Sunday, 18 September 2011

Making Salt


One of the most challenging aspects of implementing a Quality Management System is getting the folks who have to implement the policies and procedures behind the project. Developing the policies and procedures are relatively easy compared to actually getting the organization behind it and actually putting into practice the philosophies and processes captures in the Quality Manual. Any Quality Manager will attest to encountering challenges including skepticism, reluctance to change and apathy. Unfortunately there are no magic bullets.
Successful implementation hinges on finding the right tool to motivate the organization as a whole. I have been fortunate that in many instances enlightened executive management who made it clear that organizational change was expected and necessary to achieve the corporate objectives supported my efforts. At other times, I’ve had to resort to finding ways to present the need for change as not only desirable but also a common objective. To do this I’ve often turned to iconic historical leaders who’ve inspiration change such. One such individual is a man of diminutive stature but a giant of the early civil rights movement, Mohandas Gandhi.
Gandhi was a bit of a paradox for me. While in school, I got the impression that Gandhi was the perfect clear-minded visionary leader. The accounts I read of Gandhi since painted a picture of a person who quite ordinary as a boy, experimented with his values and believes as a young man, self-contradictory in some of his actions, and down right odd with regard to some of his personable habits. In other words, in many ways, he was just as ordinary as we are. A life long vegetarian, he experimented with eating meat as a young man, he had some seemingly racist views while an activist in South Africa, after fathering four sons with his wife Kasturba he became celibate at 36 while still married but would lie naked with other women to “test his resolve”, although well known for his believe in non-violence, in his leaflet titled Appeal for Enlistment he encouraged Indians to join the British Army to “learn the use of arms with the greatest possible dispatch”. In his pursuit of his “Quit India” resolution he was single minded, tireless, inspired and brilliant. The Congress Party was initially a political movement largely composed of the upper caste and dominated by men. Given the centuries-deep social structure and customs of the times, its remarkable that Gandhi was able to create a movement that included the support of Indians that spans across the gender divide and the rigid caste system.
In bridging the gender divide, Gandhi had introduced a swadeshi policy to boycott foreign-made (largely British) goods. Part of this initiative was the exclusive use of khadi (home spun cloth) instead of British-made textiles. To promote the implementation of this practice, Gandhi invented a portable spinning wheel. This initiative not only weeded out the unwilling participants, it recruited and included women in the movement. The event however that galvanized popular support for Gandhi was the Dandi Salt March. On March 12, 1930 Gandhi set out with 79 followers from the Sabarmathi Ashram in Ahmedabad. After walking 388 km they arrived at Dandi on April 6, 1930 gaining thousands of supporters along the way. Early in its history and in its greed, the British East India Company had imposed a punitive Salt Tax supported by salt laws that forced Indians to purchase salt that they could barely afford from the Company. The making and distribution of salt by Indians was illegal except through the monopoly set up by the British Government. On reaching Dandi on the Arabian sea, Gandhi picked up the caked salt and symbolically made salt thus defying the law and proclaiming the end of the British Empire. Thousands including Gandhi were arrested but this bold defiance inspired many more to defy British rule and join his campaign.
To my colleagues charged with implementing Quality Management Systems, Happy Salt Making!

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