CINCINNATI — One of the advantages of membership in Excellence Alliance Inc. (EAI), based in Hebron, Ky., is the number of surveys that are available for contractor members to give to employees and customers.

Jim Norris, outgoing president and CEO of EAI, spoke on the topic of surveys at the organization’s Spring Manager’s Meeting. He explained how the surveys are compiled and how the information can help business owners.

“This is how we get better,” said Norris. “Our customers and employees should tell us where we need to improve.”

The survey form is filled out by the employee or customer and sent directly to EAI. The organization can get the results back to members within a few weeks, according to Norris.

Norris acknowledged that a lot of information can pour in from surveys, and the amount can be somewhat overwhelming. EAI only uses certain information that appears throughout the returned surveys.

“We are going to make progress by taking small steps,” he stated. “That’s why we identify the top three items on the returned surveys.”

The objective of each survey is to create three lists:

1. Open items — all of those items that have been identified as “opportunities for improvement” (OFI).

2. Current items — all OFI that are being addressed.

3. Resolved items — all OFI that have been corrected.

Breaking It Down

EAI breaks down the information for its contractor members, identifying areas that can be improved. “My gut feeling is that if 20 percent or more of respondents ‘disagree’ or ‘strongly disagree’ with a question, then you have a problem,” said Norris.

The survey is also a way for contractors to learn if employees have a clear-cut understanding of their job functions. “If one-third of your people don’t understand what is expected of them, you have a problem,” Norris said.

Norris said that OFI issues are selected based on the following criteria:

  • Which OFI presents immediate danger to the company?

  • What happens if we ignore or postpone action? Can the OFI be postponed?

  • Which OFI offers greatest benefit to employee attitudes and morale?

  • Which OFI can be addressed and resolved quickly?

  • How can we achieve some immediate success?

    Once OFIs have been resolved and a new process or procedure is put in place, attention returns to selecting a new item for action.

    Norris believes that the employee and customer surveys should be done every six to nine months and that contractors should expect resolution of an average of 10 to 12 items. He asserts that the beauty of the survey lies in the fact that the information is processed by an outside party.

    “People will not tell you what you want to hear because they tell you face-to-face,” said Norris. “They are more comfortable sending in the survey because some fear that their handwriting will be recognized, too.”

    For more information on leadership changes announced at the EAI Spring Manager’s Meeting, visit

    Publication date: 06/30/2003