By Don Buehler

The topics of “improvement” and “reality” are hot in our culture. During my career, I have worked at a number of companies that embraced “continual improvement.” These companies worked very hard to make this part of the culture. They would have training sessions, reminders, deadlines to complete projects, and a variety of tools and techniques. Unfortunately, in many cases, these efforts did not have the intended result. They didn’t change how we actually did things, and it was difficult to bring these tools and concepts into our daily reality.

At Export Solutions, we have embraced continual improvement as a core value since the beginning of our firm. Just recently, we had the opportunity to test this concept against reality.

One of our clients was not happy with the service being provided. When I spoke to their lead person, she gave me a number of reasons why we were falling short – most of which had to do with miscommunications between the client and our staff. I promised to look into the issues and get back to her.

The meeting I had with the key individuals on our staff could not have gone better. We faced the “facts” of how the client was feeling, and we identified the causes behind those feelings. We then established how we would keep this situation from ever recurring (the corrective action), and how we would fix things with the client going forward.

The details of the event are not important. What is important is how the staff responded to this event. No one blamed the client for feeling the way that they did. We looked at the facts, determined why this had happened, and established a new approach to meet the client’s expectations. During the whole process, our team was mature – not defensive – and we turned a bad situation into one where we restored, and even improved the relationship, with our client.

Many companies will never admit to any wrongdoing or fault. Beware! Facing the mistakes you have made, and establishing ways of permanently correcting those mistakes is what “real world” continual improvement is all about.

To quote one of my favorites: “This was their finest hour.

Don Buehler is founder and president of Export Solutions, Inc., a consultancy firm which specializes in helping companies comply with ITAR and EAR.