One of our favorite quotes comes from legendary organizational culture guru Edgar Schein, who asserts that “The only thing of real importance that leaders do is to create and manage culture.” He goes on to say that “If you do not manage culture, it manages you, and you may not even be aware of the extent to which this is happening.”
Here on the Intellect blog, we have written a lot about creating and nurturing a culture of quality. The problem though is that culture is nebulous. It’s hard to measure. In fact, it is often hard to even understand all the nuances and dynamics of organizational culture. In the world quality, we are accustomed to collecting and analyzing hard facts. Cultural issues simply don’t seem to lend themselves to that kind of analysis.
First, Acknowledge the Challenge
So how can you assess your company’s culture of quality? The first step, perhaps, is to acknowledge the difficulty of assessing culture at all. As with any measure of soft skills, sentiments, or personality traits; assessment of your company’s culture of quality can be elusive. But there are some well-established ways to discern the key areas where your company culture is thriving and where it is falling short. Collecting and understanding information about your corporate culture is too important to ignore. Here are some ideas that can help you assess your quality culture.
We are all familiar with the practice of conducting an annual employee survey to take the pulse of workers’ sentiment throughout an organization. These can be challenging, though, because employees often approach these surveys with an unspoken concern that any negative comments may be held against them. That can lead respondents to give more positive answers than they otherwise would, – or to focus on getting the “right” answer that’s most likely to please management. It’s critically important, therefore, that employee surveys be conducted with an absolute commitment to anonymity. Using an outside firm to conduct such surveys and collate results can be a big plus in this respect.
Companies need not wait to conduct an annual employee survey, though. It can often be effective to use a shorter set of focused survey questions instead. A survey that is devoid of questions about an employee’s direct supervisor may be more likely to elicit an honest response.
Here are some examples of statements that can be ranked by survey respondents on a disagree/agree scale, which can help assess your company’s quality culture.
- - I am proud of our company’s product and the difference we make in people’s lives.
- - Our quality management processes serve an important purpose in helping to deliver great products and services.
- - I feel comfortable offering my ideas to improve the quality of our product and our work.
- - Cutting corners on quality is occasionally necessary to reach our production goals and product release timelines.
- - Our team is constantly striving to discover better ways of doing things.
You might also consider asking questions that call for narrative responses:
- - What adjectives might you use to describe our company culture?
- - What makes you proud to work at this company?
- - What would you change about our product?
While many employees may gloss over these kinds of questions, – the answer is you do get can often be enlightening.
Management by Walking Around
It’s also important for management to make connections with front-line employees whenever possible. This can take the form of “management by walking around” (MBWA). It’s no accident that MBWA originally emerged at Hewlett-Packard, famous for its focus on quality. Toyota, also noted for its pioneering practices in quality management, promoted the similar concept of the gemba walk throughout its factories.
The same kind of questions that might be asked an employee survey can provide a rich source of fuel for interesting conversation with workers throughout the company. Not only does this help management to gain visibility into sentiment throughout the organization, – it also provides an opportunity for employees to raise issues and concerns directly with top management.
There are multiple reasons why employees may choose to leave a company, – but a high rate of turnover almost always indicates an organizational culture that is lacking something important, – or which is at best mediocre. As a rule, employees’ value organizational culture over most other factors, including compensation. While a strong organizational culture cannot make up for everything, – it can go along way toward maintaining a stable, loyal workforce.
It is an especially good practice to engage in routine exit interviews with departing employees. In most cases, outgoing employees have little to lose and providing an honest assessment of the company, its managers, and its corporate culture. Consider making exit interviews a standard part of your employment termination processes.
Net Promoter Score
Finally, there is the question of what customers think about your company and your product. The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a simple and very effective way of measuring this. NPS simply asks “Would you recommend our company or product to others?” The beauty of this metric is that it’s simple and it focuses on what matters most. After all, quality is ultimately defined by the customer. NPS isn’t necessarily a definitive measure of a company’s culture of quality, but it provides a key indicator of whether or not your organization is effective in meeting its quality goals.
If your organization is aiming to create and nurture a culture of quality, Intellect would love to help you achieve that vision. We offer QMS tools that streamline quality processes, automate workflows, and can be tailored to fit exactly the way you work. Contact us today to learn how Intellect’s QMS platform with extreme configurability can help.