Quality must affect every conversation and interaction that we have with peers, subordinates, and leaders; every interaction that we have with co-workers, friends and family. That is why Quality is Everyone's Business.
There’s an old saying, “walk a mile in another man’s shoes.” It means that before you criticize someone or pass judgment on them, you should take a look at the world from their point of view.
To have empathy for someone means you are putting yourself in a position to feel what that person is feeling. The world could use a great deal more empathy. It’s easy to see that we could decrease disputes and disagreements by being more empathetic, and we’d quickly clear up misunderstandings and misconceptions. Taking it one step further, empathy becomes strategic as new channels of data open to us.
To illustrate this point, meet Cooper, the owner of a large family-owned insurance brokerage in Los Angeles. It was during the time when everyone was still getting used to email. Due to the nature of their business, Cooper felt that the company needed to keep a paper record of every client email.
Cooper’s office manager disagreed. She predicted enormous paper waste, but he was adamant. So the rule went into effect without further discussion. After all, Cooper was the boss.
Two years later, Cooper was working late on a presentation for a new client. The printer in his office malfunctioned, so he routed a document he needed to a shared printer in the main office. As he waited for his presentation to be printed, he looked down at the trash can and was startled by what he saw: enormous but neat stacks of printed emails. What a waste of paper, he thought to himself.
The next morning, he asked his office manager about the trash and what he heard surprised him even more: the waste was the result of his own email policy two years ago.
Fortunately, Cooper realized he needed to listen to his office manager when she explained how much waste had occurred in terms of dollars and cents: $300 a month, $7,200 since the email policy was passed, and more than $14,000 in total costs when she added toner and staff time.
After talking with his sales agents and staffers, he learned that everyone thought that the policy was wasteful and inefficient. Initially, he was frustrated that no one took the initiative to explain it to him, but then he realized that they did not because he was so adamant.
When team members employ empathy as part of their day-to-day management, it becomes a powerful tool that opens new insight and understanding about problems and situations they may not have realized existed. Instead of one or two perspectives, you can open yourself to three or four perspectives all at one time.
Just about every position in a company can benefit from empathy. In fact, I cannot think of a single job description where an ounce of empathy would not help improve productivity, team cohesion, and, most of all, the quality of output.
In a world where everyone wants to improve quality, everyone must contribute, and everyone must have a voice. By being empathetic, we also gain commitment to make quality an integral part of life both at both work and home.
Quality must become everyone’s business; we must reject that “good” can never be “good enough!
Quality begins with positive, individual action; when everyone in the organization is listening, enriching, and optimizing.
Has our attention on quality been misplaced? Is it time to redefine the way that Quality affects everyone in any organization? Is it time to get rid of the Quality “department” and make Quality something that everybody does?
When Quality becomes a lifestyle, people rise above the norm and do extraordinary things.