Armed with over 25 years of management and consulting experience, Hank Grimmick has been helping organisations worldwide to incorporate business excellence into the fabric of their business. His consulting firm, Grimmick Consulting Services, has an enviable clientele, which includes The Boeing Company, Dolby Laboratories, Pacific Bells, Solar Turbines and US Robotics. Mr Grimmick has been a senior Malcolm Baldrige examiner for 13 years now and has helped many organisations in their implementation of business excellence.
His association with the Tata Group is rather new, but he has already acquired a deep understanding of the Group's quality initiative: the Tata Business Excellence Model. For TBEM 2005, Mr Grimmick assessed three high-performing Tata companies: Tata Motors — CVBU, The Tinplate Company of India (TCIL) and Tata Steel.
Soft spoken and full of humility, Mr Grimmick comes across as being much younger than he actually is. In his leisure, he likes playing golf and restoring antique watches. He has taken a liking to India and has learnt two Hindi words — chalo and chaat. On his second trip to India, (he wore one of his newer watches, belonging to the sixties) to take a senior leadership programme and visit Tata Steel, he spoke to Shubha Madhukar on excellence, the Tata companies he has assessed and his passions in life. Excerpts of the interview:
What was your first experience of assessing a Tata company in June-July 2005?
We visited the Pune and Thane operations, touring their entire facility. We visited two different dealers and got to see their perspective of the Tatas. Both were friendly and outgoing. But one dealer was much more sophisticated, technological and, to my thinking, much more representative of the Tata image. As part of the feedback to the company, we explained that the dealer in the customer's eye is Tata. The learning is that if you want to be even more successful, your dealers need to represent you the way you think they should represent you.
You have assessed companies in India and abroad. What is the major difference you see in companies in India and abroad?
The other difference I see is a hunger to learn. In the US, there is a tendency to be self-sufficient. There is a tendency to believe that we know all the answers. One of the other strengths here is the humility to accept that they don't know everything and they are willing to seek input from external consultants and from businesses which provide services, such as the balanced scorecard that CVBU uses. They are willing to benchmark and learn from other organisations. I see that as a significant strength.
The differences are more in the mechanism. In the Baldrige process for instance, after the assessors have reviewed the application, there is a judges panel which decides, based solely on scores, whether the applicant will go to the consensus stage and to the site visit stage. So there is a weeding out in the Baldrige process. There may be 50 applications and only 12 out of them will reach to the site visit stage. Also, in Baldrige, the consensus is typically done telephonically and there is a timelag of several weeks or months between the consensus and site visit, which is not so for the TBEM.
What would you say is positive about the TBEM?
Is it not so with the Baldrige process also? Are senior members not associated with the process?
The advantage of the TBEM process is that organisations seem to truly want the feedback. I base this on CVBU. They want the feedback and they want to do something about it. In fact, what I have seen in the three companies (CVBU, TCIL and Tata Steel) whose applications I have reviewed, they have actively acted upon the feedback, using it as a way to drive to excellence.
Tinplate, Tata Steel and CVBU, all three have had crises. And the interesting thing is that the crisis is what forced them to embrace the TBEM. It would be nice if they embraced it because they were doing well. That didn't happen, but that's all right. At least they did choose to go after it. I think that is a definite plus. In the US, the expression we use is "it's a burning bridge". They had a burning bridge, they had to choose, they couldn't get off the bridge, and they had to do something.
Do you have any concerns regarding the TBEM?
Also, I'm concerned that some assessors in the past and some in the future, will worry too much about the details, the nitty gritty, and lose sight of the big picture which is the most important thing about the process, that is, driving improvement in your organisation.
How are such excellence models helping organisatons in improvement and growth?
Then, it gives the organisation an opportunity to measure itself in a way that few other approaches do. If you use the score as a metric to view how you are faring relative to last year, relative to a class, then it can be helpful in validating the improvement you are driving or, in fact, the improvement should drive the organisation.
In terms of growth, the Baldrige and TBEM processes cause you to focus on both upgradation of efficiency and forward-looking approaches such as growing the business, which includes growing of capabilities, people, community, everything. And that's where I think the Baldrige or the TBEM process helps build the organisation.
Do cultural factors play a role in implementing business excellence?
Another difference in general: the American culture embraces risk, encourages innovation, creativity; the Indian culture tends to be risk-averse, tends to encourage a consistency in a positive way but can also go the other way.
One of the strengths of the Indian culture is a reasonable amount of homogeneity. The advantage in Indian culture is that there is consistency of thought, so you can get going in a certain direction. The disadvantage of that and advantage for the US is that there is a wide diversity of thoughts, wide diversity of styles, and that can stimulate a potential for more innovation and more creativity.
What does quality in a company mean to you?
We have this problem across the board, there is good quality and bad quality; high quality and low quality; special quality etc. I don't know what it means. So when I answered what is quality; I really answered what is excellence.
But isn't even the word excellence too comparative a term?
What is Hank Grimmick like outside of his professional life?
The other thing, there was an entertainment organisation in Florida that had a tagline which describes my view of the world: there is no such thing as too much fun. I believe in absolutely living and loving life.
What are your leisure activities?
I used to be an engineer. My wife told me once I needed a hobby and I had a bunch of watches around, so I started taking them apart and putting them back together again. I've got 30 or 40 wristwatches and 30 or 40 pocket watches, and I have got another hundred or so waiting to come back to life again. I pay a dollar or two for them and then restore them and wear them sometimes. But the problem is when you have 30 wristwatches and two wrists, the most you can do is wear them once or twice a month. And that is if you wear one on each wrist.