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May 13, 2002 | 1340 IST
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Quality movement needs personal pledge of leaders: Murthy

BS Bureau

For the quality movement to take root in a company, its leaders have to walk the talk and show their personal commitment to the idea, said N R Narayana Murthy, chairman and chief mentor of Infosys Technologies.

He was delivering the keynote address at a conference on "Quality and Competitiveness: We can make it happen", organised by the CII Institute of Quality on its first anniversary.

Over 2,500 people have participated in the organisation's programmes in the first year. It has adopted a holistic approach to quality, not limiting its application to just manufacturing and services but also extending it to governance and education.

Outlining the steps that a quality movement must take in a company, Murthy said a company has to first benchmark itself to those who are better. Second quality has to become ubiquitous within the company. "We have sat down with the leader of every function in Infosys and convinced him that quality is organic."

Two practical requirements are the need to measure every function and create a system of incentives. Also needed is a feedback channel. Two important factors are scalability and sustainability. Murthy recalled Aristotle's dictum that you have to make excellence a habit.

A clear, practical guide down the quality route was given by Venu Srinivasan, managing director, Sundaram-Clayton.

With the experience of managing both types of organisations, he felt it was a little more daunting to instill quality consciousness in a two-generation company than a greenfield one. The best way to go about it was to first sensitise people on the 'need to change' for survival.

Then you identify a change agent, preferably an old war horse, and simultaneously remove the intelligent subversive who is not with the change process. As there is a fear of the unknown, it is best to showcase a few successes before starting on the real thing.

Srinivasan's most telling insight was that change is a continuous process. You change and think you are ahead but soon someone overtakes you. So it is best to always keep saying, there is so much more to change.

The conference heard of two glorious success stories in developing organisations of quality. One was the turning around of the Bangalore Metropolitan Transport Corporation from S P Kharola, IAS. From a Rs 370 million deficit in 1994-95 it has clocked a Rs 130 million surplus in 2000-01, while charging one of the cheapest level of fares in the country.

Change took place because the political will was there. It has covered the entire range - beginning from corporatisation, to improvement of discipline, to use of information technology to outsourcing.

Dr P Namperumalsami, director, Aravind Eye Hospital which began in Madurai, retold a legend. The NGO has revolutionised eye care for the poor in the country by making top quality treatment available at hitherto unheard of costs.

It costs Rs 500 to get a cataract operation done with the implanting of intraocular lens. These lenses, which were at one time imported for $75 or more are now being made by the organisation at $6 per piece.

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