Volume 63 July 26, 2006
Message From Charles Loew
Comments From Our Readers
New On The Maset Web Site
Tips for New Employee Integration
Tips from Our School for Managers
Feature Of This Issue
Second Feature Of This Issue
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
MESSAGE FROM CHARLES LOEW:
In Arizona, the temperature has passed the 110 degree Fahrenheit level for many days with the nights cooling to only 90 degrees. This is the time of the year that Genevieve and I leave Arizona to spend time in the mountains of Northern New Mexico. This year we are planning to spend the months of July and August in the cool mountains. The temperature there reaches a high of 85 degrees during the day and the low 50 degrees at night. I have a complete office and conduct business as usual except for being in a much more pleasant climate.
In our first feature article titled "Quality Evolution or Revolution?" by H. James Harrington, we learn that technology that used to be the American competitive advantage is gone. If American business is to survive, we must change the way every one of us acts and operates in the business world. We must harness the power of each of our associates and channel that power into providing the best products and services that exceed our Customers' requirements. Only if we all work together in a very focused way can America hope to remain competitive in the new world facing all of us. Yes, we need a revolution.
Our second article titled "Always People. Always - by Scott M. Paton puts the spotlight on the definition of Quality Service. Again, the people who provide the service to the Customer must be properly trained, must be given the freedom to perform their important role and must be able to communicate with the Customer in the language that the Customer understands. In the US, this is becoming a major issue as the number of new immigrants arriving on our shores is much larger than ever before and these immigrants do not necessarily have a good grasp of the English language. It is management's responsibility to assist these immigrants to learn English so that they can provide the Quality Service that is expected.
America has always been the land of opportunity and the place for fulfillment of dreams.. However, America has always insisted on a common language throughout every corner of this land. That language is English, which we all must assist the new Americans to master.
For those of you who take holiday this time of year, best wishes for a safe and happy time
COMMENTS FROM OUR READERS:
"Thank you for your news, nice articles." - India
"The reason for the note is to let you know that I enjoyed Ron Kaufman's article. "A Man After My Own Heart." - Houston Texas
NEW ON THE MASET WEB SITE:
Nothing new was added to our web site this month.
Tips for New Employee Integration
Provided by Orientation Passport
TIP 29: Taking Advantage of Your Intellectual Capital
After a couple of weeks, ask your new employee to share with their manager any improvements they recommend to a product or service.
TIP 30: Integration: Tools to Make Them Part of the Team
Give the new hire five "free lunch coupons" to share with co-workers so that they will rapidly get to know them.
Visit the Products and Services describing the Orientation Passport
Tips from Our School for Managers
- by Andrew E. Schwartz
TIPS TO ASSIST YOU IN PROBLEM SOLVING:
CONSIDER ANY IDEAS: Continue as long as the ideas keep coming. In a brainstorming session which I once attended, the topic was gun control. Given the many problems of collecting existing guns and the long shelf life of ammunition, no one could come up with a law or enforcement technique which would pull in all the available guns. Finally, one person voiced her own admittedly ridiculous thought: Promise every neighborhood their own policeman if the residents turn in all their guns. The initial response was critical - how could every neighborhood be given their own 24-hour-a-day policeman? Yet this idea ended up the best one generated. With only a little modification, it became the proposal given to the mayor. Brainstorming ideas are not supposed to be logical, coherent or practical. The most far-fetched ideas give birth to previously elusive solutions.
Contact us for help at Charles.Loew@masetllc.com.
Copyright A.E. Schwartz & Associates, all rights reserved
ONE LINERS - "To make you think and/or smile"
Find a peaceful place where you can make plans for the future.
Wise men learn more from fools, than fools from the wise.
FEATURE OF THIS ISSUE:
Quality Evolution or Revolution?
There's a direct correlation between the last time you were hungry and your work ethic.
By H. James Harrington
Quality is a universal language - a rallying cry for everyone. It's equally important to all countries, regardless of whether they're large or small, socialist or democratic, developed or developing. They all need to improve. No one knows the best route to quality, and certainly everyone must take responsibility for achieving it.
We've long looked to top management to lead the way to excellence. Some CEOs have picked up the gauntlet, and from that point, we've scrutinized their every move, looking for a single flaw in their shining armor. If they flinch even for a moment, we're quick to say: "See, I told you so. He didn't mean what he said about quality." But who are we to criticize top management? Let's provide support and assistance instead. It's time for all of us to act, striving to be our very best.
Of course, we all have limitations placed upon us-the most common being not enough time, money and knowledge. But "not enough" isn't what keeps most people from doing their very best. Rather, it's lack of desire. Today, it takes all of us working together, doing our best every time, every second, every minute, every hour of every day to provide a product or service that will stand up to international competition.
For years, leading companies and countries around the world have relied on technology to keep them ahead of the competition, but that doesn't work anymore; technology is no longer a competitive advantage. With modern computer techniques and engineering methods, the most complex breakthrough can be duplicated within a few months with just enough changed to get around the patent laws. Almost overnight, modern communication systems can transfer the most complex process to the other side of the world to utilize low-cost labor markets.
Today, many large national companies exist. But Xerox, IBM, Philips and the like are truly international companies--buyers, manufacturers and sellers. Their loyalty isn't to their mother country but to their stockholders. Certainly, these great companies would like to help their home country progress and succeed. Everything being equal, their preference would most likely be to their homeland. But how can they ignore the advantage that low-paid foreign labor offers, countries whose people provide 7.6 hours of productive output during an eight-hour workday? (The average U.S. worker provides 6.3 hours of productive output per day.) These countries have the additional benefit of people who feel that work is a privilege, a means of keeping enough food on the table. Sure, they work hard and are absent less often. Sure, they'll do any job. Sure, they care about quality because they're among the lucky few who have roofs over their heads and whose families get fed daily. There's a direct correlation between the last time you were hungry and your work ethic.
The United States has had it too good for too long. We've lost the "eye of the tiger." Our parents made it too easy for us, and we've made it even easier for our children. Too many teenagers take the line of least resistance through college, and as a result, only a small percentage of students graduate with technical degrees. Our ability to create is slowly slipping away. Buying power peaked in 1993 and since then, there's been a constant decay in our way of life. We've slipped from the world's leading economic stronghold to the world's leading debtor nation. This is the first time in U.S. history that our children will grow up in an economy that's worse than the one their parents enjoyed.
My view of the business environment in 2020 is that China and Japan will have united to form the strongest manufacturing community in the world-China, with its almost endless amount of resources, people, materials and energy; and Japan, with its manufacturing knowledge. The wounds Japan inflicted on China over the centuries have been forgotten as a result of Japan's cooperative joint-venture strategies that started during the early 1980s. If you think Japan is a fierce competitor today, let me warn you that it's a pussycat compared to the China of tomorrow.
How can we offset these disadvantages? Is everything lost? Should we give up and let our economy erode and our standard of living collapse? The answer is obviously a resounding "No." But to prevent this, we must not allow this country's business environment to continue evolving in the way it has for the past 50 years.
Now is the time for revolution, not evolution. We must bring about a change in our very fiber: the way we think, the way we act and the standards we set for ourselves. Maybe we need a student uprising, like the one we had during the 1960s over the Vietnam War, to awaken the need for change in the older generation. I hope not. I hope we can read the writing on the wall and understand that the management principles that worked so well during the 1950s and 1970s became ineffective during the 1980s and obsolete in 2000.
About the author
H. James Harrington is CEO of the Harrington Institute Inc. and chairman of the board of Harrington Group. He has more than 45 years of experience. Visit his Web site at www.harrington-institute.com.
Reprinted with permission of the author. Originally appeared in Quality Digest, November 2003, p. 18.
SECOND FEATURE OF THIS ISSUE:
Always People. Always
By Scott M. Paton
Quality is about people.
Two months ago, I wrote of some of my experiences with Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer. I even got Wal-Mart's attention. See the letter from Barbara Brown, Wal-Mart's vice president of customer service, in this month's "Letters" section on page 6.
When relating my experiences, I wrote about some rather unhelpful Wal-Mart employees who didn't have a very good grasp of the English language. Although the majority of the many letters we received agreed with my perspective, a few found my comments to be racist.
I think that racism and discrimination are alive and well in America today. Neither of them should be tolerated anywhere, at any time, by anyone, particularly in a business setting.
Having said this, I think that those few letter-writers who found my comments to be racist need to check their Webster's for the meaning of the word "racism." Commenting on someone's ability to communicate doesn't make one a racist. If I had written that the employee didn't perform his or her job well because of his or her race, national origin, religion, sexual preference/identity, gender or age, then I would have been guilty of discrimination and/or racism.
Those who found my comments to be racist missed the point. A person who cannot communicate well in the native language of the majority of his or her customers does not belong in a customer contact position. I don't care if the person is red, white, black, blue or green. I've had terrific service from Hispanics, Asians, African-Americans, Pacific Islanders, Caucasians and just about every other ethnic group. (I say "just about" because I haven't met every ethnic group yet.)
My other point was that the employees were either unable or unwilling to help. The cashier was unable to help because of a policy that prevented her from opening her drawer to give me change. The Wal-Mart employee who wouldn't help me at the service desk was either a jerk or unable to help because of management's requirement that something other than assisting a customer was a priority.
All this talk of racism and poor customer service may leave you wondering what this column is doing in a quality magazine. It has everything to do with quality because quality is about people.
People run coordinate measuring machines, design software, interpret data, build processes, deliver service, take orders, hire, set policy, audit, report, and on and on.
Organizations in this country still tend to think of quality in terms of manufacturing: "How many defect-free widgets can we manufacture this quarter?" OR, in terms of delivery: "How many on-time deliveries can we make from the distribution center to the store this quarter?" They still don't see the interaction between employee and customer as a process that's every bit, if not more, vital than the process that manufactured or delivered the part that the customer is buying.
Let's look at Wal-Mart again. Sam's baby has state-of-the art software systems that manage its distribution. It has talented people who decided where to locate its stores for maximum return. It knows exactly how much of each product to order to maximize sales and minimize inventory. Yet when I walk into a Wal-Mart at midnight and I can't get my questions answered or can't find what I'm looking for, those state-of-the-art systems are worthless.
If quality is conformance to requirements, then Wal-Mart is succeeding at one level and failing on another. It's doing a terrific job of keeping products in stock, selling them for low prices and generating a decent return on its investments. But it's failing to meet the requirement espoused by Barbara Brown in her letter this month: "Regardless of how late at night you shop at a Wal-Mart store, our expectation is the same: We're here to serve the customer. We want you to be satisfied every time you walk through our doors."
Will employing an individual who can't or won't answer my questions satisfy me? Will inane policies that prevent employees from assisting me satisfy me? Will closing the customer service desk at 11 p.m. in a store that's open 24 hours a day satisfy me? What's Wal-Mart's definition of customer satisfaction, anyway?
Speaking of customer service, several of our letter-writers mentioned that there is no customer service or complaint link at www.walmart.com. This isn't entirely true. There is a customer service link for Wal-Mart shoppers who buy online. Those of you really interested in Wal-Mart should check out www.walmartfacts.com. It's Wal-Mart's response to it multitude of critics.
Wal-Mart's slogan is "Always Low Prices. Always." Perhaps Wal-Mart should rethink that slogan. How about: "Always Excellent Service. Always." Or, "Always Excellent People. Always." That might give it a focus it's so sorely lacking.
I don't mean to pick on Wal-Mart. There are many other organizations that I could mention as well. But, frankly, the reaction to my Wal-Mart editorial was so incredible that there must be a lot of people out there who feel the same as I do.
I look forward to your comments. Let me know what you think about the people element of quality and what organizations such as Wal-Mart can do to improve.
Next month - just for a change - I'll tell you what I do like.
Reprinted with permission of the author. Originally appeared in Quality Digest, June 2005, p. 64.
COMING IN THE NEXT FEW ISSUES:
- Many more "Tips for New Employee Integration"
- Future tips from "Our School for Managers" will include topics in coaching, goal setting, time management, communication, delegation, and others.
- Additional Products and Service on implementation of Lean
- Additional articles on Cross Functional Process Mapping
- A new workshop on "Influencing in Today's Environment
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