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Management Myth # 2—Quality Systems and Processes Guarantee Good Outcomes

Mary was becoming more and more frustrated. Her bank decided to stop a special arrangement she had with her previous bank manager. This arrangement allowed Mary to undertake certain transactions expeditiously. This arrangement was different, however, to standard bank policy. Due to the bank lacking a system to record such an arrangement, Erica, the new staff member refused to honor Mary’s previous arrangement with her bank manager.

When Erica refused to process her request, Mary demanded to speak to the branch manager. Erica chose to speak with her supervisor, Stan, instead. Stan also said no, claiming it was against bank policy. This was despite Mary’s assurances that she had an arrangement in place.

Increasingly aggravated, Mary pressed for the branch manager’s name and email address. After some discussion, she was eventually given those details.

Mary subsequently fired off an email to Stephanie, the branch manager, explaining the problem, requesting reconfirmation ofthe previous arrangement and a method of recording the decision. The email also demanded the name

Despite the emphasis on the customer, quality is assessed, ironically, not by the end-user but by whether or not the organization has met certain internal criteria. And if so, the organization gets the literal seal of approval by a regulatory body for meeting industry standards. And if not, the organization forfeits its QA certification. The customer isn’t consulted.

© The Author(s) 2017 73

T. Baker, Performance Management for Agile Organizations,

DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-40153-9_5

and email address of a higher-level manager, should Stephanie choose to refuse her request.

To Mary’s surprise, Barry, a reliefbranch manager, responded, as Stephanie was on vacation. Barry’s reply did not address Mary’s concerns, and again stated the standard bank policy. Further, Barry responded by giving Mary the customary freephone number for the customer relations department and a website address to lodge complaints.

Even more frustrated, Mary demanded the details of the manager of the customer relations department. Having emailed the manager, Sergio called Mary. However, Mary was in a meeting and so Sergio left her a message. Mary called back at the conclusion of her meeting and was told by a recorded message that she had called outside regular business hours, which were between 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Mary had called at 4:40 p.m.

Mary’s frustration turned to anger. She again asked for the contact details of someone interested in her feedback. The head of customer relations, Jan, finally called Mary back. They had an extensive discussion, but Jan was unable or unwilling to change the bank’s position. However, Jan did give Mary the name and contact details for the area manager, Ross.

Mary called Ross and they had a discussion about her situation. Ross still wasn’t willing to allow Mary to have her own way. However, Ross was concerned that Mary had been unable to speak directly with her bank manager, and he promised to put a note on the file for Mary’s unusual transaction arrangement.

Rebecca, the branch manager, returned from vacation. Mary rang the call center again; she couldn’t get through to the branch. Rebecca rang back on Monday, but missed Mary, leaving her number. Mary called back, and the call went straight to the branch (hooray!).

It took two minutes for Mary to discuss the issue with Rebecca and for her to reinstate Mary’s agreement. To complete the transaction, Mary went to another branch. She stated that she had a special arrangement with the branch, the teller looked it up, found the details, and successfully processed Mary’s transaction.1

The second myth—quality systems and processes guarantee good outcomes—is the central justification for the QA movement. As an organizing system, QA gained momentum after its initial success in the early stages of scientific management. After a brief overview of QA and its evolution, I consider the impact Taylorism has on quality and its supporting beliefs. With lots of affirmation—and little criticism for the most part in the management literature—QA is hardwired into the psyche of management. But it has deficiencies for cultivating a culture for agile performance, principally when it comes to developing the customer-focused attitude essential for the current economy.

The challenge fundamentally boils down to balancing the necessity or producing high quality goods and service with a flexible and adaptable approach. Being customer-focused sounds simple. But customer-focus requires a multi-faceted strategy. A sizable portion of the strategy goes further than relying on superior internal QA systems. Customer responsiveness—one of the seven dimensions of agility—is more than producing and distributing superior products and services.

 
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