The Customer Is King – Not

Ishikawa Diagram

I first saw this in 1981 when I was at Motorola’s Training & Education Center. Also known as the Fishbone or Cause & Effect Diagram – Dr. Ishikawa created this in the 1950s in Japan. You used this model/ tool to determine the variables of a process so that you might see them holistically to determine root causes of Problems – if it was a combination of two or more variables – and not just simply one cause.

You could use this to look at one Process or many Processes – or to look at one component of a Process. Look at the D in DAMIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control), or the 1st D in ADDIE – (Analysis-Design-Development-Implementation-Evaluation) or the S in SAM (Successive Approximation Model) or the S in SAT (Structured Approach to Training) – all manner of other Process Models. Just kidding on that last example.

There are many Processes in an Enterprise – those that are part of the main Value Chain, and those that are not but are necessary too. Such as the Process that add value to the Enterprise Products & Services in the main value chain, or those support Processes that sends your pay to your bank account on time and in the right amount.

For Want of a Horseshoe Nail – the Kingdom was Lost, etc.

See a 2010 post of mine with that old poem – here.

My EPPI Version

Due to my development as a performance-based Instructional Designer – I wanted to determine all of the variables in the A in ADDIE so I could determine the elements of Instruction – and also (more importantly) determine when the Knowledge/Skills (or Awareness/ Knowledge/ Skills) were NOT the cause of Performance problems.

My version’s spine divides the enablers of Performance into Human Assets and non-Human, or Environmental Assets.

EPPI Fishbone 14 Variables

This diagnostic tool then aligns with making the needed Improvements – see the 2nd graphic down – which one might do – per the ROI of doing that, or the ROI might dictate “just living with” less-than-perfection.

Because sometimes it is just cheaper and more effective to live with issues – such as when the cost to fix a Problem that annually costs less than $1MM is more than $10MM.

Addressing that would lead to a negative ROI.

Addressing that is poor Stewardship of the Shareholders’ Equity.

The Big 3 Variables of Enterprise Process Performance

As this BIG PICTURE of EPPI graphic intends to portray those variables are:

  • The Process itself
  • The Human Assets
  • The Environmental Assets

And key to that is understanding the Stakeholders, including but well beyond the Customers and the Customers’ Customer.

It includes all of the Stakeholders and their Stakeholders. See side two of the above graphic next.

Stakeholders Are Key

Doing any Analysis (or whatever your Process Model calls this effort to understand targeted stuff) without understanding who pays the piper and calls the tune, is Partial Analysis.

They who “call the tune” are the Stakeholders  They set the Requirements – for Products of the Process – and of the Process itself – or the Processes themselves.

But Sometimes the Stakeholder Requirements Are In Conflict

Yes. That happens. I wrote and published an article about this – after getting caught by this in one of my Group Process analyses – for a client in the Defense Industry. Published in 1995 by the Journal for Quality and Participation – the title came from a discussion I had with one particular client about their refrain that “The Customer Is Always Right.”

That’s not true I found a way to gently say; a retort nonetheless.

And then I gave many examples. Including that two Customers might not agree with the Requirements. She was not moved. That night, in the hotel room, I began what became the following article.

The Customer Is King – Not! – 15 page PDF – the original version of the article published in the Journal for Quality and Participation in March 1995 – address Balancing Conflicting Stakeholder Requirements, and suggests that the Customer is Not the King of Stakeholders (despite the unfortunate slogans from the Quality movement despite Deming’s admonitions about slogans).

You can purchase the original article via ASQ for $10, or $5 if you are a member – here.

Who Is The King?

Who wins when there are conflicts? Or rather, who should win in terms of how people respond to conflicts?

It was my hope that any group could get a head of any Conflict Curve and pre-determine where those conflicts were – or simply be “at the ready” with some “balancing act” set of guidelines – to help them quickly determine “who wins and who loses” – for unfortunately – when Stakeholders’ Requirements do conflict, someone needs to win. and someone not.

Otherwise everyone gets stymied.

And to help decisions and trade-offs happen more quickly – this could be modeled by creating a graphic and posting it right over those “The Customer Is King” posters.

But as always – it depends.

Would Your Model Of Stakeholders In A Hierarchy – Look Like This?

With Social Responsibility being a BIG DEAL for some – would the needs of Society – what Kaufman calls Mega, superseding even the Government’s Laws/ Regulations/ Codes?

Or those of the Governments in all of the lands that you operate?


But I doubt it.

Or Is Your Hierarchy of Stakeholder More Like This?

Or Is Your Hierarchy of Stakeholder More Like This?

With No Government Laws, Regulations and Codes to meet?

Where is that viable?

But Guy – It Is Soooooooooo Complex!

Yes it is. OK?

But figuring that out – would be step 1 – figuring out what your situation holds, Stakeholder-Category-wise, and is there a hierarchy that holds everywhere – or are there different hierarchies in different corners of your Enterprise?

Then it would be to take each Category of Stakeholder – and detail out all of the Stakeholders in these Categories – of the model.

Then it would be to list all of their Requirements – for Products and Processes.

Then to find the conflicts – using a Matrix or some other means – to make it visible.

It’s not easy.

It’s Not Easy To Understand Stakeholder Requirements in a Complex Situation.

It’s just probably VERY necessary.

If you wish to understand who is calling the tunes of Requirements – and separate the correct signal from the noise.

Every Analyst should be able to do this – with a Group or one interview after another.

Some of My Books

And there are free Resources too – check out the Resources tab!

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