by Subir Chowdhury
Prepare yourself for an incredible transformation when everyone in the organization is listening, enriching, and optimizing.
People study successful companies so that they may emulate their achievements. But how do people decide which part of the success is most important? How do you emulate an innovation? A brand name? A charismatic leader?
I believe that in every case where a company or organization has achieved greatness, you find common awareness for Quality. You find that every executive, from the C-suite to supervisor, is committed to “walk the talk of quality” at every moment, with every encounter, and at every level of the organization.
When leaders commit themselves to this kind of high-level awareness, they trigger an acculturation process that sweeps through everyone in organization. Instead of workers only interested in getting a job done, you now have heroes of quality who want to get the job done right.
What am I describing is a lifestyle of quality that capitalizes on three traits found in all of the excellent organizations we admire most:
Why shouldn’t we listen better to everyone? In business, that means our customers, suppliers, co-workers, and our competition. All too often, we focus only on the task of collecting data without asking deeper questions that could give us greater clarity about the processes behind the data. By listening, we can watch and observe what works and what doesn’t. Listening also triggers understanding and empathy – between everyone in the conversation. If you listen enough, you can reach the point where you finally “get it”. If you listen hard enough, you can hear how your stakeholders express what they need and how they define Quality. Look for hints about what it will take to make people enthusiastic – about you and your ideas. When we listen HARD, we learn what is needed to satisfy.
Enrich follows “listen” because it describes what we should do after we have full knowledge of a given situation, circumstance, or problem. Armed with enough data (gained by listening), we are better able to organize and structure our response. What does the data tell us about how we currently do things? How can we implement the data, and when? If listening leads us to lessons of how we may improve, enriching means putting those lessons to work toward successful solutions. When you enrich, use your deepest awareness to check that every response and every detail is honest and does not compromise what you KNOW is the best solution. Seize every opportunity to improve. If you do not have enough data to develop a process or solution, that’s a signal that you need to listen more.
Optimize may seem like the ultimate move, but it is only another part of a continuous process. If you and your entire organization truly want to meet and exceed the needs, wants and desires of your customers then you must be willing to raise the bar on performance. Optimization is a rigorous process that requires that you challenge all known processes and situations and compare them with others that you didn’t know about. When you test your best ideas and subject them to every situation that you can imagine, you will find shortfalls and errors. Solve them then, after you have addressed what you believe are all possible shortcomings, start the process over. The point of the Listen, Enrich, Optimize process is not to solve problems but to prevent problems from occurring in the first place through continuous improvement.
I believe that most of the problems that companies and organizations experience is that they do not spend enough time looking at what they are trying to achieve. A lot of businesses brag about excellence, but there is no enthusiasm – in the leadership, among the workers, nor from the customers.
Excellence is a nice concept to shoot for, but concepts by themselves are not sustainable. These words together – “Listen, Enrich and Optimize” – are an essential part of my quality management methodology that helps everyone in the organization drive toward the same goal. By Listening, we don’t get complacent. By Enriching, we strive for perfection. By Optimizing, we look at Quality as a universal, everyday goal that everyone can understand.
That is why I say, to be excellent and truly successful, quality must be everyone’s business.