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Just the beginning

I read Max Zent's article, "QS-9000: An Executive Overview" [May 1997], and enjoyed it very much.

I take exception with one statement: that some companies "have locked themselves into current procedures, many of which may be neither efficient nor effective."

As an RAB-certified auditor, I always make the speech to top management after initial assessment that this is just the beginning, that some procedures will work and some will not. If they are not giving you the results you hoped to achieve, then change them. If you don't like your goals and objectives, then set new ones until you are satisfied that your quality system is providing you with the right tools to make better business decisions, reduce costs and satisfy customers. Some procedures are very complicated; simplify them. Make them work.

 -- Martin Rachman
Vendor Control Service Inc.
Concord, Massachusetts

A need for thoughtful and reflective leadership

I would like to express my appreciation for your article, "Quality Leaders Predict the Future" [April 1997]. Your article shared some important and much-needed common sense for all of us.

I would also like to praise Peter Scholtes' assessment on the need to reawaken thoughtfulness in American executives in this era of downsizing. His summary seems to say it in a nutshell. Future improvement is truly going to require a lot more thoughtful and reflective leadership. It would be tough to say it any better than this.

 -- Jon Crosbie
Busy Associates
Saugus, Massachusetts

Cashing in on your offer

I am taking you up on an offer you made months ago to "share your service quality philosophy" (First Word, January 1997).

My wife and I have been trampled upon by multiple and conflicting policies from doctors, associations and the organizations that bring this hellfire to the general public. Isn't it ironic that the industry name is "nonprofit health maintenance organizations"? Let's break it down, OK?

Nonprofit -- is the outcome if you file a grievance. In a word, arbitration.

Health -- is what they strip away from you by having you run a marathon, fight Mike Tyson and deliver the Gettysburg Address to receive treatment.

Maintenance -- is what your car needs after going to your primary care physician, then back to your specialist, then back to your primary care physician, then back to your specialist, etc.

Organization -- is what their problem is.

I did not even mention the bylaws and unspoken company policies that the unsuspecting are subject to. Test your HMO, file a grievance and see for yourself what type of customer service it offers.

Here are a few suggestions that I have for the medical community:

1. HMOs -- go away.

2. If No. 1 is no, doctors charge less.

3. Put public health above money.

 -- Timothy Toton

The real quality issues

Your "Quality Curmudgeon" columns and the responding letters emphasize the ancient subtitle of your magazine, "The Human Side of Quality." The real quality issues are almost always the human ones -- customers, customer satisfaction moments of truth, teamwork, trust and honesty, resistance to change, continuous improvement and the complexity of today's emotional, spiritual and intellectual environments. Systems are necessary. Humans are both necessary and important.

William L. Davis' letter (Letters, May 1997) notes a lack of feedback loop between the CEO and the usual point of contact in an organization. While turning the company on its head, making everyone an owner and making them customers might be the best solution to the system's problem, I can remember the ancient days when that feedback from visiting the aisles, counters, registers, windows and pumps was the auditor's role. Perhaps today's quality auditors do need to look beyond the systems to the important humans within them.

 -- Jim John
Hillsborough, New Jersey

The "no blame" culture

I am not convinced that service quality is necessarily poor because technology is outstripping its ability to keep up. Service comes down to people at the end of the day -- although in some circumstances (airlines, automobiles, etc.), technology plays a significant role.

People need to have clear direction, be well-trained, understand the service that is expected by the customer, set the customer's expectations for them (if necessary), then underpromise and overdeliver the required service. Authority to make decisions, immediate access to information and trust of senior management are all prerequisites for the person to deliver beyond the customer's expectations. "No blame" cultures are vital -- let's look at why things went wrong rather than continue lambasting people because they have gone wrong. Ken Blanchard's "One Minute Management" has a lot to offer here.

 -- Mark Humphryes

Enlightened management makes the difference

Deming was right about the majority of problems with quality in any industry, especially the service industry, being attributable to management.

My wife does quality assessments occasionally for an organization that evaluates restaurants. All of the restaurants that she visits on a surprise basis are of the chain variety. I almost always accompany her on these visits. The employees of these establishments work basically for minimum wage. We have consistently observed that where the manager is present and clearly in view, the quality of service usually is much higher.

You can almost predict the service quality by observing the managers' actions. They lead, coach and involve themselves in the flow of business as necessary to meet the corporate performance objectives.

I see so many ways in so many transactions where a little enlightened management would make a major difference. The people that we deal with directly have not been given proper leadership and training, and their management often does not have the skills or tools to make a difference.

 -- Charles S. Harlan



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