Quality is a matter of attitude

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WE have already mentioned that quality has to do with meeting customer requirements. 

Furthermore, we pointed out that there are internal as well as external customers. 

A further point was made that, because of the need to balance the needs of more than one customer, quality essentially goes with improvements.

Meeting customer requirements can be viewed as a two-stage phenomenon. 

First, there has to be deliberate intention or willingness to meet those requirements.

This relates to attitudes towards both customers and the requirements in question. 

Second, there is need to have an appropriate aptitude – the necessary ability and skills to achieve the intended objective.

This is to say that quality is a matter of both attitude and aptitude.

Although aptitude is probably more important than attitudes in the short run, it is not as critical as attitude in the long run. 

To start with, people with the right attitude would want to learn and to continually improve their skills. 

Because they will be focusing on their customers and wanting to deliver as expected, they would want to do anything and everything that will facilitate that delivery, including skills upgrading, as required. 

On the other hand, there are people with skills and abilities, but with poor attitudes. 

Such people will not necessarily want to do the right thing nor will they necessarily be willing to improve their skills and performance. 

In the end they may lose some of the expertise or it may become obsolete and irrelevant.

Insistence on qualifications and experience may be misplaced if attitudes are ignored.

In defining quality, the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) uses the phrase “interested parties” instead of customers.  

Quality, therefore, is about meeting needs and expectations of interested parties. 

This means that anybody in charge of the process is or ought to be an interested party – a customer of that process.  

That is why, as a basic requirement, people should seek to do what they love and enjoy doing.   

It is only when one is really happy that one is able to make others happy. 

Seeking positions only for financial motives never results in quality delivery.

Organisations, on their part, should make efforts to place employees according to their areas of interests, not just abilities. 

In his perceptual control theory, William Powers postulated that people will always seek to change the environment around them if they perceive it is unfavourable. 

If people love what they do, they can be easily engaged so that in the end they have an outlook aligned to that of management and other colleagues. 

They will not be preoccupied with devising short-cuts or to evading management attention.

It appears plausible that an employee who enjoys what she/he is doing is likely to support the idea of balancing interests of different interested parties more than one who is not interested. 

If we love what we do, we will be interested in sharing with others who also have interest.

This should foster team-work among colleagues and facilitate improved delivery of quality. 

Of course attitude is not important only within the confines of quality; it also plays a key role in everything we do. 

Our attitude towards the environment in which we live, and towards the challenges that face us, will influence how we deal with them including the success rate in such endeavours.

For example, when Lesotho experienced substantial snowfall in 2006, many people saw that as a tragedy instead of a tourist attraction that should be exploited. 

This was despite thousands of people already streaming into the country to experience snow. 

On the contrary, Europe and North America were concerned that they were not getting much snow that year and that their tourism industry would be negatively affected. 

The point here is that it is not the snow that is the problem; it is the attitude towards it that can be a problem.

Similarly, there are countries that have virtually no natural resources but are succeeding in their economic agenda only because they have the attitude that they can do something. 

Singapore is a typical example. Singaporeans do not agree that they have nothing. They say that they have themselves. 

On the contrary, many Basotho seem to have an attitude that nothing can be achieved in this or by this country, and that the future is bleak. 

There is general reluctance to take responsibility and a tendency to apportion blame elsewhere.  

The common practice to insist on engaging only experienced people is a stark example of an attitude that keeps Lesotho where it is.   

Others can only help us achieve our developmental objectives but we retain the fundamental responsibility for our development.

We can finally depend on “having ourselves” only if we develop the necessary expertise.

In referring to Singapore, one is reminded of the observation by the founding Prime Minister of that country, Lee Kwan Yew, regarding Japanese people.

In his view, individual Japanese performance is comparable to that of any other people. 

But he believes that in teams, especially work-teams, they are unequalled. 

Clearly, that is born out of attitude than of anything. 

A lesson for Lesotho is that quality is achievable as it is mainly an attitude issue. 

Attitude can help us in other ways other than improving quality. With deliberate determination and an attitude that we can, there is nothing we cannot achieve.

Our uniqueness should be our selling point, not a curse.

The attitude should be: “What can we offer to others that they don’t have?” With that we would be on our way to achieving greater heights.

Tlhako Mokoro is the principal consultant of Paradym Consulting, a company that specialises in the management of quality and productivity. He has been active in the field since 1982.

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