The LEAD Quality Process Model: LISTEN!

It’s no secret that here at CMW, quality is our top priority. We’ve shared with you before some of our best advice for making sure it’s a priority for your business too. But today, we want to show you one specific process model for ensuring quality — that’s the LEAD model. LEAD stands for

L: Listen
E: Evaluate
A: Answer
D: Deliver

Just four steps that, if done well, can save your project. Over a few posts, we’ll break down each step and show you exactly what we mean. As they say, let’s start at the beginning…!


  • What does the customer want? What are his or her conditions for satisfaction?
  • Define the requirements and/or problem.

First off, strong customer-supplier communication is integral to the quality of the final product. Note here that you are both a customer (to any supplier you use for your own resources) and a supplier (to your customer).

There are two types of customers in this situation: The Primary Customer and the Secondary Customer. The Primary Customer is the customer whom you must satisfy at this moment in time. They evaluate the quality of your work, they often have the power to stop/approve your work, and they may add value and pass on the product to others.

The Secondary Customer is other customers whom you must consider at this moment in time, and in the future. This includes the ultimate recipient of your products or services, so your work must be in alignment with each of their needs. They may also require different packaging of results than your Primary Customer.

Now that you know who your customer is, you need to listen to them; establish customer empathy. Here’s how:

  • Listen to the customer and let them talk
  • Get the background and clear expectation they have now
  • Create a connection with them that you really do care
  • Be understanding – they are the customer!
  • Present action(s) that will meet their expectations
  • Demonstrate to them that you heard them and, if required, acknowledge action to keep an issue from recurring

There are some questions that will help you further in this process. Learn to ask:

  • Who is my primary customer at this moment in time?
  • What must I do to meet their needs and expectations?
  • Does my customer understand their own needs?
  • Does my customer understand their customer’s needs and expectations?

This is where knowing exactly who your Primary and Secondary Customers are becomes essential — as well as recognizing your place in the customer-supplier chain. Remember, your roles will reverse within a single project. And at all times, you need to understand what the next link in the process chain needs to meet the requirements of the external customer…As a supplier, here are your (and your supplier’s) supplier responsibilities:

  • Survey customer needs
  • Discuss needs and agree on criteria
  • Negotiate specific service
  • Meet negotiated criteria and deliver product/service
  • Ask for feedback; “How Did I DO?”

As a customer, here are your (and your customer’s) customer responsibilities:

  • Understand and communicate the needs of your own ultimate customer
  • Respond to survey and articulate needs
  • Request service – negotiate specific service
  • Supply input that meets negotiated criteria
  • Supply feedback on satisfaction

As you can probably see, listening plays a key role in all of these responsibilities, because they’re about effective and thorough communication. You don’t know what you don’t knowso learn to ask, and prepare to listen. That way, you’ll know how to move forward — but that’s the next step…

Bonus Exercise: What Are Your Main Products and Services?

It can be helpful to map out exactly where you are in the process chain to orient yourself. Use this simple chart to list your top three of each category: the product or service you provide, your Primary Customer, the supplies/resources required to make that product or service happen, and your key suppliers.

Product/ServicePrimary CustomerResource NeedsKey Suppliers