Project Management Institute

The cost of quality

VOICES ❘ From the Top


When India-based Tata Group adopted an aggressive strategy to become a global business leader in the 1990s, one of the key recognitions it made was that to thrive, it needed to meet global standards for business excellence.

That concern for quality across the board is still a key competency of the organization, which saw US$100 billion in revenue last year.

“People are very quick to get into the hardware of the project,” says Prasad Menon, chairman of Tata Quality Management Services. “They think they can make do when problems arise, but that approach can come back to bite you.”

The organization uses the Tata Business Excellence Model (TBEM) across its companies to measure how each is performing. Mr. Menon calls the TBEM the “glue that has helped bind companies together.”

He says that a quality-driven program is essential to good project management, because it enables teams to proactively evaluate and overcome risks before they impact success.

Can you give an example of Tata's approach to project management in a current project?

Tata Power is currently doing a US$4.5 billion, 4,000-megawatt power plant project in Gujarat, India. It includes shipping raw material from Indonesia, getting specialized equipment from South Korea and Japan, and putting together more than 150 packages of work and integrating them all together.

In the planning stage, we identified several potential risks. For example, project teams working on both above-ground and below-ground construction activities simultaneously can lead to conflicts and delays.

So we planned all below-ground activity to be completed, and evaluated before any work was done above ground. This way, we know we won't have to open the ground again to fix any problems, which would interfere with above-ground construction.

How does Tata approach innovation?

A company can become controlled by process if you don't make sure it's the spirit of the process that matters. At Tata, intuition and entrepreneurship can take precedence over process. Our goal is to allow the process to help our teams make the best decisions.

It can be a difficult concept to get a handle on, and we don't always get it right, but over the years this balance has helped Tata Group grow.

How can quality processes help companies better manage their projects?

A successful project needs a complete plan, and a strategy for how you will carry it out, including how you will handle safety, the environment and the community. Quality processes drive this kind of planning, and we've found that it is worth spending the extra time to put these processes in place.

How can companies make quality part of their project management process?

Quality management has to go hand-in-hand with a clear directive from leadership that this is the way we are going to do projects. If you've got leaders saying they don't care how a project gets done as long as it's up and running in three years, then obviously quality management won't help. PM

A quality-driven program is essential to good project management because it enables teams to proactively evaluate and overcome risks before they impact success.

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