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Shobhendu Prabhakar

Management

The Connection Between Truth, Nonviolence, and Quality

Nonviolence and quality share two key words: abstention and principle

Published: Thursday, June 20, 2019 - 12:03

In India, Mahatma Gandhi is one of the most revered leaders of our time. He was a man who devoted his life to truth and nonviolence. You may be wondering why I’m talking about him here. Well, we all enter our place of work with a set of values that influence how we see and approach our work. So it’s important to understand how what you believe aligns with what you do.

The more I read about Gandhi and these two of the many values he preached about and lived his life according to, the more I found I could connect and correlate truth and nonviolence to the idea and practice of quality. I’d like to share those connections with you.

Truth

First, truth is about being in accordance with a fact or reality, or fidelity to an original or standard. Quality is about achieving uniformity of products or services that satisfy specific customers or user requirements by a strict and consistent commitment to certain standards. The essence of a quality management system is the pursuit to consistently produce products or services that meet requirements. Living truthfully means coherence in speech and actions. Similarly, producing quality products or services requires executing activities consistently as per the requirements and what is stated in the procedures (which we can think of as “truth”). The core of ISO 9001 is the same thing: Say what you do, and do what you say.

Requirements are the truth that drive the plans, procedures, and systems. Plans, procedures, and systems are the truth that drive execution and controls. Execution and controls are the truth that drive the product or service quality. Product or service quality are the truth that drive customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction is the truth that drives repeat business. Repeat business is the truth that is a huge factor in the company’s sustainable existence. Lack or absence of one or more quality elements at any stage, from requirements to product or service delivery, can have significant impacts on customer satisfaction, repeat business, and a company’s sustainable existence. 

Truth, as an absolute value, commits us to see things as they really are. Without a deep, thoughtful and true understanding of reality, it is extremely difficult to act with any assurance of success. Even Isaac Newton’s first law of motion echoes it; you need to know the initial velocity (reality) to determine final velocity (desired results). In this context, we all can agree that quality audits, nonconformances, investigations, root cause analyses, annual management system reviews, and quality metrics are the means and tools that show us the health (the reality) of our business so that appropriate actions can be taken to achieve desired results (quality products or services, and a successful organization).

Nonviolence

Nonviolence is the abstention from violence as a matter of principle. Quality is the abstention from producing defective or nonconforming products or services as a matter of principle. It’s reasonable to state that defective or nonconforming products or services are a disruption (or some form of violence) to typical business execution.

Violence typically results in harming animals and humans and at times can cost lives. Defective products or services result in costing the organization time, money, and effort. At times, defective products or services can even cost lives. Thalidomide, an anti-nausea and sedative drug that helped reduce the symptoms of women suffering from morning sickness, was identified as a teratogen, which can cause numerous birth defects, and was withdrawn during the 1960s. Ford had to recall 1.4 million Pinto automobiles in 1978 because of a structural design issue: the fuel tank in close proximity to the rear bumper and rear axle, which would have increased the risk of fire in rear-end collisions. The Deepwater Horizon explosion and spills in 2010 resulted in the loss of 11 on-board workers’ lives and discharged approximately 4 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, which led to widespread damage to the Gulf marine wildlife. And as recently as in 2018, a malfunction issue in the maneuvering characteristics augmentation system (MCAS) is supposed to be the cause of the Lion Air 737 Max plane crash in which 189 people were killed.

Though one can argue these examples are not violence in traditional terms, it’s fair to state that they can be characterized as violence in some form or fashion.

If we look carefully at the definitions of nonviolence and quality above, we will note two key words: abstention and principle. Abstention, the act or practice of choosing not to do (or have) something. Principle, a rule or code of conduct. These lead to the point I am trying to make, which is nonviolence is a culture, and so is quality.

Nonviolence is a culture of choosing not to harm anyone either physically or as a matter of principle. Quality is a culture of striving to do things right the first time, which means, as a principle, a deliberate practice of choosing not to take shortcuts or violate processes, especially when pressure and stakes are high. The more this culture is ingrained into the organization’s DNA, the less that “violence”—in the form of process violations, product or service variations, defective products or services, as well as the probability and number of safety accidents—will occur.

Summing it up

Quality and truth are closely connected and inseparable. Requirements, procedures, systems, tools, and methods form a reality called “the truth.Process verifications, audits, and inspections are the mirrors that show us the reality, tell us how closely the truth is followed, and more important, what else needs to be done to achieve superior quality and accident-free operations.

Quality and nonviolence are highly correlated. In an organization where a culture of quality is ingrained, valued, and respected, the traces of violence in the forms of business disruption, process violations, defective products or services, and safety accidents will be minimal.

Discuss

About The Author

Shobhendu Prabhakar’s picture

Shobhendu Prabhakar

Shobhendu Prabhakar is working with TechnipFMC in a project quality manager role. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, a master’s degree in mechanical design engineering and a master’s degree in business administration. He is a Jones Scholar (Rice University in Houston) and a certified ISO 9001 lead auditor with around 14+ years of professional experience in quality assurance and quality control area in oil and gas and related industries. This article does not represent any TechnipFMC position, and it is in no way related to TechnipFMC