Monday, September 19, 2011

I'll have a Grande Latte with that Proficiency Testing, please.

I have mentioned before my views on the close associations between Quality and Leadership and Innovation.  The other day I was watching television in a mindless sort of way, when I got to see a telecast of Howard Schultz, chairman, president and CEO of Starbucks giving a presentation at the Vancouver Board of Trade.

Now I know that Starbucks coffee is not for everyone, but one would be hard pressed to not recognize the company as pretty much a world wide success.  Recently I was in Ankara Turkey and still had my daily double espresso. 

Schultz has an interesting story with Starbucks because he built it up the first time, and left the company when it decided to chase growth over quality, and then was asked to return when the company was going sour in a hurry.  Three years after his return, the company is back on top.

During this presentation he talked about several key issues.  The first was that successful companies are driven first from their core principles.  Second, that human resources have to be at the center of decision making.  Successful companies ensure that their staff are front-of-mind.  Third, that in the “eco-system of enterprise”  companies that give back to customers succeed.  Not giving back in the sense of kick-backs, but in the sense of being a contributor to education, outreach, leadership and support. 
And fourth that innovation that is visible to and beneficial for the customer is critical.  Companies ignore the opportunities of innovation at their peril. 

Customers are no longer interested ONLY in price.  Customers are more comfortable when they perceive that they share your values and see you as part of a “thread of trust”.

Now I understand that most of this is way outside the scope and authorities (but hopefully not the interests) of the public sector institution based medical laboratory.  The drivers of decision making in the public sector institution may not see themselves in the same way as Starbucks does.  But it seems to me that the core principles are pretty central to every successful organization.

And for Quality Partners including Standards Development Organizations, and Accreditation Bodies, and Proficiency Testing Providers, and Reagent/Equipment Suppliers, and to some degree, Quality Consultants, the iteration of principles has to be absolutely “spot-on” advice.

Organizations need to know what they are good at and what their core values are.  If they don’t know, then how can customers know what to expect. 
And trust is critical.  To the extent that your customers have control, they will stick with the folks that they trust.  But watch out when the thread of trust is broken.  When you are perceived as only about growth and money and serving your own interests only, and not about providing support, then problems will blossom.

And then comes innovation that is visible and relevant to the customer.  Are we writing standards that matter?  Are our proficiency testing samples a boon to quality improvement and to today’s needs for continuing education?  Along with reagents and supplies, do we provide the element of real innovation that is meaningful to the laboratory?

Are you a value-add, or just the same old-same old?

CMPT spends a lot of time, effort, energy, and money one these very issues for year.  We like to think we are successful, although not quite to the same level as Starbucks. 

If you visit you can see our latest Annual Report for 2010-2011

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