Our Customers Know Continuous Improvement Too

It is a mistake to be so focused on corporate agendas that a business cannot make an effort or spare the resources to address customer or client needs. The true vision and purpose of all continuous improvement methods are to improve how well a business serves customers, profitably.

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Today’s true tale was offered up and told to me by a very close friend and it contains at least two very important messages from which we can learn if we choose. Let me re-tell my friend’s experience this week, and then we can dig into what we might learn.

My friend’s employer is a recent acquisition by a very large, diversified global corporation. It is currently in the process of bidding for the privilege of continuing to produce solutions for an important client as that client’s business and demand grows. The bid for a continued contract is not uncontested.

Last week, representatives from the client paid the business a visit, in part to witness product testing, and in part to discuss matters for the bid process. One of the client representatives was the client’s expert and leader of continuous improvement.

The client CI expert advised in advance that he would be part of the visiting group and asked for an opportunity to visit with the business’s CI expert. During the two-day visit a meeting between CI experts never took place. This is the fact that has my friend most embarrassed about the business’s behavior.

The business CI expert was too busy administering and addressing corporate-driven continuous improvement initiative chores to make time to meet the client representative. I’m tempted to put an interpretation on that, but since this is all second-hand, I’ll refrain from judging and suggest we accept the statement at face value.

Naturally, the client CI expert had some words to say to the quality function leader, and the program manager, and a few other project team members, during a brief exit meeting before returning home. I wasn’t present, obviously, but the message was described to the following effect.

It is a mistake to be so focused on corporate agendas that a business cannot make an effort or spare the resources to address customer or client needs. The true vision and purpose of all continuous improvement methods is to improve how well a business serves customers, profitably.

I believe that the message the client CI expert had to deliver needs to be said to the business site lead, but I understand that he was not part of the exit meeting, unfortunately. So, I choose to make my friend’s story public, if still anonymous, so that the rest of us can learn from the CI expert’s experience and message.

There are two lessons here that I think we should discuss.

  1. Where is our CI effort focused?
  2. We can’t bluff our customers with claims of CI prowess because they know it too and they can tell if we are as proficient as we claim.

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