Big SQUAD take-off: what we can learn from the Goldfish case


Last Monday, the fourth round of SQUAD was officially launched. The mission: to improve the quality of service and cooperation between the support services. Columnist Annemarie van Malsen wonders how this goal can be reconciled with all the “rules and procedures”.

The Auditorium, Monday morning, 9 a.m. For a moment, I feel like I’m at an amusement park. Two rough queues have formed at the door to the Blauwe Zaal. The door that is still being guarded by two space-suit-wearing astronauts (white overalls, cool cap, space helmet under their arm, American flag on their sleeve. No weapons from the looks of it). There’s entertainment in the form of coffee and tea with Barbie pink macarons.

Talk about an exciting start to the workday! But when the astronauts finally let us in, the Blauwe Zaal is nothing more than the Blauwe Zaal. We do get to witness a launch there: the festive take-off of the fourth round of SQUAD.

SQUAD stands for: Support Quality Drive. The mission: to improve the quality of service and cooperation between the support services. Some of the services have already completed such a cycle. In this fourth round, four services are taking up the challenge together: Education and Student Affairs (ESA), the Communication Expertise Center (CEC), General Affairs (GA) and Research Support & Valorization (RSV).

What do our “customers” (researchers, lecturers, students, colleagues, secondary school students, the public) need? Keynote speaker Sydney Brouwer tells a story of a young boy who wants to check in his goldfish Sammy at the gate of airline Virgin Atlantic. Instead of flat out refusing this request (rules are rules), the ground stewardess takes the plastic bag with the fish and tells its owner that Sammy will be given a special place on the plane. She then makes arrangements with her colleagues at the destination airport so that a Sammy lookalike in a plastic bag will be waiting for the boy at the end of the transatlantic flight. Bringing the real Sammy aboard the hold of an aircraft would have been fatal to the goldfish.

This is what we want, of course! Quality service, attention to the individual, empathizing with the customer, working together with colleagues to find a solution and getting even more enjoyment out of our work. And in doing so, not hiding behind - or being restricted by - bureaucracy and rules and procedures....

Yikes. Rules and procedures plus efficient, customer-oriented solutions? Worst case scenario when trying to buy a new goldfish at TU: first check with our preferred suppliers to see if they have a goldfish in stock, if not: search through our supplier list and if it doesn’t include a pet store: send a request to colleagues at procurement to create a new supplier. Once that’s done: enter the order into the system, and cross your fingers that the fish will be delivered alive within a week. And we haven't even considered the ethical check when purchasing and transporting live animals yet. All in all, there is plenty of work to be done and I look forward to taking on this quality improvement challenge with my colleagues. Maybe even simplify a few procedures. To infinity and beyond!

Annemarie van Malsen is a communications officer at TU/e’s Department of Industrial Design. The views expressed in this column are her own. 

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