Let us put the man first

publication date 04.05.2006

Let us put the man first

The right mode of communication can inspire people to coin new ideas or participate in improvement, thus putting all their abilities to work. On the contrary, an inapt approach to communication can invoke reluctancy or even aversion in a worker, and they can hardly be looking for new ideas, with creativity being the forgotten word.

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We have read and heard many articles and lectures on the subjects of communication and quality. Yet what remains unchanged is the fact that there is a strong affinity between communication and quality. Ever since the early times of the mankind people share one fundamental need – a need to communicate. The right mode of communication can inspire people to coin new ideas or participate in improvement, thus putting all their abilities to work. On the contrary, an inapt approach to communication can invoke reluctancy or even aversion in a worker, and they can hardly be looking for new ideas, with creativity being the forgotten word. Instead, they will rather begin considering the issues of their existence in another company where they apply a friendlier mode of communication.

The following model story takes the form of a conversation of two people as it takes at least two participants to converse. The story is aimed to illustrate different types of communication with a regard to quality. So, the reader is getting a chance to follow the conversation impartially while observing mistakes the participants make. This form of an illustrative example, as we believe, will make a greater impact on the reader than a mere scholarly article. 

Two managers of a nameless company are having a conversation. 

J:  Peter, see you in 20 minutes in my office, OK?

P: OK?

J:  Peter, I have been thinking about how to enhance quality in our company. My idea is that the right communication has a great effect on the quality improvement. And so I thought if we set the communication channels right and selected the right mode of communication, not only we might get a higher customer satisfaction but also a higher quality of our products. What is your assessment of this point?

P: I am with you on that. The way we communicate greatly impacts any man´s psyche and consequently also the performance they are supposed to give. It is no coincidence that information centre operators are being carefully selected to be soft-spoken and able to calm down an upset customer. What do you imagine it should look like?

J: First thing I want to map what the communication in our company looks like. Actually, the communication channels have been detailed in the quality system guidelines, haven´t they?

P:  Yes, but hardly anybody awakes to the fact that guidelines predetermine communication. Some quidelines are only understood by experts who have written them such as the satellite communication technicians.

J:   Why is it that they are not written in a language for everybody?

P:  It is not needed. It is a highly specialized guideline and covers only a narrow target group of technicians orientated towards such a specialization.

J:  In effect, it is good. At least the others can occupy themselves with something else. You know what, Peter, I would like you guys to take another look at it. Let´s take the techniques used by PR managers, for instance. I have participated in a public relations training, and I believe we could make use of some of the PR techniques not only in communication with our customers but also with our employees inside our company. Let´s take a look at what are all those things they have been using in communicating their messages to the public  -  television, radio, print media, mass mailings, personal appearances, meeting the press, etc. What do they advertise and for whom? These are all ways how to communicate your ideas to people and create your own positive image. Surely we are also in need of a positive image in the minds of our customers and, as the company management, in the minds of our employees. 

P:  We have been using a whole range of the communication means too. A meeting alone is a great communication tool, and such things as the employee´s amenities communicate the management´s relation to workers.

J:  Yes, but do we make an effective use of these tools?

P:  I don´t know, I haven´t contemplated that, and if I gave you any view, it would necessarily be only a subjective one.

J:  Let´s get back. We should know who communicates with customers and how. I take it that it is these people who do credit to this company, and I want to see what that credit is worth. I think it is not just the businessmen, the management and the spokesperson.

P:  It is also people from the Logistics, mechanics and the satellite communication technicians you have mentioned. Whom did you have on mind in particular?

J:  I would like to engage the businessman in the project.

P:  And why not the chief businessman. He has got more experience. 

J:  Not him. I find it hard to talk him into launching such a project.

P:  I have got no problems with him. Whenever I turn to him we get a  lot of things done. 

J:  Great, so you could speak to him. The point is that the project be launched by people who will trust in the whole idea. I would also recommend the head of the executive department.

P:  Yes, I agree. When are we supposed to go ahead with the project?

J:  Right now. Early in December, say, on the 5th, I want to have the outline of the project: objectives, staff, expected results, budget, works plan, simply all those things that go with every other project. I would like to launch the project by January 1, so that we can have the first measurable results within a year. Otherwise the whole thing makes no sense. Opponents of the project could easily argue that the project was useless and good for nothing.

P:  If the project in Nová Ves starts up, neither me nor the nominated guys will have any capacity for this new project. 

J:   Peter, don´t you follow the news?

P:  What do you mean?

J:  Yesterday afternoon The Czech Press Bureau announced there wouldn´t be any construction in Nová Ves following an intervention by the „greens“.

P:  I missed it. It a pity as we could have had an awesome project and for a regular customer too. 

J:  I am all the more surprised you don´t follow what´s going on in our good customers. These are precisely the cases which must be prevented. I don´t want to see our people work with outdated information. It amounts to needless finacial loss and wasted effort.

P:  You said you wanted to measure communication. It may hardly be possible.

J: If we can measure customer satisfaction, why couldn´t we relate communication to quality? Annually you submit to me the quality system assessment and results in the individual processes. In this way we can monitor what changes have been made and how the process results have differed. We already know the process trends, so it shouldn´t pose much of a problem.

P:  True. Pushing ahead with the established targets from the Assessment Report and making them happen is largely a communication problem rather than a technical one. Sometimes it is really hard to explain what we are going to achieve when everybody speaks  a “different language“.

J: The quality, as I understand it, is when our customers approach us outside any competitive tender extending the contract. And, also, while making a business lunch, I don´t need to sort our any problems with the directors. 

P: How much do you want to invest into the project? Surely it´ll cost us something.

J:  That´s why I need the project description, and when you have it, you´ll tell me how much the proposed changes should cost us. Certainly I won´t authorize any money to spend.

P: I meant something else. I do know you always have a rough estimate of how much it is going to cost us, and that was my concern. Of course we are going to make a detailed estimate to be submitted to you for authorization.

At this point the conversation is disrupted by an incoming mobile phone call: 

J:  ……..  I am listening. No, how many times more shall I be telling you that I don´t want it like this. Yes, we have talked about this problem before, perhaps you should eventually solve it. 

End of the phone call.

J:  Peter, advise me what approach to take here. They may not understand that unless we sign the contract in time, the customer will go elsewhere.

P: Jiří, my feeling is they are trying to tell you that the problem can later wreck the whole contract.

J:  I assumed I was paying money to experts, and that they were here to fix these problems, or was I mistaken?

P:  Yes, they are supposed to solve the problem. Yes, you pay them money, however, I am afraid you have completely demotivated them by this manner of communication. In consequence, it means they aren´t going to work out anything. Doing so you can only intensify the stress they have already been under. Besides, they are going to be making even more mistakes.

J:  So they can´t be such big pros when they mix their feelings and expertise.

P:  Unfortunately, it is not altogether possible to separate a man´s personality from their profession. Man is simply an integral being.

J:  Yes, I get that. Have you got anything else?

P:  I have got here the letter for Koteva. Can you have a look if that´s what you were looking for?

J:  Who are you writing it to?

P:  Koteva, s.r.o.

J:  Koteva, s.r.o., indeed.  You are supposed to write a letter to a particular person, this one would  possibly be for Mr.Prcíř. Do you know Mr.Prcíř?

P:  No, I haven´t had an opportunity to meet him.

J:  This is hard as you can´t know what to write in that letter and how. It is always going to be a formal letter which he may give to his assisstent or discard. Whatever you write  -  a directive, an audit report  -  should be addressed to particular people.

P:  I didn´t realize it in this case, however, we write quality handbooks for our customers. Actually, our people don´t need it, they have everything in the directives and have been trained.

J:  Just perfect! So carry on with it even in correspondence.

We hope you don´t rank among those companies where they communicate in this way.

Conclusion

The way we communicate is the key to whether the other party (a person) will ever listen to us and be willing to keep the communication going. If we choose the wrong way, we encounter misunderstanding, distance or even resistance. This is exactly what deteriorates the level of quality in a company as a continuous quality enhancement is based on understanding, enthusiasm for new ideas and an urge to create.

Whether we speak, write or phone, we need to keep on mind not only our own interests, but also the fact there is a human being on the other side of the business who is completely different from us. He or she may have a different mind-set, different interests, problems, and they perceive our manner of communication through their own frame of mind and not the one we think. Communication is not only the art of nice and knowledgeable speaking, but it also includes manners, sensation, knowledge and feeling for situations, simply it is finding the key to the other person´s soul.

Jiří Střelec, Petr Sláma

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„Each golfer will play a bad shot. There is on him how long he will play badly.“ more >>

Jiří Střelec Jiří Střelec

Just as we make a mistake, we understand that anything we underestimated did not do correctly. It's a common learning process without which we would hardly gain valuable experience. It is very important to master emotions, realize the cause and the error no longer continue. The golf in this case, emotions are working on a lot and a bad shot golfer must correct or receives a penalty stroke. It's the same in life. There is paid for each relief.