Business management practices go through phases, many of them merely fashions and they are frequently linked to names of gurus like Taylor, Deming, Drucker, Peters, Covey and many others.
The fact is that many of these fashions are older ones recycled in a new a ostensibly more exciting form but, in the end, the results are much the same.
How many of us recall the rush to “quality” a few years ago led by the fearsomely efficient Japanese automotive manufacturers. We started quality circles, and TQM (remember Total Quality Management?) and added three-sigma analysis, all in a sometimes vain attempt to emulate the success of Japanese industry.
At that time, one of my Vistage members, a manufacturer of scientific products, decided that he would go down that route but changed the focus, so that he called it “The Pursuit of Excellence”.
The point about “quality” was that most people regarded it as applying to the manufacture of products and while they put all their efforts into achieving zero defects, there seemed to be a disregard of all the other facets of the business.
The fact is that quality of the product is essential but even more so is the quality of the relationship with the customer. I well recall going to visit a large supplier of electronic components in a very modern, minimalist building with a smart receptionist who welcomed me with a smile, coffee and something to read while I waited. Everything was most impressive and I knew that their product line was equally desirable.
After a while, the coffee had its usual effect (on me, anyway) and I went to visit the toilets. Surprise, surprise! They were uncared for and generally unpleasant, and my overall memory of that company, good as they were in the supply of high quality products, was one of distaste at the state of their toilets.
Illogical or a normal reaction? The whole point of “high quality” means that everything in the business must be directed towards excellence in all that we do, be it in product quality, delivery service, invoicing, telephone manner and a host of other things which impact on the customer at some time and in some way.
Perhaps we should revert to the old concept of quality circles; ask your people how they can constantly improve on everything that they do, and, most importantly, what help do they need from you in order to achieve that improvement.
To contact us, email to firstname.lastname@example.org