Friday, March 23, 2007

Quality Service - "Who Are They?"

When I was a Quality Director for one of the major telecommunications companies one of my main responsibilities was to work with Customer Service Centers on process improvement activities. One of the major problems we continuously faced was service order management. It was at times a very frustrating task.

Investigation into this problem with the service representatives who entered the orders brought forth some interesting information. Every time we had a service order problem (defects, throughput delays, etc.), I was informed by the service reps that “they” had not given us the right information. Every time we had a quality problem, “they” hadn’t gotten us the right methods and procedures or “they” didn’t train us on that situation.

With that information, I knew I could use my root cause analysis skills to get to the bottom of the problem and prevent any further occurrences. The service reps inquired as to how I was going to do this. I responded, “All I need to do is to talk to “they.” The reps responded, “that’s great, but they aren’t here.” “All right,” I said, “Where are they?” And they said, “They reside in the Big House (Headquarters) in Chicago.”

On my next trip to the big house in Chicago I asked the first person I met, “Pardon me. Are you they”? The person looked at me in a strange manner, then grinned and said, “No, but I know where they work. They are on the second floor.” My next step was to walk proudly up to the second floor and the first person I ran into I excitedly asked, “are you they?” “No,” she said. They work on the third floor.”

Well the picture was getting clear because I couldn’t find they on the third floor either. When I talked to people in sales, they were always in engineering. And when I talked to engineering, they were always in operations...

Every group or person has a they, and they are always somewhere else. When I finally had just about given up I was informed that they work in the west building. That’s where the President and VP’s work.

As I approached my VP, I excitedly said, “I didn’t know you were they.” She looked at me as she always did and sternly said “I’m not they, they works there----> as she pointed to the CEO’s office.”

So I walked into the President’s office and asked his secretary if I could talk to they. She responded in the all to familiar manner “He is not they, but he is meeting with them now in the stockholders meeting.”

Wait a minute! There were stockholders at each step of my journey, on each floor as well as each department I visited. In fact, I’m a stockholder.

Warning! Do not attempt to find they. I’ve spent over 20 years. They are everywhere and they are nowhere to be found. Do you have any Theys in your workplace?

The previous story (mostly true) was a take off on a similar incident that happened to a Vice President at Texas Instruments.

The point in the story is that we have resorted to a culture of being “victims.” Someone else is responsible or in charge, not me. Well, that type of thinking will not suffice in today’s workplace. We can all sit back and say I’m a victim, or we can choose to go forward and realize that each person is an owner of our company and together we can make a difference.

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