7 – Applying Customer-Centered Quality to Human Resources

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Two myths about quality are that (1) it is hard to apply to the “soft” sides of organizations and (2) that the approach to use is “continuous improvement.” Very advanced quality management systems can be applied to service/knowledge work if we can redefine this work as creating tangible products.

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Two myths about quality are that (1) it is hard to apply to the “soft” sides of organizations and (2) that the approach to use is “continuous improvement.” Very advanced quality management systems can be applied to service/knowledge work if we can redefine this work as creating tangible products. Indeed, radical improvements of 80 percent or better are easily possible on the first attempt.

Some people have facetiously said that the fastest way to transform an organization’s culture is to replace top management. Like most quick fixes, that can seem like a good idea until it is actually tried. Most organizations will never be able to evaluate the merits of the notion first-hand. But a major U.S. transportation company that was bought out by new management can.

One of the old guard replaced in the following year was the executive vice president for human resources. When “Jack,” the new EVP, joined this 45,000-employee company, one of his first actions was to change his title to EVP for Customer Satisfaction Through People Involvement.  His personal mission was clear and there was to be no mistaking it. Jack brought a big blast of fresh ideas to his new position. After assuming his new position, Jack met with me to discuss quality. Together, we mapped out a service quality initiative.

Three Steps to Customer-Centered Quality in Human Resources

The first step in the plan was to create awareness about the new way to think about quality and to run the business. Jack felt it best to start the effort in the Human Resources (HR) Division. He had control over all the issues there and wanted to keep the risk of failure low while assuring that the rate of change was high. Awareness was achieved by having most of the managers and many other professionals from HR attend a seminar called “The Customer-Centered Culture (C3)”. The C3 seminar addressed six fundamental steps in transforming the culture.

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