John Vinyard has been handholding companies on their roller coaster ride to excellence for 35 years. Among them are five Malcolm Baldrige winners and the first winner of the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) Award. His clients, which include the Tata Group and Infosys in India, value his wise counsel and contribution to strategic thinking, streamlining processes, designing and managing change initiatives, and positively impacting bottomline results.
Founder and managing partner of Genitect, an organisation diagnosis, design, and transformation firm based in Colorado, US, Mr Vinyard has had a long and distinguished association with the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. He served on the board of examiners for six years from 1991 to 1996 and has continued his association with the Baldrige programme in various capacities. He is also co-author of the Baldrige User's Guide: Organization Diagnosis, Design, and Transformation.
Meet John Vinyard in person, and your awe of his impressive credentials melts in the warmth of his personality. His conversation frequently punctuated by a loud guffaw, Mr Vinyard gleefully informs you that he has a penchant for Indian combs and buys them by the dozen on his visits to India!
In a recent interview with Shubha Madhukar, Vinyard discussed TBEM vis-à-vis the Malcolm Baldrige Award and shared some of his most memorable experiences.
How is the Tata Business Excellence Model (TBEM) different from the Malcolm Baldrige model?
For one, TBEM drives improvement within Tata Group companies year-on-year. Baldrige is also focused on excellence, but cannot ensure that applicants maintain the multi-year focus and intensity that leads to sustained excellence.
Two, TBEM examiners want to see the organisation succeed. This helps the assessor craft opportunities for improvement that are robust and helpful to overall organisational competitiveness. In Baldrige, the examiners do not really care whether the organisation improves, as they have no association with it. In fact, if they did have an association it would be considered a conflict of interest. Examiners are not allowed to have any association with the organisation for five years.
Three, the TBEM practice of continuity of members on each team helps examiners understand and measure the growth an organisation has achieved year-on-year, in maturity, processes and results. In Baldrige, there is never continuity; from one year to another, members and examiners are new to the applicant.
In TBEM the mentor plays a vital role and helps ensure that the opportunities for improvement are of a nature that can help the overall business competitiveness. The Baldrige process does not have a mentor.
How are business excellence models such as TBEM or the Malcolm Baldrige model different from other quality certifications like ISO, Six Sigma, etc?
TBEM represents a high standard of excellence that very few organisations have achieved. Within the Tata Group, only three companies have won the JRD QV Award, and only a handful of organisations throughout the United States win the Baldrige Award each year. On the other hand, there are tens of thousands of organisations that are ISO certified.
What are some of the best practices of the TBEM process?
What value do the assessors bring to TBEM? What are the qualities essential in an assessor?
An assessor must be a team player. He must respect the abilities of his team members and be able to assimilate their ideas into the findings. He should also be able to respect the achievements of the applicant organisation. The best assessors understand how difficult it is to make progress in a complex organisation.
Being an assessor means working long hours on an application and an applicant organisation. The assessor must be able to get an overall organisational picture from the application, the interviews, the data and the time spent with the organisation. Finally it's important for an assessor to have a sound business perspective and judgment.
The mentoring process is unique to TBEM and does not exist in the Baldrige model. What is the role of a mentor?
Are business excellence initiatives such as the Malcolm Baldrige model or TBEM actually changing the way companies do business?
What are the difficulties that managements face in bringing about organisational change?
Organisations that use this model in the most intelligent manner are the ones that pick up learnings from other organisations who are ahead of them in the journey. They also aggressively implement the use of fully deployed systematic processes in all parts of the organisation.
You have been visiting India very frequently. What are your observations on the transformation in mindsets and business practices here?
For example in 1999, I went through airport security in Mumbai. The men running the x-ray machine had a discussion about why two people travelling together would both carry a laptop. A few months ago I was in the airport at Mumbai at six am. There were probably 700 people in the room and the vast majority of them were carrying laptops.
Are the quality concerns in Tata companies any different from those in other countries?
As organisations prepare to expand outside India, it is critical that they understand the world standards of performance in their particular product or service areas. Some of the more advanced Tata companies have not only ventured outside India but have established a number of technology islands inside their organisation, which can be used as leading indicators to fully understand global standards.
How do cultural factors influence attitudes towards quality processes and their implementation?
Can you share some of your more memorable experiences as a Baldrige assessor?
This can be seen frequently on site visits to high-performing organisations when the examiner asks, "How do you know you had a good day?" When the answer revolves around the employee's metrics, how the employee was trained to improve performance, and how they have measured and validated that their performance was improved, examiners are impressed with the organisation and impressed that the employees are so proud to be making a difference.
I have been on TBEM site visits and heard factory employees describe their processes and what is being done to improve them rapidly. Personally I feel this is one of the most exciting conversations of any site visit. The assessors will know that if a passion for processes and improvement has reached all the employees in the factory, then it has probably reached the majority of the entire organisation, and improvement will not be isolated to a few teams or specially trained groups.
On one particular Baldrige site visit, I was probing a CEO to really understand his level of belief in Baldrige as a business model to drive competitiveness. The question I posed was, "If you were at an industry conference and one of your competitors indicated that he did not think the Baldrige model was valuable, what would you tell him?" Without batting an eyelid the CEO replied, "I would tell him he was right." On seeing my surprise, he explained, "I do not want my competitors using this as their business model." That one statement told me more about his true beliefs than the earlier hour-long interview I had had with him.