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Monday, 17 January 2011 09:42

Creating A Quality Culture in Business

QualityCreating a quality culture within your business is not as difficult as it may seem but it can require a shift in thinking. Quality can no longer be defined by international standards or statistical measures of defects alone. Today quality is defined by the customer and delighting the customer must be the focus of a quality culture.

Traditionally quality has been defined by statistical measures of error rates and quality improvement has been focused on reducing variation in linear processes and eliminating errors in production. These measures of quality have been imposed from the top down with little input from front line staff.

Producing a perfect product according to internal standards however does not guarantee the product will meet customer expectations of quality.

Any cultural change requires engagement and ownership by all levels of staff within an organization. When the customer perspective is made central to the definition of quality it makes sense to use front line staff to be the architects of a quality culture.

It is the front line staff in your business who have the most frequent contact with your customers. They engage on a personal level and obtain information that cannot be gained from impersonal surveys. They have intimate knowledge of what is required to meet and exceed customer expectations.

Often front line staff are resistant to change. This resistance is not because they want to keep the status quo but because they have been through multiple change programs, driven from the top that had little impact and fewer results.

Taking a practical approach that involves staff and recognizes the value of their knowledge will engage staff more quickly than a business wide conceptual launch of a new change program.

Steps to introducing a quality culture.

Step 1: Set up discussion groups of front line staff with the specific purpose of identifying the three most common complaints by customers from a front line perspective.

Step 2: Conduct workshops with front line staff to precisely define the problems and create solutions. Prepare action plans to present to management for approval to proceed. It is important that the decision is made at the close of the workshop so action to implement can take place immediately.

Step 3: Empower front line staff by delegating the necessary authority for them to implement the solutions. Action plans require clear responsibilities, accountable drivers, identified sponsors and an implementation deadline within three months. 

Step 4: Encourage regular discussions about current customer dissatisfaction and provide permission for front line staff to take action.

This tactical approach allows staff to take control over improving quality for the customer. They will see and receive credit for the improvements and rather than being an intangible concept, improving quality will become embedded as a way of doing business.


Published in Value Chain

outsourceOutsourcing is not a new phenomenon, since the industrial revolution business has outsourced activities in order to concentrate on their core capabilities. Transport into store and delivery to customers is a good example of this. Few large businesses run their own fleet anymore preferring to utilize transport companies who specialize in distribution and have the critical mass and expertise to deliver goods in the most efficient and effective manner.

The word outsourcing however is relatively new and was created to describe the decision by businesses to find external suppliers to either perform their transactional processing or to provide their customer contact services. The supplier market for these services is relatively young with the first companies entering the market in the late 1990s.

Although the industry is still in its infancy transactional service and customer contact companies are developing expertise in their field and using state of the art technology to provide high levels of service at a lower cost than companies can do it in house.

No other outsourced industry has had artificial constraints imposed upon them so why would we consider placing artificial constraints on this new industry? The two arguments for imposing constraints usually relate to the levels of service being obtained from these new companies and the loss of jobs to overseas locations.

Preventing companies from outsourcing transactional processing or customer contact activities will not guarantee high standards of service. The service level provided to customers is set by the company and in the case of outsourced activities is underpinned by either contract or contract and service level agreement.

The best way to address inadequate service is to complain directly to the company and if dissatisfied change your brand. Artificially constraining a company from outsourcing is more likely to cause the company to become uncompetitive and force an increase in prices than an increase to service levels.

Some companies have chosen to move these activities to outsourced providers located overseas where arbitrage costs are lower and as a result local people are made redundant. Since the time of the industrial revolution jobs have been lost to more efficient or lower cost methods of producing the result and over time the population becomes retrained in more highly skilled fields.

Every day people are made redundant because of the introduction of new technology. Jobs in photographic film development have all but disappeared due to the introduction of digital cameras, should we recall all digital cameras and ban their sale because their use has caused people to be made redundant?

It is also worth noting that in the field of information technology there are companies in the USA who provide around the clock support and disaster recovery facilities for companies located all around the world. Should we prevent these companies from taking on foreign clients because people in those countries will be made redundant?

For employees working in the field of transactional processing or customer contact the new world of outsourcing actually opens up new opportunities for career advancement. Not all outsourced companies are located overseas. IBM and Accenture have well developed shared service centers that operate in the USA, Europe, Australia and other countries, they hold large contracts and see service as their product.

Under this model activities that were once considered back office are now the primary purpose. No longer do employees have to do their time before getting a 'real job' in sales or production and for those who enjoy customer service a long term career path is now available within these service organizations.

Outsourcing of customer contact and transactional processing activities is barely a decade old. As a strategy to remain competitive it is so far proving successful. Short term some job losses are experienced however in the longer term the employment market will adjust to these changes as it has done in the past. To place constraints on outsourcing will restrict companies' ability to operate competitively and will result in many more job losses than are being experienced now.
Suggested Reading: Smartsourcing: Driving Innovation and Growth Through Outsourcing


Published in Strategy
Thursday, 28 October 2010 19:11

How to Choose the MBA Program for You

With the rising popularity of an MBA degree as one of the best post graduate courses worldwide, there are now practically thousands of business schools and an equal number of MBA programs available to those who

wish to obtain an MBA degree. With such a huge and diversified choice, it becomes very difficult to know which program is right for you. Choosing an MBA course that serves your needs best is indeed a tough job. Here are some things to consider when deciding on an MBA program.

1) Your Expectations from the MBA Program

No two MBA programs are absolutely alike and even though they teach you the same basics, they do not offer the same syllabus. So you need to ask yourself:

  • Does this course give me the experience I am looking for?
  • Does the syllabus include topics that are relevant to my chosen career?
  • What electives does the program offer and am I interested in them?
  • Is the content of the course suited to my needs?
  • Do I have the required aptitude to successfully finish the course?
  • Does the program offer practical training and real life experiences as well?

2) Your Physical Circumstances

You need to assess if a particular MBA program is feasible in terms of:

  • Does the structure suit you?
  • Whether you can do the full-time two year course or you need a shortened course.
  • Is the program in your area or will you need to travel daily?
  • Are the timings of the course suitable for you?
  • Are you free to join the course on its start date?

3) Financial Considerations

An MBA program is an expensive program and thus you have to consider the financial impact of a particular program on yourself. Ask yourself:

  • Can I afford the program fees?
  • Will the living expenses, travel costs, and other expenses involved in the particular program put an immense financial burden on me?
  • Will I have to borrow a loan to cover the costs and do I even want to?
  • If I do take a loan, will I be able to bear the interest on the loan and how long will it be before I can repay it?

4) Impact on Your Lifestyle

  • Will I be able to balance work and studying?
  • Will I have to give up my job?
  • How will a particular course affect my family life?

Once you have asked yourself the above questions in relation to the different MBA programs that may interest you, you can determine which of those programs is best for you and positively addresses all the above areas in which an MBA program can impact you.

Most people want to go in for an MBA program that is offered by the top A grade business schools and which have the highest ratings. If given a chance to enroll in such a program, they jump at it without considering how it can affect them, and later have to live with the consequences. Although an education from the top business schools cannot be compared to other programs, you have to decide which course is best for you according to the above guidelines.

If you choose to enroll into an MBA program just because it is THE best one available, but are unable to stay with the program or complete the course, then even the best of programs will not do you any good. So determine which program is best for YOU and then make the most of it.



Published in MBA Studies