Quality Capsule 18 - Structured Quality Improvement - Fable 3

So we have now been introduced to Structured Quality Improvement:

Problem Definition is the key. A wrong definition leads to a wrong problem being solved.

Also, remember that the structured quality improvement methodology applies to chronic problems only (Quality Capsule 3). The alarm for chronic problems is COPQ (Quality Capsule 4).

In order to share a real life context, I wish to share an interesting fable Indian Curry and British Satisfaction. This is a fable of 1991. The economy was heavily controlled. Quality served as a differentiator for success. For the brand: Made in India.

Indian Curry and British Satisfaction.

The CEO of an established textile company decided to adopt the ‘Juran on Quality Improvement’ program at their towels and sheeting units in Mumbai. This company enjoyed a premium reputation for its house furnishing fabrics.

Normally, for the pilot run, Qimpro used to recommend adoption of five projects distributed between manufacturing and non-manufacturing processes. The logic behind this approach was that one could showcase quality improvements, company-wide. It also served to get a buy-in from fence-sitters.

The CEO did not buy the traditional Qimpro approach for the pilot phase. However, he was sold on the Juran approach, and that’s what mattered. So he mandated that all seven (yes, seven not five) pilot projects should focus on a singular product, namely export sheetings. The global standard was ‘x’ major defects and ‘y’ minor defects per hundred yards. The company was having great difficulty maintaining this global standard, resulting in tremendous customer dissatisfaction.

The problem was complex. As it turned out, the symptoms of chronic problems in regard to export sheetings were: rust marks, grease stains, selvedge cut, pigeon droppings, curry stains, dust marks, loose threads, etc. Seven project teams were identified by the CEO , each to work on one of seven symptoms.

In order to diagnose these seven symptoms, continuous data was required for a period of at least three weeks for each of them. The seven teams identified their specific data requirements, pooled them in, and designed a common data gathering plan for three shifts a day, as good as a video film. This data was tirelessly gathered for three weeks. Undoubtedly this led to considerable economy of effort as well as thorough information.

Upon analyzing this voluminous data, the root causes were identified. Subsequently, the solutions were designed and implemented. And with a revised control system the defects per 100 yards were down to half. Customer complaints spiraled downwards. The cost of poor quality tumbled.

Simultaneously, customer orders from the UK grew. Those were the days of the quota system, country by country. With larger orders on the company, the UK customers ended up exhausting their respective quotas.

The delirious CEO celebrated the success of the seven pilot projects by requesting each team to present their journey from diagnosis of symptoms to remedying the causes, to top management. Word got round that quality improvement is a top business priority.

Lessons Learned

  1. The CEO should embrace quality improvement, unconditionally
  2. The CEO should factor quality into business strategy
  3. Data gathering is a long and laborious process
  4. Improved quality reduces cost of poor quality
  5. Improved quality reduces customer dissatisfaction
  6. Improved quality attracts larger orders
  7. The CEO must be seen to be personally recognizing and celebrating successful completion of projects


Dr J M Juran always said:
“In God we trust. All others must bring data”.


  1. Identify the four steps for structured quality improvement.
  2.  Identify the quality tools that were used by the teams.
  3.  How did quality improvement: 1. Reduce costs? 2. Increase revenue? 3. Improve competitiveness?

Please send your responses to Tejas Shah ( and earn a Certificate of Merit.

Additional References


  • Thank you Mr Lulla. This is one thing I have learnt from you – to summarise. A powerful way of ensuring learning.
    As regards Problem definition, mostly it is the lack of “customer focus” that results in symptoms being defined as problems.
    Data – relevant and reliable is another challenge in problem solving. Despite all the advances in technology and voluminous MIS, most data is “post mortem” without any causal analysis. This is an area that requires a capsule from your side – Establish Data collection to improve not merely report! Please share your wisdom on this one. Thank you!

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