Let me start this with two stories. Benin, my home country celebrated its Independence Day few weeks ago and as the customs demand, a state parade was organised.
This year’s celebrations were meant to be moderate (sober) and the parade, the first official event organised by the new administration, was for many a test. Benin is known as a country where every citizen feels entitled and even obliged to give an opinion on everything that happens.
As usual, social media was a major communication tool to have people voice out their comments on the organisation of the parade and even on the dress code of the officials. The only comment that got everyone in agreement was the perfect organisation of the parade.
Timing was, for the first time in our history, respected and as said an analyst, “this isn’t right; we are not used to such a zero-defect organisation”. Second story: A few months ago, I was invited to a television show in Kigali and asked to arrive at the studios at 4pm. The recording actually began around 5.30pm.
As I was mad at the long wait, the host explained that they gave me that time because people usually come late and they had not expected me to arrive at exactly 4pm. You might probably not straight away identify the link between the two above stories, but what strikes me here is the way, we, Africans usually consider things that are quality-oriented. Many have the mind-set that quality is not just for us because we are Africans.
What is more painful is that being quality-oriented is considered as not “normal” and not “African”. It is true Africa is known for many stereotypes. It is also true that most of these stereotypes are baseless with no fundamentals. But what is also so evident is the fact that Africans themselves have been made to believe that we cannot aim, do and achieve anything that is of quality. And this is a real shame.
It is, therefore, time we all put together more efforts to change that mind-set. For instance, that the Directorate of Immigration and Emigration has been for several years described as the best service provider in Rwanda. Everyone basically agrees with that.
The question, therefore, is why can’t the other institutions reach that level of service? What makes the Directorate of Immigration and Emigration so different? Are the people working there not the same as other Rwandans offering shabby service in other places, and giving us the shameful excuse of “Ihangane”? Quality service requires that leaders at all levels, both in public and public institutions, to aim at quality from the beginning and establish unity of purpose and direction.
Quality can only be achieved if our managers create systems and conditions in which people are engaged in achieving the organisation’s quality objectives. In fact, quality does not happen just like that. It needs to be thought through thoroughly.
In all our institutions in Africa, quality requires a management that ensures that its organisation, product or service are consistent and respect a certain level of standards. Quality management, therefore, has four main components: quality planning, quality assurance, quality control and quality improvement.
Quality management is focused not only on product and service offered to customers/consumers/citizens but also, and maybe, to a large extent, on the means to achieve it. You cannot dream of quality if you do not give yourself ways and tools to achieve it.
This includes human resources, systems, standards, discipline, supervision, sanctions, among others. So, attaining quality requires just more than a wish. If we aim at reaching quality in all we do, and at all levels, it is paramount we also learn how to manage quality by instilling in our processes quality assurance and quality control of our processes to achieve consistency.
If it is mystery-shopping experiences that will help you see through the process of service offered in your institution, you better go for it. If it is training, you need to invest in your people. In all areas, successful people and organisations need an on-going focus on improvement. We can and should improve on ourselves and on our processes every day. Attaining the desired quality might be difficult, but you need to start and many others will adhere to those standards.
Quality, therefore, is in our own hands. Don’t wait for others. Start today.
The writer is a customer service consultant and the publisher of The ServiceMag