After a few years of applying a Deming approach at Riverside Primary School we finally worked out that the customer is the next person in the process.
This makes everyone a contributor (supplier) and everyone a beneficiary (customer). Contributing and benefiting are important aspects of belonging.
This insight moves the thinking from fixed roles (supplier, customer,...) to dynamic (working) relationships. It also leads to a focus on the processes being used.
The usual debate about identifying the customer is often really about core purposes and whom these core purposes serve. See 'The Fisher King'
Why deployment flowcharts work
Identifying the customer as the next person in the process is very consistent with the use of deployment flow charts. These flowcharts are very explicit about 'who is the next person' at every step in the process. Deming acknowledges Myron Tribus for the introduction of deployment flowcharts into quality practices.
With the next person as the customer the key question becomes: What can I do to make it easier for you (the next person) to do your job (your part of the process) well? This leads to satisfaction in what I do and in what I contribute to your success.
It works !! Effectiveness and efficiency with bells on !! And low stress as well: work becomes fun!!! We were able to deploy 97% of all available teacher hours to working directly with students. In this part of the world (Tasmania) the norm is 80 to 85% and anything over 90% is exceptional. As Principal of a school of 670 children I was able to teach 0.4 of a full teaching load. We achieved this by continuous improvement of our systems and knowing the supplier customer relationships within the systems.
The breakthrough came when we worked out who the students' customers were, namely,
Later on the students will have many other customers: their employers, clubs and community organizations....
Give it a try!! It is all about doing well and having fun!! These are the quality imperatives!