How long should a pair of underwear last?
Now that I have your attention, have you ever wondered? Is it six months, a year, two years? How long? The question can be applied to any article of clothing or for that matter, any product. Some things are designed and manufactured to last longer than others and are meant to. Technology, on the other hand, is deliberately designed to become obsolete quickly and for good reason. Fashion, in a similar vein, has some obsolescence built into it due to the change in style and season but isn’t that where we start to wonder about quality?
It’s not like it used to be, is it?
I wasn’t kidding about the underwear question. I actually have underwear from a Canadian company called Prodige. Quality still means something to these people. How do I know? Well, these particular elements of my wardrobe have lasted over 6 years. Now that’s incredible. Their website leaves something to be desired but who cares? They make awesome product that lasts. Prodige has their priorities set – quality product. Period. They can and will continue to do so and because it’s mostly hidden (unless you are a teen) it will never going out of style. Form and function are paramount. That’s it!
Who decides what quality is anyway?
Isn’t it quality inspector No. 42? Boy, after a thousand pairs go by in a day how does he do it? What do we do to maintain quality in our fast paced, to the moment, got to have it now and “it better cost less than the other guy” world or have we forgotten about it altogether? It’s easy to forget, isn’t it?
- Just maintain the status quo.
- Get it done.
- No time to think.
- Not enough money to think.
Where does it all stop? The same place the buck does. Actually, it doesn’t stop, it really starts. It starts with you and that Prodige quality inspector No. 42. But not only just with you and not just with quality inspector No. 42. It includes everyone on your team; the buyers purchasing the raw materials, the seamstress running the stitching machines, the management maintaining the flow, the sales team pitching the benefits, you get the idea. Somehow it works. Trust me I know. Remember, 6 years and counting!
What do I do to maintain quality then?
In the world of consulting where the tangible is as tough to sell sometimes as the intangible keeping quality front of mind is essential. Isn’t it palpable how your clients respond when you take the time to ensure you pay attention to detail and produce well thought out ideas and concepts? You can actually feel their appreciation. When you care, demonstrate an honest interest in their needs, proactively anticipate their challenges and are present to actively help them through their opportunities you are offering a form of quality that is no longer commonplace. Why? Because commoditization is, and continues to be, commonplace.
In the midst of being caught up in the routine of our processes and we often ask ourselves “What does it take when commoditization is the benchmark by which we conduct business?”
It takes focus.
Focus to listen, understand your client’s key issues and how you will apply your knowledge to understand what is important. One of the most difficult tasks in determining what is relevant is weeding out the superfluous in order to identify the core issues. If you can, you will hit that sweet spot. You will be able to deliver at the highest level without drowning your project in red ink. After all, isn’t that what it’s about? Quality….of life? A team, whatever its composition, who understand the importance of focus and efficiency really will understand how quality of work, whatever you do, delivers quality of life.
How do you maintain that focus?
Continuous improvement. Continuous improvement is not a cliché. It is a value and critical to quality. It takes education, leadership, community and unity to be effective. No easy feat, however, when combined with focus, clarity and understanding of process the product output is continuously front of mind and continuously the best it can be in the moment. It becomes cyclical; continually looping back to look for new opportunities to improve all aspects of interaction, process and product output. When the view to continuous improvement is integrated into your processes the results continue to evolve naturally, almost organically. It starts to become part of who you are and not what you do. And isn’t that the idea?
So, how long does your underwear last?