Annual Lecture for the Indian Quality Management Foundation
Both my wife, Peggy, and I are pleased to have been invited to return to India for the fourth time. We have learned a great deal about the country and have made certain to tell our friends and colleagues in the United States how much we have enjoyed India and its citizens.
We have been moved by the children we meet each year, particularly by their intellectual and pragmatic involvement with quality management. Most adults do not take time to really understand what this subject means to an organization and to individuals.
Quality offers a direct path to economic success, which in turn offers options to those who participate. These options let people live better and have meaningful lives. When an organization is profitable and growing, it improves the lives of all it touches. These people, in turn, improve the region, which causes the nation to raise its living standards.
A planned cycle makes all this happen, and quality management is at the center of that cycle. Let me explain what I mean.
Every organization has the same purpose: to provide solutions to needs. These are the needs of owners, customers, employees, suppliers and the community. When management defines those needs, it describes what the organization must accomplish. If the needs are to provide lodging and food, it becomes a hotel; if the needs involve health, the organization becomes a medical institution; if it has customers who want to learn, it becomes a school.
In order to accomplish these needs, an organization must establish clear requirements. How many sheets go on a bed? What will keep people from getting cholera? How many courses does it take to learn to speak Spanish?
So we have needs and requirements. Then we must actually do something in order to meet the requirements. We must have transactions. Telephones must be answered, sheets washed, mail delivered, shots given, surgery performed. Our everyday life involves millions of transactions.
Think of what must transpire to serve meals at a restaurant. Besides the facility itself, employees must purchase the raw material, prepare the menu, take the customers’ orders, cook the food, serve the food, collect the checks, wash the dishes, pay restaurant billsthe list goes on and on.
In essence, quality management provides a philosophy that causes employees to complete each transaction exactly as agreed. If an organization wants to have integrity in its transactions, management must get in there and make it happen.
This is where problems arise, especially with implementing a philosophy. Most managers, including those I have met in India, would like to have a package that causes quality to appear. They would like to have something that others install for them. Many think ISO 9000 performs magic. It is useful information, but no system will make quality, or anything else, simply "happen."
Someone must take action, and I see very little action being taken. Management must take charge of quality. It must issue a policy that insists all transactions are understood and completed correctly. Management must ensure that every employee understands the concepts and philosophy of quality management and is trained to perform exactly the transactions that make up his or her job. Management must seek out information from employees, suppliers and customers that will make the whole organization continually improve. It must insist on quality every moment of every day. This will never happen unless management quits waiting for everyone to rise up and perform quality. It has to take the leadership role.
Leaders must have an agenda that everyone can understand. They must have a personal philosophy of quality, finance and relationships. They should form enduring relationships and must think globally. Eighty-five percent of the world’s people do not live in India. Participating in the world economy and gathering the benefits for each of us is a matter directly in the hands of those who lead, as well as those who are studying to lead.
Young people here will serve as leaders before they know it. Time moves swiftly and waits for none of us. These future leaders shoulder an enormous responsibility, but I believe they are up to it.
While we wait for them, the present organizational leaders must step up and swing the bat. Bats do no swing themselves.
About the author
Philip B. Crosby, a popular speaker and founder of Philip Crosby Associates -- now PCA II -- is also the author of several books, including Quality Is Still Free (McGraw-Hill, 1995) and The Absolutes of Leadership (Jossey-Bass, 1996). Visit his Web site at www.philipcrosby.com.