 2008). 

According to current estimates, 80% of all primary schools are government schools making the government the major provider of free education. However, because of poor quality of public education, 27% of Indian children are privately educated (Global Envision, June 14, 2005). With more than 50% children enrolling in private schools in urban areas, the balance has already tilted towards private schooling in cities; even in rural areas, nearly 20% of the children in 2004-2005 were enrolled in private schools (2009). According to some research, private schools often provide superior results at a multiple of the unit cost of government schools (2007-2009).

Post Secondary Higher Education (age 18 and above):

As per Report of the Higher education in India, key issues are related to Expansion, Inclusiveness, Quality, and Finance (University Grants Commission [UGC], September 2010). The access to higher education measured in term of Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) increased from 0.7% in 1950/1951 to 1.4% in 1960–61. By 2006/2007 the GER increased to about 11 percent. By 2012, (the end of 11th plan objective) is to increase it to 15%.

Education and The World Bank:

Education is fundamental to development as it contributes strongly to economic growth. It also holds sustainable, proven benefits for people in terms of higher earnings, better health, and greater resilience to shocks.

Helping countries reform their education systems to promote learning for all is a central thrust of the World Bank’s Education Strategy. The concept is broad, recognizing that it takes multiple actors and reforms to realize progress.

Why Systems?

Because a systems approach focuses on education outcomes, and how inputs contribute best. The results depend not only on having enough classrooms, teachers, and textbooks but also on having the policy environment, resources, and accountability mechanisms that can promote—and not obstruct—education results.

SABER (Systems Approach for Better Education Results) is a global knowledge platform that is helping countries assess their education policies and identify actionable priorities to help education systems achieve learning for all. Policy areas covered by SABER include early child development, student assessment, teachers, and workforce development. 

  • By collecting data on policies and institutions that matter for success (according to evidence) and producing an objective snapshot of how well the system is performing in relation to global good practice (and other countries).
  • By providing metrics to measure and monitor progress.
  • By promoting cross-country learning.

US Baldrige Performance Excellence in Education Framework:

In the Unites States, by the Act of Congress in 1987, the Baldrige Performance Excellence Award Program was established. In 2001, Education category was included in the Program. Since 2001, there are nine educational institutes that have won the prestigious national award for Excellence in Education. It includes six K-12 schools, one community college, one undergraduate business school, and one university. You can learn more about Baldrige in Education at http://www.nist.gov/baldrige/publications/education_criteria.cfm.

These criteria focus on Systems Approach and include seven categories starting with Leadership and ending with Results. Personally, I have a pleasure to use the Baldrige Criteria at AT&T Bell Laboratories, Naperville, Illinois School System, and in my Operations Management/Quality Management courses since 1993 at various business schools in the Chicago area and in India.

During my recent visit to India in December 2012, from the American Society for Quality (ASQ) India, we conducted a one-day workshop on "Baldrige Excellence in Education and Transformation Journey" at the Mahamaya Technical University (MTU) in Noida, UP. With the visionary leadership and commitment from Prof. Shiban Kak, the Vice Chancellor of MTU, we at ASQ India plan to continue the educational excellence journey at number of institutes within MTU. 

The ASQ India has a singular focus of uplifting educational excellence at all levels (primary, secondary, and in higher education areas). We firmly believe, that by using the Baldrige in Education Criteria, one can begin the assessment of an institution, identify areas of strengths, and opportunities for improvement. There are various role model examples of Baldrige Award Winners in Education. Learning and adapting some of the best practices from the winners will serve Indian Educational Institutions well.

I welcome your thoughts and comments on this critical issue of improving education system in India.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Risk Taking, Fear of Failure, and Innovation

From the dawn of civilization our ancestors took variety of risks, failed at some, gathered themselves up, and made innovative progress to usher us in the modern age.

Risk taking is part of life. If one remains in her/his comfort zone and does not take risks, she/he will not make rapid progress. Again, one needs to recognize what type of risks and what are its consequences. We can take a page from the project management discipline where all projects require proper risk management. The risk management process calls for identification of all risks, analyzing and assessing all risks, developing plans to mitigate risks by minimizing probability of risks occurrence, and establishing contingency plans for dealing with any risks that do manifest.

Let me share my personal example of risk taking and its impact in my life. After high school, I left the comfort of my home to go to Bombay (450 miles away) and stayed in a boarding house. Learning from the benefit of earlier risk taking, two years later I was ready to go to Varanasi (1,000 miles away) for my undergraduate studies in chemical engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Banaras Hindu University (IIT BHU), a residential university. Again, after four years when opportunity came, I came to Chicago (8,000 miles away) for my graduate work at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago.

My first job was at the Institute of Gas Technology in Chicago in a federally funded energy R&D work. While in between jobs, I took a risk to start my MBA at Keller Graduate School of Management. Then I got an opportunity to join AT&T Bell Laboratories while taking risk to move from chemical engineering to telecommunications. Within a year, a new opportunity arrived to start quality planning and management assignment at the AT&T Bell Labs location in Naperville. Again taking risk, I made a switch and has learned a great deal from the Masters of Quality Management like Dr. Deming and Dr. Juran.

Looking back, I can reflect that the choices I made and risks I took, has served me well. I received best education in chemical engineering and then branched out in management discipline. This solid educational background allowed me to make valuable contributions in corporate,  academic, professional, and non-profit sectors.

Now let us talk about failure. We can learn from Thomas A. Edison and I quote, "I have not failed, I have just found 10,000 ways that won't work." We all remember the First Inaugural Address by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” As a human being, we all have some fear of failure. However, when we undertake any task, it is better to fail early, learn from the failure, and then succeed faster. This formula applies well to all innovative and creative work.

I would welcome your thoughts on risk taking, fear of failure, and innovation.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The 4 Ps of Project Productivity

I want to share my personal observations regarding project productivity from managing various professional and personal projects.

Project Productivity is a multiplier of the following four factors:
  1. Planning - Ten percent excellent planning including all project team members is critical to start the project on a sound footing.
  2. Promotion - Continually share the value of your project with your team, department, and organization. 
  3. Personal Touch - Roll up your sleeves and add value by executing your items flawlessly for the project.
  4. Perseverance - Once the project goals are set, persist until the project is successfully completed.
If any one of the factors is trending downward, the overall project productivity will go down, as these factors work in parallel.

In summary, Project Productivity = Planning x Promotion x Personal Touch x Perseverance

I welcome your observations and thoughts for project productivity.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

My definition of Quality

From my years of experience as a producer and user of products and services, I have realized that quality is best defined by an user of a product and/or service. When an user experiences a quality transaction, he/she will ask for more of it.

Quality is not just the small "q", or the performance. Quality is a multiplier of Performance (q), Cost (C), and Schedule (S). The big Q is equal to q x C x S. Think of q, C, and S as three legs of a stool. For a stable stool, all three legs must be firmly balanced. I will also add that quality as perceived by a consumer is the quality of Total Experience in the context of big Q.

Let me share some recent experience during my travels in India. My wife and I were on a sightseeing tour of Rajasthan, a western State of India. Our first driver Sanjay was extremely knowledgeable about places we were visiting and gave us the best experience for the first 12 days. Unfortunately, for the last 2 1/2 day of the tour, a new driver was assigned. He was less knowledgeable about the places we were visiting and we did not experience the same level of performance provided by the first driver. Sanjay exceeded our expectations (quality experience) while the second driver did not even meet our expectations (non-quality experience).

I have another example from the hospitality side. After staying at various palaces in Rajasthan (Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, and Jaipur) we arrived at the Taj Gateway Hotel in Agra. We were delighted to experience fabulous service from Taj's hospitality. All transactions at Taj were of highest quality and exceeded our expectations. As a result of this positive experience, we are more likely to stay at Taj Hotels in our future tours.

In summary, when we create a product/service, we need to keep in mind user's perspectives and requirements. Then provide best experience while delivering our product/service. If we can do this consistently, then we can delight our customers.

I welcome your definition of quality.