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Maset News

Volume 35  February 25, 2004

Message From Charles Loew
Comments From Our Readers
New On The Maset Web Site
Helpful Hints from fellow Practitioners
Top Ten List
Feature Of This Issue
Second Feature Of This Issue
QBQ! QuickNote
Coming in the Next Few Issues


Welcome to MASET News. A monthly publication dedicated to the communication between MASET and our many interested friends, customers and potential customers




During the past year a great deal of time was spent developing a program aimed at small to midsized business. We are now launching this program on March 25, 2004 in Schenectady, New York.

Information on the first phase of this activity can be found on Maset web site. The feature article, "Focusing on Customer Satisfaction Helps Small and Midsize Organizations Win Back and Retain Customers" also was developed as a press release for this event.

We anticipate the one-day seminar will provide information for leaders of small to midsized organizations to assist them in determining how to proceed further. There will be three options at the end of the seminar.

  1. Work with Maset to develop a program for your own organization to implement. This would be mainly for the midsize organizations
  2. Join up to eleven other organizations, no competitors, and attend a nine day workshop spread over six months that will provide the knowledge and expertise to implement Six Sigma in your own operations at all levels of the organization.
  3. Do nothing further at this time.

In addition to presenting this program as a public program, we welcome the opportunity to present this program to a group of suppliers for larger organizations. For further information please contact at

China is currently experiencing a tremendous growth, one that cannot be ignored. We need to recognize the opportunity to work with organizations in China as a potential customer or supplier. However, there also is a need to know the appropriate way to negotiate with Chinese business organizations. The article, "Negotiating in China - Part 1" by Meridian Resources assists with this important issue.

This month's QBQ by John G. Miller, is very appropriate as we continue to watch the results of the courts pursuing the few bad leaders that have recently been charged with corporate crimes. The primary focus of this article is our own personal integrity - Do I indeed practice what I preach?

We apologize to you for the problems we had with the January MASET NEWS. The organization that we use to send out the monthly MASET NEWS had updated their process, programs and procedures. Unfortunately there were still some bugs in the system that caused duplicate mailings and having one person who wanted to un-subscribe contact each of you. Timing was extremely bad since this occurred at the same time as the latest virus attacked the Internet. We believe everything has been corrected and that those problems will not arise again.




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    Online registration for the first seminar, "Customer Focused Through Six Sigma for Small to Midsize Business" is ready and waiting for registrants. Additional information regarding the seminar is included online.




    Pay careful attention to the dynamics of the team and actively encourage quiet people to participate by asking them leading questions. Correspondingly, but carefully (don't want to lose content), interrupt people who are consuming too much air time.




    Guidelines for Giving Effective Feedback

    First seven of fourteen guidelines

    1. Get permission before offering feedback.
    2. Present feedback as a peer.
    3. Focus on learning and behavior change.
    4. Provide balanced and fair input.
    5. Maintain two-way dialogue.
    6. Communicate in real time.
    7. Be specific and detailed.





    by Jim Myers

    We all know a company cannot survive without customers. Customers are the reason businesses are in business. But, how effective is your management in determining just what a customer needs or desires of your products or services? Most use the "squeaky wheel theory": Go after the department or function causing the most complaints, the most noise. As an example: First, you'll attempt to resolve issues in the customer service function; then, with product returns; and lastly, with sales. Every so often, management conceives another "flavor of the month" band-aid fix such as time management studies, sensitivity training, bottom-up reviews, recycling, and flowcharting. Under the guise of customer satisfaction, it is all an attempt to find ways to achieve a better bottom line -- less wasted time, lower costs, and more effective employees while serving and responding to customer needs Therefore, it is not too surprising that your organization hasn't achieved its goals and you continue to have customer challenges under this mishmash of management theories and psychobabble. A common mistake made by management is to attempt to improve a business process without a detailed understanding of what the existing process really is.

    It is a given that all customers want to receive a quality product or service at a fair price in a timely manner. Some customers may want more quality, a better price or faster response time. Companies need to look bottom up - from the root customers' view back up the tree to the staff, management and company culture!

    It is rather commonly known that it is five to seven times harder to find a new customer than to retain a current customer. Complaining customers are more than 95% likely to stay with the company IF the customer feels their problem was resolved quickly.

    Once knowing the problem, how does a small or midsize organization solve it? Implementing the Six Sigma methodology is one sure way. SIX SIGMA isn't just for large corporations like GE, Citibank or about 80% of Fortune 500 corporations-- NOT ANY LONGER.

    Although gains in the manufacturing arenas are well documented, few business people are aware of the equally substantial improvements Six Sigma has achieved in the service sector. Six Sigma's goal is to deliver no "defects" (anything that dissatisfies a customer-internal or external) in the product or service that the company delivers to that customer. Large corporations have used the Six Sigma methodology corporate-wide or within departments or with their smaller subsidiaries. Only now has the methodology been right-sized for direct application to small to midsize business AND without the huge fees previously associated with ’Black Belt‘ training.

    Maset has developed a one-day seminar titled "Achieving Customer Focus through Six Sigma for the Small and Midsize Businesses" The first seminar, sponsored by the Schenectady Chamber of Commerce, the Business Review and Empire Information Services will be held in Schenectady, New York on March 25.

    The seminar provides an overview of the requirements, benefits and processes for successfully implementing Six Sigma into your small to midsize organization. The importance of top down commitment and involvement will be emphasized with guidelines provided to assist in motivating management, employees, customers and suppliers to commit to the efforts. Attendees should include the owners/managers or corporate CEO/COO as well as the person who will manage the implementation.

    "This seminar is very hands-on," comments Mr. Loew. "Each attendee will leave the event with a number of process improvements ideas that can be instituted the very next day. One of these is a methodology for conducting successful customer surveys that truly identify the needs and desires of your customers and then ranks those needs against the competitors. A second process addresses how to hold more effective meetings." For additional information or to register for this first seminar please go to

    Maset is also looking for sponsors for the seminar through out the world. If you are interested in co-sponsoring the seminar or holding the seminar for your suppliers please contact us at




    Negotiating in China Part I

    By Meridian Resources

    With China's entry into the WTO, many multinational firms are increasing their focus on capturing business opportunities in the world's most populous nation. This has led to a rapid increase in both the number and complexity of business negotiations with Chinese organizations.

    Negotiating in China can be a tremendous challenge. In this article we present some useful suggestions for people negotiating with the Chinese. We'll take a brief look at the following five topics:

    1. Confidentiality in the negotiating context
    2. Effective openings: presenting your position
    3. Maintaining a continuous negotiating record
    4. Knowing your bottom line
    5. Making concessions

    Confidentiality in the Negotiating Context

    Westerners are often surprised when they learn that the Chinese do not view confidentiality the same way they do. U.S. business professionals generally have high standards in maintaining the confidentiality of negotiation proceedings.

    The Chinese view things differently. They see information as a commodity to be used for whatever commercial advantage it can bring. Sensitive information is thus shared widely among ministries, agencies, companies, and friends in a kind of "information barter economy," where a holder of valuable information trades it in return for new information of equal value. For the Chinese, information is simply too valuable to be kept secret.

    Advice for Negotiators:

  • Don't accuse the Chinese when they appear to violate confidentiality; this will only make them defensive and angry
  • Protect yourself: assume anything you say, write, or do will be shared widely in China
  • Know that concessions made in prior negotiations in China will most likely be known and will set the minimum expectation in future ones, even when dealing with new organizations

    Effective Openings: Presenting Your Position

    Most Western negotiators will begin a negotiation in China by "getting down to business" and presenting a list of the key items they wish to discuss. This reflects a general Western preference for focusing on tasks before relationships.

    The Chinese, on the other hand, often prefer to agree first on broad principles that will form the framework for a relationship based on trust. These principles may include mutual respect, fairness, and flexibility. Only after they feel they have established trust will the Chinese get to the details. This reflects their preference for focusing first on human relationships rather than tasks.

    Advice for Negotiators:

  • Plan to spend time building a relationship with your Chinese counterparts; don t rush to the details
  • Prepare an opening statement of basic principles you feel should govern your relationship and ask the Chinese team to present theirs
  • Don't hesitate to appeal to your "relationship based on trust and mutual respect" if you feel the Chinese demands are unrealistic; they will do the same to you

    Maintaining a Continuous Negotiating Record

    Maintenance of the negotiating record is an extremely important part of any successful negotiation in China. This means that a Western negotiation team must maintain a continuous record of: 1) the positions and principles of both sides, 2) commitments and agreements, and 3) issues that may have been postponed for later discussion.

    The tenure of many U.S. and Western team members tends to be brief, and teams typically don't take notes. Chinese teams, however, tend to remain intact for as long as a negotiation takes; this makes it very easy for them to maintain not only a formal written record, but also a "team memory" of the entire negotiation.

    Whenever there is ambiguity in a negotiation about what commitments have been made or implied, the Chinese will often gain the upper hand by referring to their meticulous records, knowing the U.S. or Western team has no similar record with which to counter their claims.

    Advice for Negotiators:

  • Assign an official "note taker" to record all negotiation proceedings for your team
  • Create a computer data base to store the record for the benefit of future negotiations
  • Be prepared to parry Chinese claims based on their records with counter claims based on yours

    Knowing Your Bottom Line

    Knowing one's bottom line is an essential part of any Chinese negotiation; it is the only way to protect oneself against the relentless pressure to make concessions, which in China can take many forms. And yet it is striking how often Western negotiators overlook this key step.

    A Western negotiating team must devote the time it needs to think carefully about its bottom line position for each element of the deal before the negotiation starts. And the team must not worry about being forceful in signaling that it has reached its bottom line. Chinese negotiators typically want to assess exactly where their counterparts' interests really lie before coming to agreement; they see a "hard stop" as an important signal in this assessment.

    Advice for Negotiators:

  • Determine your "walkaway" position for each element of the deal before you start negotiating
  • Appeal to hierarchy by reminding the Chinese of your need to satisfy your senior management's expectations of you
  • Do not be afraid to signal a "hard stop"; the Chinese will generally respect you for it

    Making Concessions

    In keeping with a preference for linear, logical thinking, a Western negotiation team will typically first decide its best-case position, then determine its bottom "walkaway" position, and then structure a set of concessions that lie in between the two extremes.

    This approach is dangerous in China, particularly when applied to price negotiations. When a Western team makes its first concession, say by moving from $10 to $8, it sends a signal that the first price is meaningless, and that there is a lot of negotiating room left. As extremely price-sensitive negotiators, the Chinese will apply tremendous pressure for more concessions.

    A better approach is to offer a price with room for a token concession at the end of negotiations, and then offer concessions of a different kind, such as training or after-sales service, instead of additional "slices" off the price. This emphasizes the overall value of your offering and steers the discussion away from price alone.

    Advice for Negotiators:

  • Do not offer concessions "a slice at a time"; prefer instead to move "sideways" to concessions of a different kind, particularly when negotiating price
  • Emphasize the value of non-price concessions as part of your total offering
  • Always demand a concession in return for yours; never give a concession for free

    Meridian offers a complete set of consulting and training services for companies doing business in the PRC. Contact us to find out more about how we can assist you with your China operations.



    QBQ! (The Question Behind the Question) QuickNote #9

    John G. Miller
    Author of the QBQ! book.

    "When will others walk their talk?"

    The upper management team hikes to the mountaintop to spend three days in the fog (where the employees think they spend most of their time anyway!). They take the hired consultant, fresh flip charts, and brand-new markers. They are ready to meet the challenge: To collaborate, commiserate, create, and clarify while preparing to communicate back to the troops the organization's new mission, vision, and guiding values. All will be defined in three days on - the mountaintop.

    Soon they travel down the mountain to the valley below where the people await the good news. They carry with them the stone tablet, chiseled and ready to be shown to all. But just as they reach the valley floor, the stone tablet magically transforms into a little plastic laminated pocket card so men can stick it in their wallets and sit on the newly defined organizational values.

    One week later, a gentleman pulls from his pocket the laminated stone tablet, and a woman extracts one from her briefcase. They meet at the water cooler. As they review the Plastic Proclamation one of them asserts, with an index finger pointed upward, "Well, I'll practice these when they do!"

    Enron, WorldCom, Arthur Anderson, and ImClone are names that currently conjure up images of corporate dishonesty and cover-up resulting in tremendous distrust. At the very least they represent a lack of Integrity. People are outraged, and rightfully so. The phrase of the day is "Corporate responsibility!" and it is being touted by some powerful people. It's even being called the "new ethic!" New?

    But maybe there's a lesson for each of us in recent news events. Yes, corporations, governmental agencies, churches, etc., need to "walk the talk." But ultimately, Integrity is a personal issue. It's about you and me making better choices, moment by moment. It is not a corporate pronouncement. It cannot, should not, and hopefully never will be defined from "on high." Integrity is about individual and personal accountability.

    Have you ever taken an action that was not in line with your stated values? I have. Ever noticed that the Integrity gaps in others are blinding? They do seem to be. In reality, though, the only gaps that matter are mine. And they really do matter.

    Can you imagine parenting seven (that's 7) children? I couldn't, not when we had only four. But since 5/31/02 at 2:08 PM when a Colorado magistrate nodded his head and signed his name, my wife, Karen, and I have had seven children - six girls and one lonely son (he's a future QuickNote, I'm sure).

    In our home - as in yours - the values proclaimed are forgiveness, acceptance, patience, and love. But since taking on three "parentless" sisters under age 6 two years ago (they actually moved in during 2000), I've come to realize on some days I am a hypocrite. The frustrations that flare easily and the ever-present fears for the future have caused me to see the fallacy in thinking "This dad has it all together." Yeah, right. There are times when I simply say one thing and do another.

    Their names are Charlene, Jazzy, and Tasha. And just like Kristin, Tara, Michael, and Molly before them, they deserve a dad who asks better questions of himself. One who asks QBQs such as:

    "How can I today practice the principles and values I espouse?"

    Integrity: Being what I say I am by acting in accordance with my words.

    Integrity is a journey, not a destination. It's something we need to be mindful of every day because nobody is ever a finished product ... especially me. But by asking better questions we can get better answers, we can be better people. I can be a better dad. As tempting as it is to point at others and ask, "When will they walk their talk?" let's instead focus our finite energy where it can do the most good - on ourselves.

    And we don't have to go to the mountaintop to do that!

    John G. Miller

    author of the QBQ! book




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