Narayanan Ramanathan, Past President of Indian Society for Quality (ISQ) and Vice President of International Academy for Quality (IAQ) TITLE: Quality 21C – What Corporate Leadership Must Do

Title: Quality 21C – What Corporate Leadership Must Do



Leaders must think for times beyond their lives. Corporate managers must think of at least the 21st Century. For what they do today or do not will influence the state of the world in Year 2100. And this century may be critical for the future of humanity.

Scenarios for the end of this century include a population of 10.3 billion. The technological trajectory is towards robotization, nanotechnologies, revolutionary transportation systems, minimally invasive medical treatments, and radical methods of energy generation (conceivably including nuclear fusion). On the cards is a constant stream of new products with attractive features which may fundamentally alter the way work is done.

At the same time, the prognosis is that it is inevitably going to be a warmer planet – one with higher sea levels, a shrunken Amazon rainforest, and possibly a flourishing human settlement in a part of the Antarctic. Resources of minerals, water, marine fisheries, or fertile soils may become stretched and also available unequally. Human and social development may continue to lag  behind the technological in tackling climate change or resource depletion. International cooperation has often been elusive, but is needed on many fronts. Averting virulent global pandemics, the reversal of the democracy index that has taken a plunge recently, and the transformation of the economic system with its perverse incentives for damaging the planet require that humanity works together globally.

Corporate leaders may be forgiven if under these conditions they feel compelled to act to save their companies in the short run. What are their tasks ahead?

There is no alternative to Quality. More than ever before, Quality has to be at the core, the centre, of all corporate management. The principles of Quality-based Management can generate new kinds of corporate goals. In addition to serving customers, companies must offer products and services that contribute to a sustainable society, or at least refrain from doing harm. Avoidance of harm includes enlightened employment practices and governance,  eliminating release of toxins, greenhouse gases and hazardous and non-degradable wastes, not depleting the earth’s renewable and non-renewable resources, and developing products that can be reused, recycled, re-manufactured, reassembled, or upgraded. Corporate goals thus must encompass both customer satisfaction and societal wellbeing. Further, companies must pursue the objective of creating conditions for employees to feel happy, to learn, and realize their potential.

This is the new way of Quality, a triune corporate brain and nervous system that simultaneously delivers for customers, society and people. This triplet must replace the so-called triple bottom line. What then about profits? Profitability is, as Drucker said, a test of validity of decisions – companies must make profits to cover risk, return and growth. The task of corporate leaders is to achieve the triune purpose – profitably.

The tasks of management include:

·       Establishing a robust management way that is based on Quality and its underlying philosophies

·       Shaping a larger purpose and creating a shared vision

·       Aligning and enabling everyone to forever serve customers and build a sustainable society

This paper explores the role of corporate managers in creating companies that the 21st century world can be proud of.



N. (Ram) Ramanathan, 74, known as Ram to friends, is an Academician in the International Academy for Quality (IAQ) and serves on its Board as Vice President, and as Chair of the Examination Committee. He founded and chaired the IAQ Think Tank on Quality in Planet Earth Concerns till 2020 and continues as its member. He has been a founder member and past President of Indian Society for Quality (ISQ) with which he continues to be actively engaged. He has been on the Board of Asian Network for Quality (ANQ) in the past, a role he resumed in 2020. He has been involved in several leadership roles in promoting quality in India.

Ram has an industrial background having worked in diverse functions and having headed for six years the joint venture auto-components company SRF Nippondenso, near Delhi, which introduced him to Japanese TQM. He has been in the quality field for over 27 years now and has guided companies for the past 15 years as an independent counsellor in quality-based management. He has been associated with twelve successful Deming Prize challenges to date including two for his parent company, SRF, where he continues as adviser.

Ram has been keynote speaker in international conferences and has presented and published numerous papers on the subjects of quality and sustainability.

Ram has received the Dronacharya Award in 2018 from ISQ for his contributions to teaching and counselling on quality, the Ishikawa-Kano Award - Silver Medal of ANQ for long-term contributions to quality, and the Yoshio Kondo Award of IAQ for academic research.