Why Manage Better?

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.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

One month on - How am I doing on my goals?

Paul Borwaski, CEO, ASQ hits the nail on its head when he talks about rolling our sleeves up and executing the goals we set for 2011. This was exactly what was eating me up before I publicly declared my key goals for 2011. What can be worse than the whole world (I like to think that just because I put it on my blog the whole world reads it!) knowing that this big-talking fellow missed all his goals for the year.

Well execution is something that has interested me for long. I have written about it earlier and continue to remain amazed about how so many in leadership positions ignore the value of execution. One factor, and I may get run over by a truck for saying this, could be how easy it is to change jobs these days. In some industries it’s a musical chairs of sorts. The same people move from one company to another. If I know I am all set to move in a year or two how motivated am I likely to be to accomplish any long term goals! Idea – Senior positions must come with a bond to serve the role for three years!!! I know I am a wanted man now.

So, where am I on my goals?

My first goal was about getting better at work – helping our stakeholders with faster, better, and cheaper (a term credited to Michael Hammer) processes. I am on track for this. Cant talk much about it since this is a bit employer specific.

Second goal was about becoming more customer centric. Not much progress here but I am talking about it.
Third goal was about making ASQ India and ASQ Bangalore more active – good progress on this. WE have had four meetings in the last four months (one due next week). We have had companies sponsoring these events and the line-up of speakers has been brilliant.

Fourth goal was to Read, write, and speak more – some progress on this. Completed reading a fantastic book. The Last Lecture by Prof. Randy Pausch. Check it out – if you have to read just one book this year then this is it! I am now reading Faster, Cheaper, Better by Michael Hammer and Lisa Hershman. I bought this book more from respect for Dr. Hammer (this is last book…he passed away in 2008). I am not regretting the investment one bit.

And the final goal was around family – I have started running again. Hoping to fall into a habit and lose some weight.

Not bad! Not very good either.

There is another goal which I did not write about – this is inspired from ASQ’s new tag line – The Global Voice of Quality. I have become very vocal about raising my voice against poor quality. Have complained to leading companies about the poor service I am getting. And surprisingly they are listening. Not only listening, acting as well. I am learning that if you have a firm and clear voice you can move mountains.

What was the tipping point? Sharing goals in public helped. Hoping to continue.