Executives create openness and trust with all internal and external stakeholders by entering into strategic partnerships with employees, suppliers, owners, shareholders, distributors, and customers. They share with each other, and synergize around common problems. They also study their competitors and identify the best practices in different functions so that they have benchmarks. Improvement accelerates when performance is measured and benchmarked against the best in the world.
With a partnership, communication channels are more open; there's more trust, more focus on what needs to be done, and more opportunities to do things better, to optimize the organization, and to relate to each other.
Communication with customers begins with customer-focus teams. Each has a project manager, sales rep, project engineer, quality engineer, and customer service representative. They help customers define the project and the relationship, using a seven-step procedure. The team then meets weekly with the customer to discuss schedules, engineering changes, test results, yields, and process improvement plans.
Win-win agreements are made with all stakeholders. The win-win agreement is a clear mutual understanding based on a mutual-gain idea produced through synergistic interaction with other people. At Solectron, much communication takes place among all stakeholders.
Solectron makes it impossible to be out of touch with customers. All customer contact personnel, from the CEO on down, carry personal pagers. Customers receive customized pager numbers for the focus team members to give them control of the communication process. In addition, surveys called the "Customer Service Index" are completed weekly with all customers, evaluating Solectron in a number of areas.
Weekly they ask their customers to rate them on quality, delivery, communication, and service and then they share this information with customers. These meetings are used to not only tell Solectron where it's been, but precisely where it has to go. This process gives Solectron the vision to chart a successful course of business for the future.
They have a very de-centralized company. You can't de-centralize without empowering people and creating an environment of trust. You can't run a company from the top because the decision process takes too long. The person or team at the top can't know everything that's going on daily because the real action is between the employee and the customer.
They know that quality control can't be imposed from top to bottom; they understand that quality management must cut across departments and offices, that quality culture does not depend upon titles and job descriptions, and that they're only as strong as the intelligence, judgment, and character of their people.
What works for Solectron can work for other companies. Winning the Baldrige Award confirms the power of a principle-centered approach where quality is seen as a dynamic process, continuous, and evolutionary.
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About the AuthorMore Content by Stephen R. Covey