Individuals have a personal character. It is what defines them, and over the last year you have heard a lot in the news about character. Businesses have a character as well. As your personal character defines your interpersonal relationships, whether or not you are trustworthy and therefore whether or not you are trusted, for example, your business character defines your relationships with other businesses. Therefore, your business ethics, your business morality, your business values, and your business attitudes will have as dramatic an influence on your business relationships as your personal ethics, morality, values, and attitudes will have on your interpersonal relationships.
As customers, we know which companies value our business. Our customers know as well! They see how we do business, and whether or not we operate with integrity. They make their purchase choices accordingly.
Competence refers to mastery. Through your life you have learned new things, and those things you have had experience with, have practiced, and have become proficient with have become your competencies. Competency is based on learning, through education, and practice, through training. You have mastered certain abilities. Ability refers to things that you can do well. Perhaps you are an excellent analytical thinker, problem solver, planner, well organized, creative thinker, or self-disciplined worker. All of these are abilities you carry with you into whatever you undertake. You have mastered skills. Those skills might be interpersonal skills, such as conflict resolution and communication, or job-related skills such as financial management, performance assessment, planning, or some technical skill. You have mastered certain knowledge. From books, seminars, workshops, and experience you learned things that you did not know before. That knowledge is related to specific content areas, but also includes an understanding and knowledge of how to find out what you don't know and how to locate resources to help you. As a result of your education and training, you have been able to develop multiple competencies, and so has your business. This is true of businesses as well. They have capabilities, which can become areas of expertise, and then become competencies. For manufacturing this might be the ability to customize products, short lead-time, overnight order fulfillment, or outstanding service. These competencies become order winners—those capabilities that mean additional business for you.
What specific results are you trying to achieve, and how well are you achieving those results? This requires frequent and ongoing evaluation by your customers, and comparison with your competitors. You must evaluate yourselves and ask others to evaluate you. Your customers are your most important source of evaluative material. You can find out how your customers evaluate you most readily by looking at your market share, your sales, and your profit, but that isn't enough. You must also ask your customers to tell you often, and comprehensively, what you are doing well, and what you could do better. Be prepared for their responses. Take action to improve processes, improve products, and improve service based on what they tell you.
Benchmark yourself against other businesses as well—those businesses with the best business practices. It isn't necessary that these businesses be in the same industry as you are; in fact, they could be in any business at all. It is only necessary that they be the best at some capability, and that you measure yourself against them. What do you need to do to achieve the same results that they have achieved? For example, benchmark your customer service against Nordstrom's. Benchmark your delivery against Federal Express. Benchmark your quality against Motorola. Benchmark your training against USAA.
Hundreds of team-building exercises demonstrate how much more effective you are working together than working alone. Teamwork is used more and more often in project management, quality management, and new product development because it is more effective than traditional processes. One person may know a tremendous amount about a topic, but one person's knowledge is often not enough to manage complex issues and processes. It is often important to explore other perspectives, to include other information, and to make use of skills and abilities that you don't have in order to reach the best possible solution. To operate in an environment where this synergy is nourished requires special competencies, both management as well as supervisory, than those of the traditional environment. Special team-building and team-management skills are required in order to maximize your ability to perform. Additionally, networking skills also keep you connected with others who can help you. Keeping lines of communication open with others, can help you when you need access to unusual resources, or need information about unfamiliar material.
Ultimately you must provide value in the eyes of your customer. Value is generally measured by the customer in terms of quality, cost, schedule, and service. You must ensure that the product or service you provide meets or exceeds your customer's expectations. In addition, however, your customer may have additional requirements. Flexibility, environmental practices, and location are just some of the characteristics that could potentially influence a customer's purchase decision. You must know them, and then be capable of meeting their requirements. Communication with your customers is a critical part of providing the services that they require. Today it is more important than ever to ensure that in addition to meeting the customer's requirements you are also providing a service to your community. There is hardly any better marketing strategy, recruiting strategy, or positive public relations strategy than community service. It provides your business with local recognition and access to additional pools of potential personnel, and it can contribute to an excellent image for your company. Thus service means both service to your customer in the form of meeting their requirements
and service as a contributing member of your community.
Understanding and using these secrets, these concepts, can help businesses improve customer service, improve competitiveness in the marketplace, reduce costs, improve responsiveness and delivery performance, and increase market share. There is, however, an additional aspect of these secrets that is applicable to the individual. Applying these same secrets to your lives as individuals can help you manage your personal lives with more confidence. Having a personal strategy, understanding your family, your friends, and your co-workers, being of good character, mastering new competencies, evaluating your success and your progress regularly, experiencing the benefits of synergy, and being of service can improve the quality of your life as well!
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