DISCUSSIONS AND CONCLUSIONS
The previous sections have presented some of the unique challenges that organizations today face. Issues and approaches that impact the formulation of a corporate strategy and thus the strategy of the quality function have been discussed. The essence of the discussion is that there needs to be a dynamic link between the formulation and implementation of a quality strategy as they may need to be revised based on updated information. With increasing global competition and rapidly changing tastes, needs, and desires of consumers, organizations are being forced to adapt strategies ever more rapidly to changing circumstances. In this section, we summarize some of the concepts discussed earlier and offer guidelines for companies that may lead to action items, the specifics of which may vary by the nature, size, and scope of the product or service. The section also suggests some pitfalls to avoid.
Proactive versus Reactive Role of Top Management
The traditional model of strategy development and implementation that prevails in organizations is a strategic plan that sets goals and objectives; action plans are then devised for implementation. Following implementation, measures are obtained of the degree to which customer needs and wants are met, and depending on the unmet needs, a feedback loop is created, which may lead to the modification of the existing goals and objectives. This represents a reactive approach by top management.
Given the pressure to reduce lead times for delivering products or services, a feedback loop that merely reacts to consumer needs may no longer be effective. Instead, organizations must increasingly think ahead and anticipate future customer needs. Planning for products or services to meet these needs will enable an organization to leapfrog its competitors. For example, consider the iPhone and iPad. Although personal computers have become ubiquitous in U.S. households, there is still a pent-up need for greater mobility with regard to the real-time accessing of information. Though the desktop computer has greater computing power, the average consumer is not necessarily interested in carrying out extensive computing calculations that require significant computing power or using application software. Instead, they seek access to real-time information through the Web with the mobility to do so from anywhere at any time. The physical dimensions of the product as well as wireless connectivity thus become important features. Given their ability to respond to these emerging customer needs, the two cited products have been able to capture significant market.
Forecasting future needs and wants of the customer is not an easy task. The data needed to do so is not typically obtained from routine customer surveys. However, a well-designed survey may ask questions about not only the degree of satisfaction associated with current product offerings but also desirable product features and attributes. Further, thought-provoking questions that capture unmet needs could be included. Excitement needs of the consumer are not easily identifiable. It is not uncommon for customers to recognize them only when they see how a product or service meets them. The vision of marketing personnel who analyze data on customer tastes and preferences and use this to anticipate future needs is thus important. Product-design engineers then have the task of creating products that accurately reflect these needs.
Obsolescence due to technological advancement is another issue to be considered by management. Such advances may require completely overhauling a product's design to incorporate the latest technology. In this context, other questions that will need to be examined include whether it will be necessary to redesign processes to create the newly designed product, if the current equipment is adequate, should more sophisticated machinery with better tolerances be utilized, and what additional technical capabilities are necessary of operating personnel. Again, addressing these issues in a proactive rather than a reactive manner will assist management in building and implementing cost-effective processes that allow the organization to respond quickly to a changing marketplace.
The use of product diversification as a path to increasing market share has been discussed previously. However, adequate research is necessary to identify specific new products or to incorporate new features into existing products. This again requires the accurate and timely forecasting of future or unmet needs and preferences of consumers. Incorrect decisions regarding future product mix may result in resource reallocation decisions that sway an organization to the brink of failure. The strategy process should consider consumer trends and relative competition. In the event that an organization's core competencies cannot address future consumer needs at a level that meets or exceeds that of competitors, senior management will have to consider other alternatives.