Getting the People Part Right

Each year, respondents to QP’s annual reader survey rate “Back to Basics” (p. 104) among the three most valuable columns and departments in the magazine. Longer features on quality basics, such as the three in this issue, often receive positive feedback, too.

Why would this information be so valuable, when most readers have many years of experience in the field? For some, the articles provide a good refresher. Many readers also say they find basic articles helpful for educating others in their organizations, which becomes more important as quality functions and responsibilities become decentralized. Of course, readers new to quality benefit greatly from the basics.

We all know, though, that achieving true quality takes much more than just learning the basic skills and technical concepts; you also have to get the human element right. This means providing education and training opportunities for all involved, plus support and empowerment from above.

In “Stop Depending on Inspection” (p. 39), Darin Craig says to improve, an organization must empower its employees to take responsibility for not only their own work but also that done previously by others. Management must ensure all workers “know what to do, the results of their work and have the authority and responsibility to prevent defects from passing their station.”

While Craig’s article applies mainly to manufacturing, the human element he describes is relevant to any sector. Whether on the production line, in a restaurant or at a hospital, when the people part is done right, the result is nothing less than customer (and employee) delight.

You would think this would be another basic principle of quality. Recently, however, I was so wowed by a positive experience, it was a stark reminder that delight is usually more the exception than the norm.

I had some clothes dry cleaned by a service I’d used before with good results, so I didn’t check my order right away. Two days later, I discovered one of the garments had faded splotches all over. Though it was ruined, I wasn’t upset: It was nearly 10 years old and had started to fade a little on its own. So when I called the dry cleaner, I told the woman who answered that I simply wanted the cleaning fee for that sweater deducted from my bill.

Her reply? “When a garment is unwearable after cleaning, we replace it, no matter what.” Not only did she remove the fee, but she said if I told her how much I thought a new sweater would cost, she’d credit that amount to my account. Or I could buy a new sweater, then call back to tell her the cost.

Just like that—no questions asked, no need to see a receipt or the ruined garment, no need to get approval. I was more than satisfied; I was blown away. This small company trusted its employees to know when and how to do the right thing. Now that’s what I call basic quality.

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