ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition — November 2002

In this issue...
Case Study and Commentary: Supply Chain Redesign
Sharing Information in Customer-Supplier Relationships
Our Readers Say...
Protecting Your Trade Secrets
Chapter News
Your Opinion: Books in Review
Book Nook
Editorial: From Our Perspective
What’s Up?
November 2002 News for a Change Homepage

NFC Index

AQP Home

From Our Perspective


As Jim entered the News for a Change newsroom…

DH: Ssh! Don’t say a word until you get in here and shut the door!

JR: Huh? What are you talking about?

DH: I don’t want our competitors to hear about our plans for the next issue of NFC, so I’m instituting a new closed-door policy.

JR: How do you expect to provide our readers with top-notch information if we keep our plans secret? How will potential contributors know what articles to submit for review?

DH: Well, I admit that I haven’t figured that out yet.

JR: Maybe you should rethink this situation a bit before implementing any new policies. After all, we depend on our customer-supplier relationships to succeed, and I wouldn’t want us to do anything to jeopardize them.

DH: I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying.

JR: Let me give you two examples of what I mean. First, as I mentioned a moment ago, we work as a customer with many authors who submit articles for review and publication. They’re our primary suppliers. If those suppliers don’t know our plans and processes we’re sure to have trouble getting articles on the most important topics, and we’ll probably have even more trouble meeting our publication deadlines.

DH: OK, I guess you’re right on that point.

JR: We also work as a supplier to the readers of NFC. We keep them informed of our upcoming plans, so they can give us feedback to guide our decisions. We want them to understand what we’re trying to accomplish and how we make our objectives become reality.

DH: That makes sense, too, but what about our competitors? Should we make all our suppliers and customers sign confidentiality agreements?

JR: No, I don’t think that’s necessary. You’re being a bit overzealous here. When it comes to managing proprietary information properly, it’s important to look at the risk of exposure—particularly to the loss of intellectual property; revenue; emergent ideas, products, and services; and people.

DH: How do we know how much risk we’re taking when we share our secrets?

JR: Well, we usually rely on common sense and experience, but there are statistical tools available to help us get a more precise estimate of the situation. Whether we go for a qualitative or quantitative analysis, the process relies mostly on two factors: the perceived value of the information (if it gets into the hands of the wrong parties) and the historical performance of the organization and people with whom we plan to share the information.

DH: So, in the end we have to weigh the benefits of having our suppliers and customers know what we’re doing so they can work more closely with us against the odds that our competitors will be able to thwart those plans and our results if that information leaks out.

JR: Stated simply, that’s the crux of the matter.

DH: I guess we don’t need to batten down the hatches, do we?

JR: No, we probably don’t need to do that. In fact, in our case, we probably need to have a completely open-door policy. The more our suppliers and customers know what we’re doing, the more they’ll be able to help us get there. That, to me, seems like the best strategy for improvement in our situation.

DH: OK, Jim, throw open the door. It was getting a little stuffy in here. I need to put some time into thinking about how we can communicate more effectively and efficiently with our suppliers and customers.

JR: And that’s News for a Change.


Quote for the Month
Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.
—Samuel Johnson

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