June 2009

In the pursuit of excellence

Rajesh Bhatt discusses Tata Quality Management Services and its role in promoting a culture of business excellence across the Tata family of companies in the UK

Rajesh BhattRajesh Bhatt of Tata Quality Management Services (TQMS) is responsible for overseeing business excellence practices across the Tata family of companies in the UK.

TQMS is a division of Tata Sons and seeks to guide individual Tata companies in their pursuit of business excellence. It is headquartered in Pune, with branches in Jamshedpur, Mumbai, Bangalore and London.

Here Mr Bhatt discusses TQMS's role in helping Tata companies adopt and promote a culture of business excellence.

What is TQMS and how did it come about?
Tata wanted to formalise quality management to ensure all its companies remain competitive and employ the very best business practices. In the early 1990s, having assessed the Deming Model, the European Foundation Quality Management Model and the Malcolm Baldrige Model, Tata customised the latter to create the Tata Business Excellence Model and started to apply it across all companies.

This was done to ensure a level of consistency among all Tata companies. While the initial focus was on training, incorporating business excellence practices and assessing company performance, activity gradually shifted towards developing capabilities and seeking to make tangible improvements for companies.

Our role is to discuss problems, suggest insights and identify solutions in the areas identified. Ultimately, success depends on the commitment of companies in working towards these identified solutions.

What objective does TQMS seek to achieve?
The mandate is to facilitate business excellence in all companies. Moreover, to make companies competitive so that they can achieve their desired results. The focus is on the holistic development of companies.

How does it set Tata apart from its peers?
While business excellence models do not guarantee success, they definitely reduce the chances of failure. Our model helps make processes robust. The commitment to try and follow, and achieve this level of excellence by the companies is what sets them apart in their own markets.

As most companies within Tata follow the model, there exists a consistent language of excellence which helps share learning among the companies and the transfer of best practices. The sheer scale and variety of this source of learning is a crucial asset.

What is the role of quality and how does it affect overall business profitability?
This has evolved over the years. The Business Excellence Model helps look at overall quality and this certainly has a direct impact on profitability. It includes product quality, customer satisfaction, quality of jobs and people satisfaction – factors which eventually lead to financial and marketplace success.

The model also considers the quality of leadership, strategic planning, analysis of information and other such aspects within companies. The emphasis is on assessing the quality of all the processes and the quality of all the outcomes.

Quality must be inherent in all processes of a company, as without it an organisation might find it difficult to survive in a fiercely competitive environment and will not be able achieve its desired objectives.

How do companies embrace sustainability, innovation and ethical business practices?
With regard to ethical business, we have the Tata Code of Conduct. All companies try to abide by it and training is given to employees. The code is aimed at ensuring transactions are dealt with ethically and overall business practices among all the companies are carried out as per highly ethical norms. 

With innovation, the basic objective is to generate interest and ensure as many people as possible contribute towards it. People are given the opportunity to learn from workshops and seminars. Companies are challenged to consider fresh ways of running a process that can also achieve the desired results.

This has given rise to Tata Innovation Day, an annual event which provides an opportunity for companies within the group to present innovative projects to their peers.

The measure of business excellence is tied to sustainability. We look at the sustainability of the corporation as a whole. Continuous improvements deliver a sustainable corporation. The entire emphasis of TQMS is to build a sustainable model.

How many people are trained in business excellence from the companies?
There are various types of training so as to involve all sections of any business. Last year we trained around 3,500 people in business excellence across Tata, and we are trying to increase that number this year. Training varies; there are some who already know what TBEM is all about, some who want to become assessors and some who want to specialise in one area such as innovation or knowledge management.

A high number of people are expected to be trained for a company that is starting out on the journey, as the emphasis is on the corporation as a whole and it is essential that all understand the model and how to implement it.

How long does it take for a company to get to an acceptable level on the TQMS journey?
It takes a while for a company to look at all the processes involved. It is also possible that a company is already successfully employing all processes.  In that case, we seek scope for improvement as business excellence is a never-ending journey. Typically, companies that are committed can create this culture of continual improvement within two to four years.

Generally, 500 points is considered a good score wherein the company is showing progress. Once you cross 600 points, you qualify for entry for the JRD Quality Value award, the highest and most valued accolade within Tata. 
Does the journey allow for benchmarking or learning among Tata companies?
Absolutely. And this helps us to create a seamless Tata group. The model leads to a consistent language of excellence. Hence, the transfer of practices among companies and benchmarking between them becomes easier. The template for becoming excellent is the same.

There are three areas under TQMS that facilitate networking and learning. Firstly, the Tata Quality Management Practices themselves. Secondly, the Tata Knowledge Chain which operates on a virtual platform where people can share questions and knowledge regarding various processes. Thirdly, there are various assessments that take place which pull together Tata companies. For example, the Global Network Forum allows people from different Tata companies to be trained together and forms an ideal place for the exchange of ideas and networking.

How many companies in the UK have applied the model so far?
Most of the Tata companies in the UK are in different phases of their business excellence journey.

Tetley was the first to start in 2006 and applied the full model in 2007. Tata Motors European Centre started one-and-a-half years into its existence, which is highly commendable. TCS has been on this journey for a while, whilst a number of Corus business units have initiated it and others are following suit. Brunner Mond has kick-started things with some training.

How is Tata’s approach to climate change manifested in the business codes / advice given out by TQMS?
We recognise the enormity of the climate change challenge and so have a specialist team working on a collective approach to it. This is distinct from TQMS, although of course the two are inextricably linked. As I have said, TQMS seeks to build sustainable businesses.

The climate change team is being assisted by consultants from McKinsey and Ernst & Young, who are helping to create policies and set up processes in companies.