Paying More Than Lip Service to Quality

By Consulting Specifying Engineer Staff November 15, 2004

More progressive firm leaders in the A/E and environmental consulting industry are making serious commitments to improve the quality and reliability of their services, according to Mark Goodale, principal with Natick, Mass.-based A/E consultant ZweigWhite.

“Leaders are now addressing how to improve communication between team members in a very concentrated way,” says Goodale. “These leaders understand that all of their projects, regardless of size, boil down to a network of promises—and they are investing more and more in developing the skills necessary to consistently produce quality.”

Goodale sees that a growing number of firms are working on improving in the following areas:

* Making clear requests. To make a clear request, it must be clear who the customer is, who the performer is, what the conditions of satisfaction are, and when the task must be completed.

* Securing reliable promises. The performer needs to determine if he or she has the competency to carry out the request or access to competence, if there is enough time to fulfill the request, and if resources have been assigned to complete the request.

* Declaring completion . The customer won’t know that the promise has been fulfilled unless the performer lets the customer know. This is the part of the communication chain that most frequently breaks down.

* Declaring satisfaction. The customer must determine whether conditions of satisfaction were met and if not, clearly communicate what else needs to be done to fulfill the original promise.

Goodale believes the vast majority of firms overlook the making and securing of reliable promises as the key to producing consistent quality. “All of the policy and procedure manuals in the world won’t make a lick of difference if a company doesn’t work on developing the skills necessary to create a culture of commitment around reliable promises,” he says.

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