By Andy Marken
“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory!”
“There is a penalty for ignorance. We are paying through the nose.”
W. Edwards Deming
Extensive research/statistics doesn’t hold much excitement for us. However, we’re a long-time admirer of Dr. Deming and his writings. While Out of Crisis was written in 1986, his Fourteen Points of Management are still being widely practiced today. We first met Dr. Deming at a conference in D.C. in 1990 where he was a keynote speaker on the changing face of the industry. We met him again in mid-1992 at what was to be one of his final management seminars.
It was difficult to believe that at 92 he was still taking every opportunity to tell managers how they could carry out changes that would affect their personal growth and their organization’s. At the reception following the 1990 keynote we asked one of his assistants why he continued to maintain such a hectic schedule and how he possibly juggled all of the information requests. Her answer was:
“He is 100% committed to what he does. He never does anything halfway, doesn’t try to slide by. He immediately responds to every inquiry, postal and email, even if it to say he is going to have someone else in the organization handle the issue, to say he doesn’t know but will get back with the right answer (and he does), or simply provides the answer/information.”
She explained no one went unanswered for more than 24 hours.
He generally responds immediately or at least in a couple of hours. His philosophy was that the best manager is the one who communicates quickly, honestly and as accurately as possible.
“He never went to bed in the evening without clearing up his correspondence even if assigning it to someone to handle. He practices what he preaches,” she concluded emphatically.
He wrote clearly and effectively. He never initiated a project that couldn’t be done properly.
So what does this have to do with you?
Focus on support and cooperation.
We thought about his reputation management philosophy and writings following an evening of email discussions with a writer. The writer needed information for a deadline piece he was working on. He needed an in-depth product and application discussion. He needed facts, research and illustrations so he could file his piece and others had been stringing him along waiting for someone else to give them the information and approval. His publication wasn’t a large major daily, major site or broadly read shelter publication. His article probably wouldn’t make or break his client. But he and his project were important to him.
He needed information and assistance and it was our professional obligation to assist.
Dr. Deming was in his 90s and still had a sense of urgency in responding to queries. He thought people deserved immediate and complete information even if was to tell the individual who would provide timely assistance. To him, the head of a $5 million firm deserved the same level of support as did the head of a Fortune 50 firm. Dr. Deming didn’t view the inquiries as an interruption to his work, but the reason for his work.
The institute he established built its reputation on quality: quality of information, quality of work, quality of response. That reputation was built on one response at a time, one project at a time. That’s the way a company’s reputation is built, managed and protected. Corporate Reputation Ownership in today’s “open to the world” business environment where no one individual or department has the ownership of a corporation’s reputation management “program”.
The speed and thoroughness to handle inquires , customer, business partner, media, reflects on the company and you. Senior management control, guide and shape their organization’s reputation. If they emphasize the customer, sound ethics and lead by example, employees understand their responsibilities, their priorities. This is especially true today where news and access are instant. The Internet flattened the organization and tore down the walls, ripped off the doors. People have direct access to anyone, everyone. How employees handle, respond and serve inquiries determine the company’s reputation.
Any time an inquiry is stonewalled or the employee/manager is unresponsive only ensures the individual will seek out, and find, alternative sources for the information. Regardless of the path taken the results will be the same. The gatekeepers will be blissfully unaware of what is taking place and will be engrossed in the power they have…until the story or coverage appears. Then it is too late to “correct or manage” the situation. A reputation, from Dr. Deming’s perspective, is something that is built and re-established every day.
It is built with each phone call, each email, each release, each blog/microblog, each decision, each action. It requires constant attention to listening, learning, changing, acting, responding. Survival is mandatory…personally and professionally.
Andy Marken is the owner of Marken Communications’ associates are highly professional, highly ethical. and highly motivated to do the best they possibly can for every client. While every member of the agency has his or her major responsibilities, senior management and junior staffers work side by side in an environment of mutual respect with a strong sense of urgency, excellence, and loyalty for clients.