Certainly, quality professionals play an important role in their organization’s pursuit of improvement and customer satisfaction. However, managers must ‘walk the talk’ in pursuit of customer satisfaction.
It is not just about what is required to make improvement happen. It is also about the need to be dissatisfied with the status quo, to cause the organization to continuously seek change, and to stimulate the restlessness for the pursuit of improvement.
This pursuit cannot be totally delegated to quality professionals or other members of the organization. It starts in the corner office. Beginning with senior management, every managerial component of the organization should use the quality improvement methodology. Managers and all members of functional areas should ask themselves, “Who are our customers? What are their requirements? How can we meet or exceed those requirements more efficiently and effectively?”
Having assessed customer’s needs and expectations we should ensure that our delivery system satisfies their needs and then strive to improve our outputs. If our organizations are going to aspire to be something more than average, we must encourage change. However, there is danger of pursing change for change’s sake, so the pursuit must be carefully orchestrated. The quality improvement process, known so well by every quality professional, provides the roadmap to performance excellence.
Why is improvement so critical? Customer demands aren’t static as they are constantly growing. To that end, the competition around us is dynamic in their pursuit of greater business opportunities! With that ever-present challenge, it is everyone’s role to enable the organization to not only survive, but prosper. This cannot happen if left to chance.
Improvement requires change. It also requires a way to bring about change with a process that is universally consistent. The quality improvement process provides this consistency, the structure for achieving improvement.
Beyond the direct use by management, it is also necessary that management facilitate the education and application of the process by others. To illustrate this point, a company which I worked for for many years used Joseph M. Juran’s quality improvement process. Executives used this process to solve a number of major issues. A number of future executives were trained in the methodology and used this knowledge to achieve certification (by American Society for Quality) as quality engineers. In turn, they not only encouraged and supported training people at all levels of the organization, but personally led training sessions as well.
This provided a significant message for everyone to understand the process and to pursue a similar approach to improvement. It provided a framework around, and a structure for, the various quality techniques related to process improvement, measurement, and problem solving with a strong focus on the customer.
One of the best ways to help others in the organization is to ensure there is frequent reference to the process. As an organization matures in its pursuit of quality, more and more quality techniques are frequently adapted. These often are complete programs which may start out as enablers for improvement. Six Sigma, for example. Initiatives such as these should not be discouraged because, in many ways, this compounding of programs helps expand and enhance the overall quality environment.
Part of an organization’s quality evolution is an ever-expanding involvement of personnel. As more become involved, and the environment becomes more participative, it is understandable that concepts, views, and opinions become more varied. If properly guided, this is healthy. If left to chance, however, it can cause confusion and damage previous accomplishments. Management must be particularly aware of this potential as the organization is educated and trained.
Quality professionals can help, but overall coordination and facilitation of the pursuit of customer satisfaction must be part of the management’s job description in a quality environment. This means we must use the fundamental process and help others use it and/or relate to it. The pursuit of quality can be complicated. It is part of management’s responsibility, therefore, to keep it as simple as possible, to maintain relevancy, and to keep the effort on track. If this doesn’t happen, the organization will likely become confused and improvement efforts fragmented and ineffective.