Re: Customer Not Always Right LO2281

Barry Mallis (
31 Jul 1995 08:13:47 -0400

Reply to: RE>>Customer Not Always Right LO2269

To: Eric Bohlman
From: Barry Mallis

Your comments,in reply to Jim, about too many layers of organizational
sign off.

Yup, this happens everywhere. My favorite image is pre-revolutionary
Russia, where the St. Petersburg civil service the city's founder created
fit overwhelmingly into your description. But let's be careful.

After two years of intense work, my company received ISO 9001
certification. We had to develop chains of RESPONSIBILITY for processes
we almost didn't "know" existed! It allows now for oversight of a very
important nature which guides what can be a rather complex contract system
(not complex for the number of "contract" pages--I'm not talking about
fine print, but about applications engineering under the broad scope of
contract review). Now here's the rub.

When you have a well-oiled system where paper or electrons flow regularly
and consistently from one authorizer/reviewer to the next, people MAY
become lax, because the majority of tasks become relatively perfunctory.
RELATIVELY perfunctory. So when the odd complexity or irregularity pops
up, we're unprepared to give the task its full measure of focus.

This is an age-old problem, no? It's a paradox of the systems we create.
The more we do of anything, the less careful we MAY become. Driving a
car? Correcting exams? Swinging at practice golf balls? Filling out a
1040? Folding laundry? Saute-ing spinach with nutmeg and shallots?

But in each of these examples, we can find exception. With intention, we
overcome a natural propensity to relax our focus. In organizations of two
or more, the effects of this intention break-down grow exponentially. So
we develop checks and balances or something like that.

Now with various granola eaters (and non-granola eaters) lurking in and
about this list, I'd say we have a general philosophical leaning least
harmfully described as desirous of doing Good, improving business
humankind, stuff like that. Now how do we promote constancy of intention?
In turn, such constancy promotes what Deming et al. refer to as having
each of us building quality into what we do, rather than checking for

Thoughts on this conundrum?

Barry Mallis
Total Quality Resource Manager
MARKEM Corporation
Keene, NH USA