Quality Is In People
How to Change the Organization Culture
Jayadeva de Silva.M.Sc, MBIM, FIPM, FITD
This paper attempts to highlight that Quality and the customer care are
primarily matters of attitude and fall within the scope of Human
Relations. It takes precision, patience and power to steer an aircraft in
the opposite direction. The same is true of any attempt to change
hardened prevailing work attitudes. Apart from massive training and
development effort a very strong corporate will to make hard decisions
and supreme sacrifices, is required for attainment of 99.9997% Quality
which will delight customers.
Today’s customers are demanding more from suppliers. The key
differentiator between successful companies and their competitors will
be quality. Winning in the new market place requires finding a way to
differentiate yourself from competitors, and competitive differentiation is
not just a question of providing the right products or having the right
strategy. It also means paying closer attention to customer care. In the
long run, people simply will not buy from companies that are not
prepared to go that “extra mile” in terms of looking after their
customers. Then the business that pays attention to quality, service and
value is going to delight customers, who in turn will ensure that business
remain successful. In this paper we will examine the people factor in
promoting a Total Quality Culture within an organisation.
Leadership for Quality
Many companies both local and foreign however, are not satisfied with
the pay back in their quality improvement efforts. We feel that the
creation of a quality culture encompassing the total organisation
requires a revolutionary change. In prevailing work attitude, Surveys
among various categories of employees reveal that many people are
trapped in their jobs. Could we not, therefore, channel all that concern
into quality improvement and make it a positive business process? Great
companies who have great names acknowledge that they have great
products but more importantly they have great people.
“We strive to give our best to the customer through the quality and
reliability of our goods and services. Perfection is not easy, but we
believe in setting high standards and we expect and demand from all
employees superior performance and innovative qualities. We recognise,
appreciate and reward a job well done by people who take pride in
working for us” So states the business philosophy one of leading Groups
companies in Sri Lanka.(where the author headed the HRD function for
In a time of turbulence and uncertainty, we must be able to take instant
action on the front line. But to support such action, taken at the front,
everyone must have a clear understanding about what the organisation is
trying to achieve. Effective visions are aimed at empowering our own
people first. Customer second. The first task of the vision is to call forth
the best from the company’s own people. Effective vision whilst
honouring the past prepares for the future. Effective visions statements
are clear, challenging and are about excellence. Effective visions make
sense in the turbulent world. Effective visions are lived in detail not
Such Quantum steps of improvements can be obtained only if they can
get the organisation to look at the issues in totally new ways, applying
creative skills. Tomorrow’s winner must be entrepreneurial as a habit
and will have to continually seek improvements in their ability to serve
Quality is not only for up market products and suppliers who can charge
accordingly. Quality can be built in to any business or service, whatever
segment of the market has been chosen as the target. It’s a question of
meeting the customers’ expectations and then giving just a little bit
more. As an example, take two hopper boutiques. Both serve the same
range of food, both provide a few tables for customers wanting to eat at
the premises and both do most of their trade in takeaways. In terms of
quality, they could differ on:
The freshness of their hoppers.
The oil, flour and coconut milk they use for preparation.
The extent to which they can offer customers freshly baked
hoppers rather than food that has been kept for a long time
The courtesy and efficiency of their service.
The cleanliness of their surroundings.
The little extras that they provide, such as a paper serviette with
takeaways, or a choice of sambols.
Goodyear, an American Company, is reported to have introduced an
employee suggestion scheme under the name “Decentralised Idea
generation” and they have introduced the term “Associate” as a
substitute for employees.
Quality is certainly about manufacturing a product that people can
depend on every time they reach for it. But according to Donald R
Kellogh President of Coca-Cola, it is more than that. Quality, he says, is
a way of life that must involve every employee every day.
We know that quality improvement is about change. With change you
create fear and anxiety. To manage change and make it acceptable one
has to build an atmosphere of trust and self-confidence. In October 1887,
William Cooper Proctor, grandson of the founder of Proctor and Gamble,
introducing a profit sharing plan stressed the core values of their
business as follows:
“The first job we have is to turnout quality merchandise that consumers
will buy and keep on buying. If we produce it efficiently and
economically we will earn a profit in which you will share. But the profits
can’t be distributed unless they are earned and the company must take
care of its equipment, expand normally, remain in a sound fiscal position
and part of the earnings must be ploughed back into the business”.
It is clear from the foregoing that …Leaders of the best companies
profoundly believe in and promote the core values of customer-focused
quality. Quality has been, and will, remain the key management
imperative. Leaders see quality as the heart of the business. It is known
that the rate of progress is slow in many Total Quality Management
(TQM) Programmers. Leaders, however, could set demanding goals.
Asia Brown Boveri’s (ABB) ’10 up Programme’ is an example. This plan
calls for 50% improvement in 10 key areas each year in all business.
All this amounts to being committed to meeting the expectations of their
clientele, all the time, and then going further. Quality doesn’t just
happen. It has to be planned for and built into the way an organisation
operates. This means that each person must be clear about what is
expected of him or her and what they have to do to achieve it.
Management by Objectives (MBO) could be used very effectively in this
regard. Quality will only remain at a constantly high level if the
organisation is proactive rather than reactive. This means that the
emphasis must be on thinking ahead and on preventing problems from
arising in the first place. Organisations need to develop ways of working
that make these happen.
Attitudes on Quality
Maintaining high standards in quality depends on the attitudes of
everyone involved. Standards will slip if mistakes and lapses are
accepted as inevitable. The positive alternative is to do things right the
first time and every time. However, if the occasional lapse does happen,
then there should be a positive way of dealing with it so that people learn
from the mistake, rather than be blamed for it. This means:
-Creating an atmosphere in which the people concerned are willing to
admit that something is wrong.
-Using it as an opportunity to review procedures etc. to prevent it
Only under such conditions, much talked about quality circles can
function. Making quality a reality depends on getting the right mix of
Attitude, Skills, Communication Management and Expectations. Each
factor should be related closely to the other and none can be considered
In order to provide total quality, it is very important that we pay special
attention to customer service and customer care. Training of employees
has assumed much importance in this sphere. There are some key
elements crucial to the success of Customer Service Training. They are
Training must be tied to a complete programme. Where Company wide
Total Quality Concept (CWTQC) is practised, customer service could be
linked to that process, as already stated above.
Commitment of the top management is essential. Senior Managers too
should participate in training sessions.
Customer Service People should have freedom within standards. They
need to be trained to pay attention to standards, and also to take the
initiative to provide services not specified in the standards.
Service guarantees back-up customer service training and reinforce
employee commitment to service standards. Employees will then know
that unsatisfactory service has immediate consequences. Service
guarantees send a message to customers that the employees are
determined to provide quality service.
Use of advertising to back up service training and reinforce employee
commitment to service standards.
Employee will then know that unsatisfactory service has immediate
consequences. Service guarantees send a message to customers that the
employees are determined to provide quality service.
Use of advertising to back up service training enhances the employee’s
pride in their work. Very often it reinforces the message learned in
training sessions that service counts. It also gives employees a public
image to live up to.
Monitoring of service quality should be undertaken as a feedback
mechanism. Employees should know what they are doing wrong. The
company can measure the compliance by employees with the service
standards. However, providing consistent good quality service means
that a customer must perceive something pleasant happening every time
he approaches the company.
It must be borne in mind that many service skills are simply not
trainable. You can teach a person to say, but not how to say it. You can
teach a procedure for handling a complaint, but not the attitude that will
satisfy the customer and bring that person back. To get superior
customer service, it is crucial to have the right people.
The following are some of the proven techniques for Customer Service
Film & Video for Modelling
Video or Audio Feedback
Mass Audience Persuasion
Customer care could be judged only in terms of the feeling of the
customer. If the customer is not satisfied with the service he or she has
received then that service was not good. The writer is of the view that
this is the single most important truth about customer care. It does not
matter how hard one has tried or how much one has done. The only
judgement that counts is that of the customer.
The other important factor about customer care is that good customer
care has to come as a surprise!
If the customers get what they were expecting, they will not be
impressed. After all they expected to get that. If they get less than what
they expected, then they will be disappointed. Leading Companies are
continuously faced with this problem.
Customer care is about detail.
It is about getting lots of small things right as well as the big picture.
Very often the goods and services offered by competing companies and
organisations are not very different. The difference very often depends
on the people who are employed. We can learn a lot from Japanese
management in the area of total quality management. Therefore, one is
tempted to ask - Can we import not just Japanese products but the
attitude behind them? Quality is practical. Factories, airlines and
hospital laboratories must also be practical. But quality is moral,
aesthetic, perceptual and subjective. It is about delivering above
expectations. The famous Marketing expert, Philip Kotler, Calls this the
Quality and customer satisfaction should be measured. Rewards should
be made on the basis of these measurements. There could be instances
when one hears that a particular problem is not serious, because it
happened only once and not symptomatic of a larger problem. At our
training programmes we get detailed feedback from the participants.
There is invariably some criticism. We have found the criticism to be
symptomatic of larger and serious issues. Every Customer complaint is
symptomatic of a shortcoming. Moreover, it usually represents a very
good opportunity for improvement. Some insist that certain parameters
are subjective. Cleanliness is subjective. But it can be measured. We only
need to add a question to our questionnaire- How clean is the place on a
scale of one to ten where ten is ‘excellent’ and one is ‘very poor’ In our
experience, by far the greatest influence on today’s employees are the
people who have managed them. Thus manager have to set an example
in whatever they do.
Formal training can have an effect, but for the most part we emulate the
managers we worked for earlier in our careers. In the selection of
managers, organisations should be careful to give the required
weightage for the candidate’s attitude towards customer orientation and
the degree of commitment towards total quality management.
In order to incite a “Quality Revolution”, we in Sri Lanka can learn from
the experience of other countries, especially from Japan. We could pay
closer attention to rework and recycling operations with a view to
promoting the concept “Do it right the first time and every time
-resulting in zero defects”. We could deliberately reduce the level of all
inventories, as overproduction, oversupplying, overbuying of anything
can have a disastrous effect on promoting the Total Quality culture. We
can start and do everything on time. If quality is about following
standards, then we must admit that, in Sri Lanka, the most violated
standard is time. We can pay more attention to cleaning up the work
environment. Seemingly unimportant things like inspecting toilets,
locker rooms and the floor will have to be considered important.
If today’s managers set a good example in customer-oriented quality
management then their subordinates will develop believing that this is
the right way to manage, resulting in a steady improvement of quality.
Then life will be more pleasant for everyone. As stressed throughout this
paper such a change in prevailing work attitudes and sentiments will
eventually lead to greater economic success domestically and
internationally bringing greater prosperity and quality of life for all.
Thus, Quality is in People.
This was extracted from the author’s book “Humantalents Management” which is
also downloadable free from
Author can be contacted in SriLanka by telephone
077 7272 295
E mail firstname.lastname@example.org