Global Performance Partners

Getting Results


We hear the word default a lot today.  A lingering recession and the housing bust have caused many people to default on loans, mortgages and other obligations.  The word default actually means inaction or neglect.  Too often the quality culture of an organization is created by default, i.e., inaction or neglect.  Instead of a designed approach that is focused on preventing problems, the culture evolves from responding to the everyday problems that plague the organization.  As a result, the company is required to provide concessions, discounts or warranty repairs when complaints are registered, or conduct excessive inspection in order to find and sort out the problems an inadequate work process produces.

Obviously, quality by default is expensive.  In fact, the average organization wastes between 25% - 35% of their operating budget because they don’t do the right things right.  This default quality culture of “find and fix” quickly becomes the norm.  New hires just do what existing employees do.  Management continues to accrue more money to handle warranty claims with little effort to make reductions because they see no alternative.  But there is one.

Companies can design a prevention oriented culture.  In this environment, requirements are clear, communicated, understood by all and not deviated from.   Finding and fixing problems is rejected.  Instead, the company focuses on preventing problems in the first place.  Employees and management have an attitude that no error is acceptable and when one is found, they take action to prevent a recurrence.  In turn, quality is measured like everything else in the organization, in financial terms, not by comparing operational performance with that of a competitor.

A default quality culture is operated by those working in the process, i.e., employees, and becomes an outgrowth of their need to fight the fires they face daily.  In this environment, little or no time is spent on improvement.  A designed quality culture is managed by those working on the process, i.e., management and is part of their strategic plan to reduce costs and maximize customer success.

You’re a victim of a default quality culture when:

-          outgoing products and services usually have defects or deviations from agreed upon requirements

-          the same problems seem to get fixed over and over again

-          employees want to do better but aren’t sure what to do or how to do it, nor do they have permission to challenge or change things

-          you don’t have a formal means for financially calculating what these opportunities are costing you

What can you do to create a culture of quality by design? 

  1. Get serious – identify, financially quantify and prioritize the opportunities that are available as a result of your default culture of quality.  Commit to creating a culture of prevention by design.  Communicate and demonstrate your commitment.
  2. Get ready – people can only do what they know how to do.  Therefore, educate the management team in how to plan, guide and direct a process that will produce a prevention oriented culture; educate associates in how to implement it in their area of responsibility
  3. Get going – training only works when you put it to work.  A proper quality culture will reduce waste by as much as 25% in the first 12 – 18 months.  That money can flow right to the bottom line and improve customer satisfaction in the process. 


                                                  TO MAXIMIZE RESULTS, AVOID ASSISTANCE RESISTANCE 

We all need a helping hand from time to time, whether its advice, physical or fiscal assistance, getting a little boost can be just the thing we need to keep going or advancing our progress.  However, it’s apparently also human nature to resist assistance.   Just watch someone who takes a pretty hard fall.  If it’s an adult that falls, instead of a painful reaction, there is usually embarrassed laughter – a pretty strange reaction to pain when you think about it.  In addition, the person usually resists any help getting back up.  Apparently embarrassment about falling and needing assistance is such a strong emotion that it prevents seeking help. The same reaction often applies in business as well.

Most business leaders painfully admit that on average their company probably wastes about 20% - 35% of everything they do because work processes aren’t capable of doing the right things right.  Most would admit that they realize that having problems doesn’t make them unique but doing something about these problems would.  In other words, they realize that aggressive actions to improve their organization provides a competitive advantage.
However, in many companies when assistance is offered there is frequently resistance.  For some reason, maintaining the status quo is an overwhelming desire that keeps companies from taking the required steps to improve themselves and convert problems into profits. 

It appears part of that resistance is because people and systems become entrenched within organizations and their focus becomes the survival of their position or methodology, not the benefits they were supposed to provide.  Anything that appears to threaten this existence is immediately rejected.  While that may be a normal human reaction, it is one that prevents innovation, growth and is likely to ultimately cause customer dissatisfaction and desertion.  If the leadership of a company is going to affect positive change, they need to understand this “assistance resistance” so that they can help people overcome their anxieties in order to achieve the desired outcome.  There are a few simple steps that can help.  
  1. Identify non-value added work in the organization and the financial impact this has on the organization.  To calculate properly, recognize that if any characteristic of the product or service provided doesn’t align with the customer’s perception of value, it is an opportunity to streamline.  Employees want the company to succeed – it’s at the root of their job security.  They will recognize that streamlining or other appropriate changes are in their best interest.
  2.  Work processes are the vehicle for delivering value to the customer.  It is the entire chain of work processes that develop, produce and deliver the desired outcome to the customer.  The people who work in these processes every day are the ones best suited to recommend change and/or effectively implement change.  When people recognize they are included in the change process they see it as planning with them, not plotting against them.
  3. Properly sequencing work processes in such a manner as to eliminate rework, re-do or scrap reduces cycle time and costs.  Employees can be more productive and not robbed of their pride of workmanship.
  4. Management must lead by example, committing to continually working to ensure that the company does the right things right.  To that end, management makes sure that employees have clear procedures and instructions, all tools needed to do the job, adequate training, and regular feedback so adjustments can be made as required.  When management focuses on changing work processes, not people, they create a sense of mutual respect and trust. 
For most companies, past success guarantees nothing. It also doesn’t serve as a prologue for the future.  When a customer’s expectations change, what you did for them yesterday no longer counts.  Do you know the changes your organization needs to make?  Who’s resisting those changes?  Take steps to overcome the status quo and make sure you’re anticipating your customer’s changing expectations.     
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