Regarding "Off-Target?" ("Quality Curmudgeon," Scott M. Paton, September 2005), what you discussed is part of a much larger problem: increasingly rotten customer service. For two decades and more, customer service in nearly all areas of retail business has been declining. These days, one's reasonable expectation is to receive mediocre service at best.
If we in this country don't solve this problem, we will be sucking hind teat (as they say on the farm) behind China, India and other up-and-coming dynamos. The problem is a very, very difficult one. Reversing a decline is far harder than continuing a boom, as a study of any failed civilization will amply demonstrate. Look at France as an example of a long, slow, almost majestic glide from glory toward oblivion, and consider the difficulties the French have had for decades as they have tried, painfully, to adjust to a world where France is no big deal anymore.
Are we the next France? Is China the next United States? The parallels are inexact, but there's enough similarity to put the green back on your teeth. It may very well be too late. After all, we have millions and millions of younger workers who don't seem to understand the necessity of work or the indispensability of excellence. Couple that with corporate vision that extends about as far forward as a good-sized nose, and we have a recipe for decline, failure and irrelevance.
Quit whining. The cost of doing business is not a one-way street where the vendor absorbs all the costs. Educate yourself about the return policies where you make your purchases and life will be better for everyone.
In the article "Responsible Care: Integrating Performance Improvement With Business Value" (Daniel Roczniak, September 2005), the author says, "As part of its commitment to continuous improvement, ACC is also working with registrars…." Considering that ISO is now promoting the use of the word "continual" instead of "continuous" because of the difference in meaning of the words and in the philosophy of improvement efforts, does his use of the word "continuous" represent a position of the ACC that would not agree with the ISO recommendation?
Daniel Roczniak responds: "The ACC has used the term 'continuous improvement' since the creation of the Responsible Care program in 1988. This term is familiar to our member companies and our industry stakeholders. We understand the different definitions between 'continual' and 'continuous' but try not to get bogged down in this discussion. Our goal is to improve performance (either continually or continuously). The RC14001 document does use the term 'continual' per the ISO 14001 language."
Regarding Jack West's discussion of aligning the two standards ("ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 Alignment?", "Standard Approach," September 2005), I've been working with our company's haz-mat coordinator for about a year laying the groundwork for a comprehensive ISO 14001-compliant program that will leverage our ISO 9001 certification without duplication. We have benefited already in having our various business elements' guiding documents borrow freely between departments to reduce the potential of conflicting source documents as well as reduce the administrative burden. There are some ISO 14001 elements that will work, but to be truly aligned, I feel the ISO 14001 standard needs to undergo some serious work. Perhaps some existing ISO 14001 elements can be broken up so that the portions that mirror ISO 9001 can be pointed to. Then, only the unique elements need energy devoted to them for compliance. If the ISO 14001 numbering scheme were to mirror ISO 9001 that would be an added benefit.
I've aligned the two standards in my systems since 1996, when ISO 14001 was first released. I found that they complement each other in many ways. After what I've seen and read regarding the mess following Hurricane Katrina, it would be in the best interest of every company and government agency to establish a robust, real-life environmental management system with strong emergency response and disaster recovery plans and procedures, complemented by an effective quality management system.
I was quite pleased to see the article "Building a Balanced Scorecard" (Craig Cochran, September 2005). However, I would like to point out that the real "power" of the balanced scorecard was not referenced--the cause-and-effect linkages between the four perspectives. Without that linkage, the BSC becomes just another metric system. Financial metrics are lagging--actions taken on them can only be corrective. Customer and internal measures are leading--after time, a correlation between them can be determined, thereby making them "predictive" and actions taken on them are, in fact, preventive. In the fourth perspective, Kaplan and Norton include systems in addition to human resources, which is a critical piece.
-- James Krikau