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Quality won’t happen overnight: Masaki Imai

Piyush 2010-08-07

Quality won’t happen overnight: Masaki Imai

Dileep Athavale | TNN 
Pune: Masaki Imai, Quality Guru and founder of Kaizen — the concept of continuous improvement in organisational performance — says business organisations where top managements are fully committed to quality improvement alone will be the ones that will succeed in the long run. Imai, who is in the city to address Indizen 2010, a two-day conference to mark the completion of ten years of Kaizen Institute of India, engaged in a long chat with mediapersons on various issues encompassing the gamut of operational excellence.

What are the key determinants of operational excellence? 
Achieving operational excellence through lean management approach will have to be based on flow, synchronisation and levelling of work. The three stages of business — designing, making and selling are equally important and focusing on one thing at the cost of another will prove meaningless. We observe that the managements pay a lot of attention to technology and design of products and selling it. Often, the critical process of ‘making’ the product is overlooked. Unless the lean management principle of faster, better and cheaper is adhered to on the shop floor, design and marketing sides will fail.
Which factors are critical for quality improvement in an organisation? 
The most and perhaps the only important factor that guides the success of quality improvement is commitment from the top management. The conflict facing top management is between the shareholders’ expectations about higher returns and the need to invest adequate funds and time for quality improvement. Sadly, most businesses seem to be leaving the quality issue to the middle level management who are not the decision makers. Lean management is a long journey and should be understood as such at the top level.
Where do you see India on the journey to quality and excellence? 
Since last many years we are working with Indian organisations and we are present as an India office for ten years. The country has achieved significant success as infrastructure is improving and a new industrial India is emerging. This is the most important time for Indian businesses to embrace process improvement efforts as the domestic market is strong and there is a big opportunity to serve the global customer as well.
Is government sector amenable to principles of operational excellence? 
Very much. Though there is no ‘ownership’ of a government process in the sense of shareholding, there is the critical issue of leadership of the country’s administration. Politically, a lot is at stake when it comes to offering efficient, fast and low cost governance services to people. In fact there is a trend to make India’s administration machinery responsible for the key performance parameters. This will mean a big improvement in the way the government works.
Is the excellence movement relevant to services sector? 
Services sector has a challenge similar to that of manufacturing. Quality of service is not what you think it is. The customer perception determines it. There are examples of major business segments within services sector benefiting from quality improvement programmes. Hotels, hospitals, banks have put in place quality systems and implemented them successfully to add value for the overall business.

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