C-Suite Speak… “Quality”


Dr. Suresh Gettala is guest blogging on ASQ’s View from the Q this month, and he’s discussing “talking quality” with the C-suite.

As today’s senior executives continue to be inundated with analysis and recommendations from all departments fighting for their attention, getting that message of quality heard can be challenging.

Dr. Gettala provides several great tips…

  • Address both the long and short-term benefits.
  • Use metrics, shareholder and customer-related to be specific.
  • Make the economic case for quality. Prove quality as an investment, not a  cost.
  • Be a storyteller.
  • Highlight the Big Q by keeping a broad scope.

Here’s what I’ll add…

Respect their time.

One of the first things I learned about communicating with the C-suite is that they don’t have a lot of time. It’s not personal, but they’re probably not going to be as into quality or whatever it is you’re discussing as you are. They’re usually big picture kind of folks, and I think they appreciate it when we get to the point and offer solutions quickly. An Inc. article referenced the following:

“Half a minute is forever in a boring conversation. Studies indicate that on the phone, the listener is considering whether to exit or stick around every seven to 11 seconds. In face-to-face meetings, you get a little more grace–say, all the way to 30 seconds. If you are not constantly generating someone’s interest, you are losing him.”

Make connections – Connect to organizational goals.

Our brains thrive on short-cuts. We tune out sometimes when things aren’t interesting or it requires too much allocation of brain power at that given time.  But, also in that sense, our brains work by making connections. If we’re able to consistently draw connections to things like organizational goals, we’re more likely to have an active listener in our midst.  It’s more challenging to dismiss.

Identify risks – Sell them value.

The C-suite eats and breathes risk.  It’s their language, and they’re comfortable decision making in this space. If you identify the risks and offer a solution that brings value, you’re staying in their comfort zone and allowing them to do what they do best.

Always have a call to action – Present solutions & not concepts.

In marketing, you’re always reminded of the need for a call to action.  Without it, our brains don’t necessarily know that there’s something required.  Whenever we’re concluding and wanting something to happen, it needs to be clearly expressed and not implied.  What is it that we want to happen to fix this problem or address this issue or whatever it is? If more time is required for discussion and/or analysis, when can follow-up be scheduled and what specific information would they like to see? What’s next?

At the end of the day, make sure you’re conveying your message correctly and that it is received as such…