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It is fitting that we start with the principle of Customer Focus, since there is so much confusion over who exactly in the audio-visual industry the customer actually is in the first place.
The Integrator that purchases equipment from a Manufacturer for use in an audiovisual system is an intermediate customer, as well as the Technology Manager who purchases the system for the benefit of an internal department for his company. They are NOT the ultimate customer. The Integrator thinks the customer is the AV Designer, since they were put on a bid list by the Designer. The Manufacturer oftentimes thinks the Integrator is the customer, since the Integrator purchases equipment from him. The AV Designer often thinks the Architect is the customer, since they sell their services to the Architect. Confusing? Yes!
So who is the ultimate customer we need to focus on? What I define as the customer for these purposes would be the consumer, or the one who actually uses the system. If the audio visual system does not provide the functionality that the user requested, or is difficult to use, or lacks the performance objectives asked for or implied, or is always in need of repair, then poor quality results. Poor quality comes with wasted, useless costs that everyone eventually bears; the vendor, the Technology Manager, and the user. This cost often includes the cost of a new or significantly modified system. Focus on the AV User. When all stakeholders do so, everyone wins.
ISO9000 is written first and foremost for the customer. It answers a worldwide demand for high quality, and it lessens the growing confusion in international trade due to differing national and sub national quality system requirements. For the same reason, the de facto standard AV9000 is written for the ultimate customer of AV, the AV User.
Involvement of People
People generally perform better when they know what their job is, have a clear understanding of what is expected of them. The typical obstacles that befall many small businesses disappear when a team member understands not only their role, but also the role of their team and every team in the organization, and how it all comes together to deliver exactly what the buyer is expecting.
A quality culture is motivating. Defined procedures liberate the mind to innovate. They take ownership. People ask,
• “I understand my job, how can I make the process better?”
• “Can I substantiate (quantify) the benefits of what I propose?”
• “How can I learn more about what I need to do my job better?”
When there is an entire company focusing on their work this way, people are empowered to create, innovate, and be accountable for their own performance. People get excited about participating in and contributing to, continual improvement.
When things go wrong (they always do), the entire team contributes to coming up with solutions. The solutions come from those most likely to create them. After all, no one knows a job better than the one who has been doing it for some time.
The benefits to the AV Company that complies with these standards, however, are well known. ISO9000 companies, for example, usually have increased revenue, market share, and customer loyalty due to their better customer satisfaction and flexibility in changing market requirements. AV Companies also have better profits. AV9000 has been adopted by many customers and hundreds of systems. It has proven to benefit users by assuring systems have verified compliance to specifications with minimal if any punch-lists. The Association for Quality in Audio Visual Technology, Inc.
(AQAV) is the non-profit organization that directly focuses on the ultimate customer, the AV User.
Since the ultimate customer is also the ultimate source of revenue to manufacturers, AV companies, and Technology Managers, then ultimately everyone benefits from this effort The AV9000/ISO9000 compliant company continuously researches and understands the customer’s needs and expectations. They communicate with the customer, eliminating surprises, despite the complexity of the technology. They overcome the tendency many AV companies have to obfuscate, or drift from the original scope of a contract because the technology itself distorts the original intent of the customer. They communicate the customer’s needs throughout their company, and measure customer satisfaction when the job is completed. The AV9000/ISO9000 company ensures a balanced approach to satisfying all the stakeholders involved (including the Technology Manager, the AV Designers, the Manufacturer, the Independent Programmer, the Project Team, etc.). The project is completed with every- one's reputation intact.
And because they do this, they often times get paid faster than their competitors.
The following twelve principles of management form the core values of an AV9000 Certified Company. The first eight address those embodied in the ISO9000 Standard for Quality Management Systems, and the last four address principles recommended for audio visual technology companies. Together, they provide a powerful compass for AV Technology leaders striving for excellence.
Is the working environment free of fear? Are they given the training and freedom to act? Does the leader go about every day finding something someone is doing right, and letting them know it? Does the team exert some control in the direction the organization is taking? Do they receive objective reporting on the effects of their actions? Is there trust?
People do not take well to change, and a dynamic quality-led company is always changing. People would rather workaround change, and stick to “that’s how we’ve always done it around here”. Technology companies, even small ones, are comprised of small units with work specialization: drafting, engineering, fabrication, etc. It’s easy to get lost in the technology and lose sight of focusing on what the client wanted in the first place.
When a properly trained, equipped, and motivated professional has the proper materials in synchrony with all the necessary information to know what to do with those materials, we say that “A-V takes place”. Getting all the above to happen takes active, participatory leadership.
Leaders communicate the unification and purpose in an organization. They provide the focus and the values for everyone to follow. They do this by establishing and reinforcing the organization’s objectives, creating an environment to foster their realization, and providing the proper resources.
People need to understand the organization’s goals and have the proper training and equipment to do the job. The more complex and multi-layered an organization, the more challenging it is to provide this direction in an unambiguous manner.
“Human Systems” get their direction and their motivation from the leader. The leader must understand the basics of human behavior, every bit as much as the AV engineer must understand what each component in an AV system requires in order to operate properly. The organization’s leadership must viscerally understand the quality principles, as well as the goals in order to communicate them to the team.
Beyond basic dignities and respect due every human, the leader learns and practices daily: Challenge, appreciation, and recognition. It takes time for the team to trust the leader, and the leader’s reaction to events provides the proof-of-performance in leadership skills. You can’t just “talk the talk”; dramatic actions speak so loud that the team can’t hear the words.
Quality results are achieved more predicatively, more quickly, with improvement, and at lower costs when the process is managed. It means applying the principles of system design on the human system. AV work is especially dependent on every team doing their job, and poor quality in any team ruins the reputation of the whole company.
Applying this principle for the first time requires that each member of each team be included in a benchmark session to determine what they normally do. What are the “inputs” and “outputs” for each process owner in each department? Does everyone in the team agree that this is indeed the process that they follow? Who approves the work? Do the people responsible have the necessary training and resources to do their job? What happens if that individual is not there? If someone needs to review a matter, is it defined exactly what it is they are reviewing for? What documents (or files) provide a record that a particular action was taken, and that a competent individual attests to its successful compliance?
Document the process, by written lists, flowchart, or other means.Then analyze the process. Is anything missing that is necessary to assure compliance with the original order, as requested specifically by the client? Can things be done in a more efficient manner by adjustments in the sequence of work, better information flow, more timely references, or timing the work differently? Are actions being duplicated, or erroneously expected to be done by other teams? Are more resources required to get the job done right? Does everyone understand their job, and the job everyone else is doing, so that they understand how they fit into the overall picture? Is accountability unambiguously defined, or are there undefined grey areas? Are there exceptions to the process, when a different process is required? Have decision ‘trees’ been described? Are there records that the process is being followed? Are there clear ‘handoffs’ from one process and department to another? Have risks, consequences, and impacts of activities on clients, vendors, and other interested parties been evaluated?
The Process Approach: think it, do it, constantly improve it. In the words of Philip Crosby, “Good things only happen when planned; bad things happen on their own”.
AQAV is non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation that is dedicated to improving the operational art of designing and installing audio visual technology. Engineered audio visual systems continue to become more complex and difficult to integrate. By focusing on the quality management of these systems, and of those who design and install them, we can benefit the AV industry and all its stakeholders: including clients and users of AV technology, AV designers and installers, equipment manufacturers, related construction and architectural firms, and the environment.