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THE NEED FOR QUALITY-ORIENTED CORPORATE CULTURE

By Rene T. Domingo

What distinctly separates excellent companies from the mediocre ones is not the healthy bottom lines nor large enviable market shares, but a strong quality-oriented corporate culture that is shared by everybody- from the CEO and managers down to the lowly clerk , mechanic , receptionist, and security guard. This culture is reflected on everything the company has or does: quality products, quality services, quality facilities, and of course, quality people and management. The spread or extent of that culture does not stop inside the company; it goes downstream with quality vendors, suppliers, and subcontractors, and upstream with quality distributors, dealers, retailers, or franchisees. It is an all-encompassing culture that binds everybody to work together in harmony and in spirit that they may truly serve that one most important person that matters: the customer. Now, the customer is not just the ultimate buyer, but includes the next process, department, or worker in line. The principle is that one best serves the ultimate buyer, and therefore the interest of the company, by providing prompt quality service to the next station or user of one's output.

A quality-oriented corporate culture is the real TQC or Total Quality Culture, and not just Total Quality Control, which suggest something administrative, short-term, and imposed. TQC is not sustained by an executive memo nor promoted by compensation. It is a way of life resulting from everybody's sincere commitment to provide quality service to the customer and doing one's job right the first time and all other times. It is everybody's conviction that TQC is the only way to make the company survive indefinitely and stay competitive.

It is easy to spot companies without culture-not only because they are plentiful but also because one cannot hide mediocrity and indifference. Their employees and managers do not have fire in their eyes nor zest in their behavior and work. Everybody seems to preoccupied only with going home at 5:00, spending the weekend, waiting for payday, and receiving the Christmas bonus. Nobody, including managers, cares to innovate nor improve what he has been doing for years. Moreover, the customers cannot distinguish their managers, employees, and salesmen from those of the competitors. For most employees what only matters, aside from receiving his paycheck on time, is not to get scolded or caught by one's superiors. Yet we cannot blame the rank and file for indifference to their work nor to the company's customers. Mediocrity, like excellence, originates only from top management, and filters quickly down the line.

Life would be paradise if we could encash our checks, make a deposit, or finish any other transaction in a bank as quickly as we could order a Big Mac hamburger from McDonald's. When can we ever get our licenses, certificates, and other documents from government offices as fresh as and as fast as french fries, sprinkled with courteous smiles and "Thank You's". McDonald's, a TQC company is an example of pure synergy between a quality oriented culture and an efficient system that keeps the customers happy and coming back for more in all its operations anywhere in the world. Yet you would not think that these young and energetic men and women behind the counter that can smile under pressure are overpaid. It is all a matter of a corporate culture and management that take quality and customer service seriously. One distinctive feature of a TQC company like McDonald's is the high degree of standardization of its products and service in any branch you go into. There are no surprises, exceptions, deviations: you get the same quality food and prices with the same prompt and honest service anywhere. Of course, this high degree predictability results in nothing less than customer's confidence and loyalty. The underlying philosophy is that when a customer enters the premises of a store or branch, he is doing the company a big favor which it has to reciprocate with quick service with minimum hassles.

Civil servants and government employees should take lessons from TQC companies so that they may get to know and learn what "public service" is all about. Applicants for government jobs should undergo a practicum in McDonald's and similar establishments before they are granted civil service eligibility - and therefore lifetime-employment. Civil service exams should not just be about IQ, history, memory tests on the Constitution, and other subjects which do not measure efficiency and dedication in serving the public.


 

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