Consumer is king, employee?


In the theory of Total Quality, customer orientation is considered one of the core pillars to which a traditional organization must attach itself. The Japanese call this the “Market-in� philosophy where the whole organization is geared towards meeting customer needs and satisfying them to a degree beyond the customers’ expectation. In a globally competitive marketplace, particularly in developing economies, where the market is opening up, that the organizations, corporations will have to make genuine efforts to meet customer needs if they are to survive. In this regards we are giving below a small anecdote of four monks

Look into own self

Four monks made a pact. They would meditate in silence for seven days, during which time no one was to say a single word. Late at night on the first day, their one candle suddenly started to flicker. The first monk said, “Oh, no! candle is about to go out!�. The second monk said, “Remember now we’re not supposed to talk.� The third monk said “Why do you guys keep talking?� The fourth monk said, “Ha Ha ! I’m the only one who didn’t say anything!� When pointing out other people’s faults we often forget that we may be guilty of the same mistake.

In Total Quality Implementation, the first focus is to create an understanding among the mass of the employees on the concept of Internal Customer and thereafter make them behave in a manner where they consider the next process as customer along with their needs as legitimate. The traditional hierarchical organization really comes as a stumbling block in trying to convert this theory into a pragmatic application oriented concept.

The design of TQM interventions at various stages tries to break down barriers created by hierarchical organizations and creates a porous system of communication in spite of the barriers standing on account of the hierarchy.

A closer look at the organizational processes will indicate that most of the so-called communication problem arises out of the thickness of barriers that exist between functions and in many cases between sections in the function itself. This really a management initiated problem where sectional heads, functional heads or divisional heads consider their area of accountability as a kingdom and try to compete with interdependent functions.

The thickness of the hierarchical barriers is determined largely by management stances on these small kings over a period of time. So in addition to a lack of porosity between functions, we also have these kings and second lieutenants who have developed, thanks to the management, massive egos totally disproportionate to their accountability, leading to interpersonal and communication problems. The subordinate will tend to behave as his boss does and therefore a problem created by a few critical people can become a company wide affair.

The application of the internal customer orientation concept is therefore not as easy as it looks on the face of it. Rather than blaming people and accusing them of lack of interpersonal skills and inability to communicate, the core issue of breaking down hierarchical barriers has to be addressed meaningfully through a systematic process.

The concept of internal customer interface is designed primarily to deal with the soft areas of human behavior, without pointing accusing fingers at people and expecting them to change their behavior, which has been molded over a period of time.

Every management personnel is required to go through the Basic TQM Awareness program where this concept of internal customer is dealt with in a meaningful and playful manner, which creates a basic awareness on how it impacts the external customer. At this stage people are just informed that they would be required to participate as team members in a formalized customer-supplier interface which would be facilitated by one or two of the trained management facilitators.

We summarize this as we give a royal treat to outside customers and if the same can be extended to internal customers meaning requirements of other departments within the organization then the productive work can be fast accomplished within the organization. This enables the organization ready to serve the outside customer much faster than the competitors or earlier served by the organization itself. This wil definitely impress the outside customers to patronize the organization.