Why Manage Better?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

For Coco-Cola, Business is still simple – deliver good quality product.

As I read through a post by ASQ’s MD Laurel Nelson-Rowe two things struck me like lightening.  Firstly, for Coke, their business still is about delivering a good quality product. Everywhere.  How much more simple can anything get.  Second was the title of their quality head.  Carletta Ooton is Chief Quality and Product Integrity Officer.  Wow! Product Integrity. 

Coke is one of my favorite companies. Not that I love their product.  I deeply respect them for lasting this long, profitably. They must be doing many things right.  I was surprised when they did not make the Built to Last and Good to Great lists from Jim Collins.  Coke and Citibank, to me exemplify an old-school charm that endures forever.  Citibank did lose its way a bit but is getting back on track. Coke, meanwhile, has been a pillar.

For insights into how Coke manages to remain a pillar please do watch a video series at http://asq.org/blog/2011/11/coca-colas-quality-culture/

How is Coke so enduring?  I don’t really know but have some views.

1. Have a fantastic product that actually serves a need.  Now I know many will jump and say what need does carbonated water serve? It may not for you and me, but it does serve for tons of people. And has done for over a century.

2. Make sure your product is known to as many potential customers as possible.  I have travelled a bit and I am sure many of you have done more than I have.  Have you ever seen a corner of our planet (leave Antarctica and Arctics out) without a Coke bottle or hoarding around?

3. Once it is known, make sure it is available. For me, the real game for companies such as Coke is won in distribution.  And Coke knows this well.

4. Don’t over-charge. If you do, someone else will come along and challenge you on price.  Since Coke leads the market on this, others have no choice to follow or differentiate.  Following doesn’t make you a leader and differentiating is tough.

5. Retain the core but improve everything else. Yes, Coke did make a major change to its taste but was smart enough to change back when customers didn’t like the change.  Since then they have retained the classic product but brought in many new flavors.

Most companies that last really long follow fairly simple business practices. They don’t over-complicate life.  Coke surely doesn’t.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

How did I discover a career in Quality?

As we enter the International Qualiuty Month, Paul Borawski, CEO, ASQ asked us a question in his blog last month.  It reads:

How is it that you came to be passionate about quality? What was the connection between what quality means and how it became your passion?

Here is a video of my response.  I am also posting a summary below.

My interest in quality as a profession developed during the final stages of my graduation in Industrial Engineering. While selecting what project I should work on as my final year thesis I was attracted to the kind of work Prof. Ishwar Keswani was doing. I was keen to have him as my guide. That year, that is 1993, he selected implementing ISO 9001 at an organist ion in Nagpur as his project.  It was a live project and ISO was the pinnacle of quality knowledge for me at that time.  A team of four students worked with a valve manufacturing unit in Nagpur and the experience was one that defined my choice of career. I remain forever thankful to Prof. Keswani for introducing me to Quality as a profession. 

After two years of thinking ISO 9001 was the Mt. Everest of Quality I came across Dr. J M Juran’s work through an annual issues of an Indian Business Magazine.  This issue was prepared by Suresh Lulla, a man quietly committed to making quality a national agenda item.  I was hooked.  I read more and was even more hooked. I went on then to work with Mr. Lulla for eight years and learnt each day. For showing me the path, I remain indebted to Mr. Lulla.  The only way I can thank him a bit is to carry his agenda forward. Which, I will.

Quality to me is a responsibility. A responsibility to help processes work and see customers happy. Just as designers develop products we Qualitists ensure these products and processes work. Flawlessly.

Quality to me is also an opportunity. An opportunity to make a lasting impact.  To leave a legacy.

How did  ASQ happene to me? I was part of a large group of ASQ members in India who were frustrated and appalled at how we did not even exist for ASQ. This was 2006. I could have continued to complain and whine. Instead, along with two more members, I decided to raise the voice of Quality. We formed a volunteer group called Quality First and began conducting meetings for ASQ members, had a newsletter and a blog. And soon ASQ listened.  We are proud to say that the model we created is now ASQ’s chosen approach to building Local Member Communities across the world. Thank you ASQ for listening.

Raising the voice of Quality, for us, is not a slogan, it is a mission.