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Home > Business > Special

7 tools for managing quality

Surinder Kapur | May 01, 2007

Failure in new activities can frustrate any CEO. One of the main reasons for such failure can be the CEO not being completely involved in the new activity.

Unless he is fully involved, his employees' commitment to the new activity remains low, and they tend to give up the activity. I found this learning to be of great value. Here, the Seven Infrastructure Tools can help CEOs identify the focus areas for such new activities.

The Seven Infrastructures model was developed and taught by Shoji Shiba, the renowned professor of breakthrough management. The model was focused on facilitating total quality management implementation. Over the years, Shiba has evolved the model for mobilising various business improvements and organisational change activities.

The Seven Infrastructures model focuses on identifying the push and the very important pull factors for organisational change. Goal setting, organisational setting, training and education, and promotion are the factors that normally provide the much needed push for organisational change.

But unfortunately, most companies stop at pushing the change forward. In the absence of the appropriate pull factors for change, the movement goes only as far as it can - the moment the push weakens up, the change starts dying.

What's key to the Seven Infrastructures is thus the pull activities to align change. We have to diffuse success stories to encourage others to change. We have to align our incentives and awards to award behaviours that support change.

We have to monitor, diagnose and make adjustments to monitor the change over time. So while it is essential to provide the push for change, the pull elements have their own role to play in sustaining organisational change.

Goal setting, the first of the seven infrastructure tools, essentially refers to defining the reason for implementing a change. Clearly defined reasons, along with a focused approach, can set the ball rolling for organisational change.

To maintain a focused approach and to ensure that the super goal is met, it is important to set sub-goals under quality, customer service and profitability. These can be cycle time, inventory turns, customer satisfaction indicators, supplier goals, sales and revenue goals, production goals, quality goals, training goals and so on.

Once the goals have been clearly defined, the second step is to assign key organisation resources to implementation. This is called organisation setting and starts with the CEO and senior team's commitment to the super goal. It thus is important to create a dream team to achieve these super goals.

While this team could drive the initiative under the CEO's supervision, sometimes the entire organisation needs to be aligned to the super goal.

The team may not always be trained in the tools required to achieve the goals. Therefore, time must be set aside for training and meetings regarding the implementation. There also needs to be an implementation timeline with well-defined milestones and dates that should not be compromised because of the crisis of the day.

Promotion is critical to the implementation of an organisational change programme. Since change is almost always met with resistance, the CEO has to demonstrate commitment to the change or the super goal through action.

For instance, if the idea is to implement TQM in the organisation and the CEO does not attend the kick off meeting, then whatever the CEO might say will not be taken seriously by the employees. Communication of the super goal through various tools such as regular emails, meetings, posters and so on can help to build a change movement in the organisation.

With sufficient push having been provided to a certain change movement in the organisation, a momentum is built, which needs to be maintained by creating the appropriate pull for change. In other words, it would mean subtly killing the resistance to change.

Sharing success stories is a good way to get people to support the implementation of the change. Many organisations post their key metrics and status of corrective actions in a common area. As results improve, they drive further improvement.

As chronic organisational problems get solved, the momentum and support get built up. Employee newsletters and website postings are another way to discuss the stage of implementation and how it is working.

Providing incentives and rewards is another key element. Tying the employee's support to the programme to performance reviews, profit sharing, holding all-employee celebrations can boost morale and support for the effort.

Diagnosis and monitoring are perhaps the most critical areas. A monthly meeting to review progress against the key metrics, completion of the seven infrastructure milestones, and audit results would help the team to modify or augment the plan over time. Without diagnosis and monitoring, appropriate improvements cannot be made and before long the programme may fail.

In my view, the seven infrastructure tools define the seven most critical elements for success of any organisational change. It is an excellent model to plan and implement an innovation project in the organisation.

The Confederation of Indian Industry along with Professor Shiba has been enabling companies to implement the seven infrastructure tools and many companies have successfully implemented these.

Dr Surinder Kapur is chairman, CII Mission for Manufacturing Innovation, and chairman and managing director, Sona Koyo Steering Systems.

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