What Really Counts

Keep the focus on quality, not competitors, to ensure success

by Jay L. Bucher

Upon reflection, it seems that my 20 years spent overseas while serving in the U.S. Air Force resulted in me missing the moment when commercials and advertising changed—and not for the better.

In my days growing up on a dairy farm in Minnesota, when a product was advertised on television or in the newspaper, the ad expounded on the attributes of the product and what it would do to make your life better, safer or more productive. Today, most ads tell us how much better a particular product is than their competition, usually by pointing out a bad or negative aspect of the competitor’s offering.

For example, one car company talks about how many more miles per gallon a certain make or model will get than Toyota or Honda. It doesn’t tell us how well the car or truck handles a curvy road or the quality of the interior. It doesn’t say how many or what generation of air bags are available or if the seats are heated for those of us in the northern states (that can make all the difference during the ride to work on a cold Wisconsin morning).

Moving forward

But while we may have taken a few steps backward in some respects, we haven’t veered completely off the road. I hope you still have quality systems in place at your organization. None of that should have changed because of the recent economic upheaval.

We still try to produce the best quality products at the lowest cost, don’t we? After all, we still compete against the same competition we had one or two years ago, unless of course they have gone out of business. Even in that case, it’s likely another company has entered the fray. We got where we are because today, like yesterday, the product with the best quality at the lowest price is still going to be the one purchased by the knowledgeable consumer.

The old saying, "You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time," applies now more than ever. People are not stupid, and we are tired of companies trying to fool us. By sifting through the misdirection of the advertisers and blowing away the smoke, we can get to the truth and measure what really counts at work, at home and in our communities.

Attitude is everything

We can start by measuring our attitudes. But there is usually a positive and negative connotation to everything. We’ve all heard of the glass being either half full or half empty. Which one you see is an indication of whether you have a positive or negative attitude.

Is it important to consider how you come across to your peers, supervisor or upper management? Does it make any difference in the final outcome of a decision or process? Or is the final decision going to be made based on facts and data, not on how a person is perceived or evaluated by their outlook or attitude?

Something to consider: If attitude were not part of the mix, then you shouldn’t need to sell your ideas or suggestions. The facts and data should stand on their own, making the outcome a foregone conclusion. But such is not the case in the world of sales, marketing, new product development or any of the thousands of other business decisions discussed on a daily basis. The pitch person must have a positive attitude about the idea or product, or it’s dead in the water from the start.

The same can be said about your quality program. Are you selling ISO on a daily basis? Do you wholeheartedly support the code of federal regulations? Or do you only mouth the words and slam the processes to your coworkers and subordinates behind management’s back? Do you walk the talk? Is your program based on the fact that a quality system, no matter if it is voluntary or mandated, is the foundation for supplying a quality product to your customers on a daily basis?

How do you measure what really counts? By the attitude of your coworkers Monday morning or by how fast they run out the door Friday afternoon? By quarterly production numbers or yearly retention rates? Is loyalty a part of the equation or an unknown quantity that has never been considered?

Measuring what really counts—at work and at home—isn’t easy. There is no simple formula. It comes through trial and error, time and experience, success and failure. Hopefully, we all learn from our mistakes. We usually get many tries to make the right decisions and work out the bugs. Let’s hope that in the current environment—especially because of the current environment—we get it right sooner than later. Here’s hoping all of you measure what really counts.

Jay L. Bucher is president of Bucherview Metrology Services in De Forest, WI. He is editor and coauthor of The Metrology Handbook and author of The Quality Calibration Handbook, Paperless Records and Ethics—The Final Frontier. He is a senior member of ASQ, the chair of the Measurement Quality Division and a certified calibration technician.

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