Regarding Dirk Dusharme's column, "Don't Call Us!" ("First Word," August 2007): I don't think that this is fuzzy math at all, as he suggests. Actually, Sprint fired less than 0.002 percent of its customers. If they truly had customer service issues, they would show up in greater numbers than that. The writer cites frustrations with telephone customer service, but then criticizes a company (Sprint) that took positive steps to improve it by removing those tying up, or potentially corrupting, the system. I agree with what Sprint did.
Sprint is terminating users because "they" believe that they resolved the customers' issues. Obviously, if Sprint had in fact solved the customers' issues, the customers would not have been calling back that many times every month. This is a bullying tactic by a company with poor customer service to intimidate other existing customers and prevent them from reporting issues for fear of being cancelled. Voice-of-the-customer data is critical to the survival of a company, and is too often ignored (or in Sprint's case, purposely cut off). This article just ensures that I will never be a Sprint customer.
Regarding "Five Crucial Conversation for Successful Projects" (Joseph Grenny, August 2007): This article could not have come at a better time for me. I have been a business analyst for several years and have recently accepted a role as a project manager.
I'm working on a number of projects that are very key to the strategic initiatives of my company, and the issues expressed in this article represent my very fears regarding the success of my projects. I have sent the link to this article to my manager as well as my project sponsor. I hope to spark a little debate that may eventually focus the organization on these key issues that can mean failure for any project.
Thanks for an excellent article by Jim Harrington ("The Quality Conundrum," "Performance Improvement," July 2007). His review of the history of quality tools and methods, and some of their characteristics, helps me realize that there is no magic formula. There is only a dedication to producing quality products and services by the senior leadership and the tenacity to make it happen.
I agree that all the tools and trends mentioned are more alike than different. It seems to me that they all can be used to sustain continuous improvement, the basis of standards like ISO 9001 and ISO 14001. People tend to forget that, and many that I have talked to in the past don't use their management system as they should. They use these tools without locating them in the big picture, leaving behind the main management system or not seeing the clear correlation between them.
Regarding "Quality Hypocrisy" by Mike Micklewright ( QualityInsider, http://qualitydigest.com/IQedit/QDarticle_text .lasso?articleid=12239): Finally, some truth in the matter. I have felt that the certification process has been a joke for several years. It's like the mortgage industry, where registrars are riding the lucrative auditing wave. I have given up trying to change the system. At best, 10 percent of the companies actually utilize ISO 9001 as it was intended. Eventually the bubble will burst in this market and the natural weeding out process will begin. It's tough to look in the mirror when you don't see the need to own one. Great article.
I agree with Micklewright. Some lean Six Sigma companies teach what they most need to learn. For years I've argued against the wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling approach to Six Sigma that so many consulting companies offer. It's bad for customers but great for consultants, and it overlooks the dark side of Pareto's rule: 80 percent of the lean Six Sigma effort produces 20 percent of the benefit.
Wouldn't we be better off helping customers achieve breakthrough improvements in a few mission-critical activities? Or are we just going to ride the gravy train until enough companies get fed up and declare lean Six Sigma a total failure?
Obviously, the article by Fred L. Eargle, "Performance Evaluations," ( Quality Insider, http://qualitydigest.com/IQedit/QDarticle_text.lasso?articleid=12237) was tongue in cheek. Unfortunately, the author didn't touch on the most important point--should we be doing performance appraisals at all?
To anyone who thinks that they can just improve the performance appraisal process until it works, I recommend reading Abolishing Performance Appraisals: Why They Backfire and What to Do Instead by Tom Coens and Mary Jenkins (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2000).
I would love to see this article rewritten with the human resource person saying that we need to learn how to give employees feedback in the way that they can best receive it, not to evaluate them by the person who can help them the least.