The Road to Excellence – Demystified

Customer pays your Salary - Qimpro

At my seminars and workshops on Performance Excellence, the most frequently asked question is: What is the difference between Quality and Excellence?

My long answer starts with a question to the participants: Who defines Quality?

The response is typically: The Standards Organization. And they are right. But….does this Quality attract customers?

Let’s imagine a typical conversation between me and a participant. Let’s call this participant Sam.

Me: Sam, in the business world, Quality is defined by the customer. The customer is the final inspector. Further, the customer pays your salary .So, the strategy should be:

  • Chase your customer. Not your competition.
  • Understand the stated and latent needs of customers, proactively.
  • Translate these needs into product / service features.
  • Design capable processes to deliver these product / service features, that in turn satisfy customer needs.

Sam: Is that all?

Me: Not so. Remember, the competitors are also proactively meeting customers. For the same reason. So our mantra should be: Better, Faster, Cheaper, Different.

Sam: Thank you. Is that all?

Me: No Sam. Employee satisfaction is a prerequisite for customer satisfaction. Employees are internal customers! Their needs are Just-In-Time inputs from the internal supplier(s).

Sam: Great. Now I understand. Is that all?

Me: Well, not really. We also have society as a customer. We need to create an eco-system where society is seen as a key customer. Their needs are: Jobs; Skills; Healthy Environment.

Sam: Ah ha. Finally, I understand. Is that all?

Me: Not yet. The most important customer is Mother Earth. Our business sits within the larger system of nature. This larger world includes living, and regenerative resources (forests, croplands, fisheries). We harvest these resources.
The larger world  also has non-regenerative resources (oil, minerals). These resources can only be depleted.
Further, in the process of harvesting and extracting resources to produce and use goods we generate waste. The waste damages the ability of nature to replenish resources. Mother Earth is crying for survival.

Sam: OMG.

Me: Sam, when you satisfy the needs of your External Customers + Internal Customers + Society + Mother Earth you achieve Excellence.

Sam: Who does this?

Me: Tata companies, Godrej companies, Aditya Birla Group companies, Jain Irrigation, amongst others.

Random Thoughts:

  1. I have seen a rose garden enveloping the manufacturing plant at Vikram Cement.
  2. I have seen Tata Chemicals save the whale shark from extinction.
  3. I have seen Jain Irrigation conserve every drop of water.
  4. I have seen the Godrej Group save the lungs of Mumbai.
  5. I have seen exotic birds migrating from Siberia to the manufacturing plant at Indo Gulf Fertilisers.

12 thoughts on “The Road to Excellence – Demystified”

  • Owners of companies have only one objective…to make profit…and more of it as time goes on. Quality is to meet this objective with quantification. The social goals etc are muddy at best. ITC, I presume is a tobacco company. Their very product is irresponsible. So is it for oil/gas/coal companies, liquor, auto, chemicals, jet fighter, munitions …all either have ‘sin’ products or polluting products in some people’s eyes. Thus quality for a profit making enterprise must be limited to the customers score card . Let the social good part be decided by the societies’ laws, norms, etc. The enterprise must work within that umbrella.

  • Thank you Mr Lulla for the long answer that is easy to understand! I believe we need to also involve innovators as a key stakeholder here. There are many innovations which provide convenience in the short term but are harmful in the long term. eg. digital learning systems in school – convenience yes but has found to create two problems viz. eye strain and lapses in concentration. Now , Australian schools have withdrawn iPads in school since it impedes comprehension. Innovators need to be disciplined to ensure that inventions do not create long term problems (like nuclear fission which is a still a threat to life on earth).

    • You have made a valid point, Ashok.
      Short term gains should not be at the cost of the long term.
      Behavior is impacted by digitization. We are losing our ability to think.

  • From Quality to Excellence and From Customers to Stakeholders, Thanks for sharing another awesome master piece Mr. Lulla.

  • ITC is also a great example of the above – strategy based on measures of people .planet and profits

    • Of yes. I have seen the wind energy farms of ITC at their Paper & Packaging Division , in Chennai. They were among the earliest to adopt alternative sources of energy. Thank you Viren.

  • Sir , I remember , in 1964 when the Japanese were asked about explaining the significance of the term ‘Total’ in ‘Total Quality’ , they replied :

    The five people being impacted by what we do as an organisation are : Owners , Employees , Customers , Suppliers and Society . If all five are simultaneously satisfied , We term it as a Total Quality .

    This was in 1964 !

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