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Last updated: 14 Nov, 2022  

Quality.9.Thmb.jpg Quality management turning into a philosophy of life

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IANS | 14 Nov, 2022
All viable concepts tend to extend their areas of application by bringing in the human society at large in their purview.

Pareto's thesis that 'there are a significant few among the insignificant many', Einstein's precept that 'imagination is more important than knowledge', or Secretary of State Warren Christopher's stipulation that 'national security is inseparable from economic security' are some of the lasting ideas -- originating from a sociologist, a scientist and a politician in these cases -- that remain relevant because of their connectivity with life itself.

American Society for Quality (ASQ), the non-governmental, non-profit organisation which has emerged as the thought leader in the area of quality management -- more specifically on the totality of features of a product or service that would give better satisfaction to the consumers -- has also focused on new organisational aspects of productivity such as the psychological dimension of employer-employee relationship and got drawn into some deeper questions of quality of life itself.

It has, for instance, examined issues like 'parenting', 'sustainability' and 'welfare' and widened the scope of application of 'quality' in different spheres of human endeavour. Three developments of global importance have compelled this sublimation of the idea of quality.

First is the fact of the transition of the world to the Age of Information consequent on the advent of the IT revolution in 1991 that made it mandatory for any person to be 'well-informed' to move forward in any walk of life.

This is because knowledge-based decision making was the anchor of success in any sphere. Information became a determinant of competitive advantage in putting out a product or service since the knowledge of what the business rival was offering and what the well-informed customer was expecting, was crucial.

Study of the business environment, including the law and order situation, supply chain and social media trends influencing the demand, has become essential for planning -- this is part of the ongoing business intelligence that the enterprise has to have for its success.

No doubt, data and data analytics are now a requirement of the process of decision-making with regard to product development and launch of a service. In ultimate analysis, information is at the base of quality control now.

The Age of Information has also brought out the importance of the organisation garnering internally available information -- and not forgetting the dictum that 'nobody knows everything but everybody knows something' -- not only about the firm's own products and services, but also about the business environment outside as well.

The second factor that again can be regarded as a new-age phenomenon is the realisation that all business is 'human activity' and that the individual is at the centre of all productivity, notwithstanding the induction of technology in all aspects of it -- from automation to social media marketing (SMM).

Determination of quality is linked to human psychology and choices and it also shapes customer loyalty. The post-Covid scenario has given a new-found importance to quality -- people returning to the market are impatient on the question of quality and prone to rejecting permanently any product that seems flawed. Businesses therefore would do well to try to be ahead of others in quality even if it means scaling down on profits a little.

In the area of senior-subordinate relations, the corporate entity certainly requires 'bosses' to understand their men and show enough emotional intelligence to read the pressures working on the employee outside of the workplace. They have to become 'nurturing' guides.

Both quality and quantum of 'productivity' have some proportionality with the 'concentration' that a stress-free member would be able to bear on his or her work. Human resource development functions in all enterprises and establishments have assumed a new-found importance and become a far more challenging assignment now .

The third dimension of Quality Control Management is what should be regarded as work in progress -- the increasing assimilation of 'quality' in the lifestyle and thinking processes of people in the present times.

The rich may remain preoccupied in opting for what was exclusive and niche for consumption, but it is also a fact that people with broader awareness are looking for quality in whatever they are mandated to do -- from the responsibility of bringing up children to seeking better mental and even spiritual satisfaction out of their work.

Total Quality Control has, as a concept, expanded to encompass fulfilment of the needs of productivity, cost-effectiveness through the use of technology, interpersonal relations in hierarchical situations, social and environmental harmony and a continuous updating of information on both opportunities and risks that businesses, organisations and individuals have to reckon with in these times of rapid changes.

Quality control application can enrich personal lives and this is a thought catching up with all conscientious people. Five guiding principles that can be easily translated into practice come to mind.

First, one should recognise time as a resource that has to be invested, not wasted. Remaining engaged in some meaningful work -- outside of the periods used for mental relaxation or sleep -- is a method of being productive with time. When one engages in work with full concentration without being distracted by any thought of incomplete success, it provides the individual concerned with a sense of deep satisfaction and a lot of self confidence. This makes for quality of life.

Secondly, in this age, it is necessary to try to be a well-informed person in any work situation or context and for this, the power of observation comes in handy. Observation can be sharpened through exercises like 'pattern reading' and jigsaw puzzles. Being well-informed means having the right information in time for action and having information that makes a difference between a decision and a guess. Before setting out for any work, it is necessary to be aware of what all is needed by way of documents or equipment to attend to that task or interaction. Information is sought not just for storing it, but for helping knowledge-based decision making that is so essential for achieving success.

The third guideline for leading a purposeful life is to develop the ability to see the relative importance of things in a situation -- Pareto's law referred to above comes to mind -- so that one can draw a line between one event and another and not get upset to the same degree over every little matter. Distinguishing the long range from the short term, visualising the difference between a journey and the destination and sieving the macro from the micro do not come easy to everybody.

The fourth paradigm for bringing in quality of life is farsightedness that can be developed by exercising the 'analytical' mind, piecing together relevant facts for examination and then interpreting the total available information for its possible implications for the future. To be able to see what lies ahead opens up opportunities that others have not seen and helps avoid risks too and this is important in life.

And finally, it is necessary to measure up to the image of a 'good soul' at home and outside if the quality of life is to be sustained. Being trustworthy, sensitive to human nature and amiable -- none of this coming in the way of dealing adequately with a hostile situation -- facilitates easy relationships and frees life of avoidable tensions and misgivings. Success is often a collective effort and willingness to join with others in a shared mission does not detract from the leadership qualities that would show up on their own in any situation.

A life well-lived in terms of 'quality' is a life that does not produce regrets, brings satisfaction about efforts made without fear of failure and puts a moral stamp of human values on what is essentially a 'principled' course of existence at the workplace, and at home.

(The writer is a former Director of Intelligence Bureau. The views expressed are personal)
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