TQM strategy can help beat Y2K bug, says past winner

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 May, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 May, 1998, 12:00am

During a recession, junior corporates must plan long term to survive, which includes becoming year-2000 compliant (Y2K), says a total quality management expert and winner of the 1995 Quality Award.

This should be a time when local companies were cutting costs by modernising, said Ricky Leung, the founder and managing director of Integrated Solutions, a software design company.

Instead, a large number of small businesses were just looking at surviving the next one to two months, while their businesses were about to be crippled, he said.

According to a recent government survey, the Y2K bug would probably cost Hong Kong more than $1.2 billion from crashed computer systems and lost productivity.

Nevertheless, when government officials interviewed senior managers for the survey - from small to medium-sized companies regarding their plans to head off the crisis - most reported they were planning to ignore the problem, Mr Leung said.

Even Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa had yet to give a clear answer on how the SAR was going to cope with the expected crisis.

'The smaller companies have to take action. We can't wait around for the Government to do something,' he said.

By writing software programs for local and mainland manufacturing companies in inventory control, purchasing, sales, product engineering and marketing departments, Mr Leung sees the 'good, the bad and the ugly' regarding efficient management.

But what amazes him most is how far behind the SAR's smaller corporates are lagging in technology.

'They need to invest in computerisation which will keep cutting costs,' he said.

'Without computerisation a company is weak because it lacks the business intelligence to make decisions.

'Instead, people say they use gut feeling to make their decisions, which is out of date.' The answer to these problems was total quality management (TQM), Mr Leung said.

But recognition of the award and its methods was lagging in government and private circles.

He said that, in the United States, the Vice President presented the Malcolm Baldridge quality award, but in Hong Kong there was virtually no government involvement in the HKMA's Quality Award.

Integrated Solutions, as most Asian corporates, was sharing the pain of the regional economic catastrophe but less severely than without a cohesive force, Mr Leung said.

'This happens by training employees not just to look for his or her own benefit, but to work as a team.

'We are here to survive. Companies who do not have a cohesive plan, where each person looks after his or her own benefit, is in real trouble in a recession,' he said.

'TQM gives the company and staff a guide to help each other work together through the depression, providing more certainty and trust in the company.

'It's like going to war when you have a bunch of buddies protecting your back.' Mr Leung said ISL promoted an openness of information that most managers kept secret, such as profit and loss statements.

'Basically, we share everything with our staff, except each other's salaries,' he said, adding this openness prevented in-fighting and internal politics.

He had implemented a TQM strategy to try to instil quality into the work attitude.