How do you see your role as chairman of TQMS?
I believe TQMS has delivered on its original objectives: it has helped group companies improve their excellence processes; it has been the glue that has helped bind group companies together; it has enabled many of the larger companies to achieve close to global excellence; and it has brought in a general culture of continuity of growth.
But today it has come to a crossroad. There are a number of Tata companies that have already crossed 600 points on the TBEM framework and who want to know how to get to the next level, of 750-850, in order to become truly world class. They want to know whether they should look at a different methodology from the Malcolm Baldrige model, which is what TBEM is based on. Tata Steel, for instance, was the first company to reach the 600-plus score on the Malcolm Baldrige model and win the JRD QV award. It has now adopted the Deming model.
My personal feeling is that the TBEM movement and the Malcolm Baldrige model on which it is based are good and are capable of helping companies achieve global benchmarks. But we need to ask ourselves a few questions: how do we achieve the same level of rigour that the Deming consultants bring in; how do we continue to support high-scoring companies while at the same time help low-scoring companies move up; how can we improve the competence and skills of our assessors; how do we improve the quality of our assessments and take them up to a world-class level?
So for the next two to three months, we are trying to have one-on-one meetings with the CEOs of a number of companies across the group — high-scoring and middle-scoring ones — to try and understand what they want from us, get some ideas on what else TQMS can do for them, and consider where we should take the movement over the next five years. Tata is no longer India-centric and TBEM has to deliver the same value to our companies across the world.
What do you think needs to be done?
There are other questions we must ask ourselves. What kind of service should TQMS provide? Should we collaborate more with other specialised group functions such as group human resources, the Tata Management Training Centre (TMTC) and Tata Strategic Management Services? The other question being asked is whether the TBEM assessment that takes place twice a year should actually be a continuous process.
Do you think it makes sense to adopt two models, the Malcolm Baldrige model as well as the Deming model?
I cannot comment much on Deming but I think it would be much better to adapt TBEM. For instance, this year we are doing pilot studies on a project called ‘Intensive Assessment’ with two high-scoring entities — the Tata Motors Commercial Vehicle Business Unit (CVBU) and the Titan Time Product Division. ‘Intensive assessment’ is a much more rigorous assessment process, with a feedback element that is customised to give the company far more value.
The result of the Tata Motors CVBU pilot was very encouraging as the company found the exercise more than helpful. If the Titan pilot shows the same results, then this can be the way forward. So what we are doing is moving in a direction where we may have different kinds of assessments — intensive assessments for companies that are at the 650-plus level, a standard assessment for middle-level companies and a ‘quick assessment’ for companies that are yet to reach the 450 mark.
Another option is assessing high-scoring companies in alternate years. This will give them more time to prepare and reduce the number of assessors required for the entire process. This will also help us improve the quality of the assessment. We are trying to put all of this together in the next few months.
What are the measures needed to enhance or improve the quality of assessors?
The other issue is getting better-quality people. Those who show high business performance don’t necessarily make good assessors. Sunil Sinha [the TQMS chief executive] and I are meeting groups of assessors to get their viewpoints. So the issues we need to address are the quality of assessors, their skills and their rewards.
TQMS has become competent in its main role of driving business excellence. What will it take for the organisation to reach the same level of refinement with its other broad-based initiatives, such as climate change, safety and affirmative action?
The climate change group in TQMS has delivered on the initial agenda of spreading awareness, measuring the carbon footprint of Tata companies and helping them in identifying emission-abatement opportunities. Going forward we may have to redefine their role in order to make a greater impact on the group’s journey towards environmental excellence.
So far the affirmative action initiative was led by Dr JJ Irani [the former TQMS chairman] with support from the chairman’s office. We need to decide where it should be centred. But the assessment process will continue to be carried out through TQMS.
Climate change is an important TQMS initiative but the group still seems to have a lot of catching up to do in terms of global benchmarks. How do you propose to address this?
Are you taking any steps to tackle this issue?
TQMS has evolved into a pan-Tata entity that takes on new responsibilities under its canopy all the time. Is there a risk of the organisation being overstretched?
Are you planning any realignment or restructuring in the operations of TQMS?
Also some reinvigoration is required in the annual TBEM convention. We need to explore how to lay greater focus on learning and improve the attendance. We’re looking at all these issues now.
From a people point of view, do you think TQMS should be a leaner organisation?
Finally, what are some of the challenges you foresee for TQMS as an organisation?