Design Your Organization to Serve Customers Well

Quality is a Journey to Excellence is a 2 day management seminar that Bill Hunter (my father) recorded in 1985 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The embedded clip shows the second section of a the seminar discussing customers and how to organize your systems to serve customers well. See part one of the seminar, and the full seminar.

Some aspects of managing an organization well are quite challenging. But some aspects really are not and yet we still often fail to do even those aspects well. Bill’s suggestion to ask the customer what they want is one such area which offers an easy path to significant improvement. Though even such a simple concept is a bit challenging to adopt if the management culture doesn’t have an understanding of the organization as a system.

In the first part of this part of the seminar Bill talks about the value of talking to those in your organization that take what you produce (a product or service) and use that in their work as your organization continues to work to deliver to the “end users” (final customers). This seems so simple and unlikely to provide value but it is surprising how often what one part of the organization believes are the most important aspects of their output to others is not actually accurate.

Bill discusses how focusing on improving quality is the best way to reduce costs and increase productivity. Improving processes to reduce waste reduces costs and increases value to the customer. With costs decreasing prices can be lowered, providing more value (better products and services) to customers at a lower price. That leads to increasing sales which provides more work for more employees (see the Deming Chain Reaction).

Bill also talked about new jobs to do to work in a new way:

  • Look for what could be improved. Then work on improving how the organization functions.
  • Continual improvement of processes.

The focus is on continual never ending improvement. This is a much different mindset than focusing on what is most broken right now and how can we put in place some band-aid to allow things to keep working as they have but stop the visible issue as quickly as possible.

Both human (how to work effectively together, how to get people communicating, respect for people) and technical (problem solving tools, statistical methods, scientific approach) skills are needed to create a continual improvement culture.

Bill Hunter, in the seminar:

If you give these organizational development people just a little bit of help about statistical tools for tackling the problem, analyzing the problem, figuring out what it is and how to solve it their power can be multiplied many times over.

And if you give the statisticians and the technical people some help with organizational development skills the power they can have is multiplied enormously. It is incredible what can happen.

It’s joining those two in a synergistic way that can just produce amazing results. It is a skillful blending of these two.


Around all these processes is potential information. And you can either use it or not use it. And in most places just waste it.

There is valuable information just running down the drain. If you have everybody turned on and looking at process and saying how can we make them work better, you need to get some information, you need to get some data. That is the way you actually solve problems.

See: Managing Our Way to Economic Success by William Hunter, which includes the quote:

quote text: Two resources, largely untapped in American organizations, are potential information and employee creativity by William Hunter

Related: What Could we do Better?Revealed PreferenceQuality of the Entire Customer Experience

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