We have all encountered people at one time or another who regard quality management as being far too bureaucratic, – dominated by unnecessary processes and excessive documentation requirements. In many organizations, unfortunately, this attitude is the norm. That usually happens when top leaders within the company are not fully committed to quality management programs.
When a corporate culture lacks that firm level of commitment, it often defaults to compliance mode. “We will do what we have to do, because we have to do it. We don’t have to like it, but those are the rules.” Obviously, that kind of thinking leads to a minimalist approach in which quality programs cannot live up to their potential.
Quality programs drive better results to the bottom line, driving higher customer satisfaction (which in turn can drive higher sales), and improving processes to improve productivity as well as health and safety. Here are some tips that can help you to shift the thinking within your organization away from compliance mode and toward a mindset focused on quality and productivity.
Articulate Your “Why”
By nature, most people don’t like to follow processes. That is especially true if they don’t believe those processes have purpose or meaning. In a compliance-oriented culture, there is typically a disconnect between quality management systems and the people whose jobs are directly impacted by those systems. The journey to correcting this problem begins with clearly articulating your “why”.
While people may not always want to follow processes, we all like to believe that what we are doing matters. That can have a tremendous impact on the way we approach the details of our work.
In their best-selling book Extreme Ownership: How US Navy SEALs Lead and Win, authors Jocko Willink and Leif Babin lay out twelve strategies for effective leadership. Strategy #3 is “Believe”. Leaders need to believe in their mission and clearly articulate the reasons behind it to their teams.
If front line troops understand why they are performing a particular mission in a particular way, they can be fully engaged. They are longer just taking orders; they are co-owners of the mission. That may sound like a subtle shift, but in fact it is a game changer.
Quality initiatives drive higher productivity by taking friction out of the process. Variability drives friction in the form of defects and other exceptions that result in re-work, or wasted effort and materials. Identify the failure points, and you have a place from which to start improving productivity.
Take the time to clearly define your “why”, articulate it to members of your team, and follow-up to make sure you have been clearly understood. This can require some persistence and you have to repeat your message multiple times, but it works.
Make Life Easier for Employees
Although quality programs ultimately remove friction and increase productivity, – they also require some effort in their own right. Ultimately, the outcome will be a net gain in productivity, but it often takes some time before employees recognize that.
Effective quality processes should be as easy as possible for employees to use. Any process that is too complex or time-consuming will generate resistance among the people who are intended to use it.
Flexible, configurable QMS software makes it possible to design processes that fit the way people work, rather than requiring employees to conform to a pre-defined process structure that does not suit the way they do business.
By transitioning from paper-based systems to online and lightweight mobile apps, quality managers can make it easier to follow processes, document issues, and record important information in a way that enables it to easily flow to the people who need it.
Measure, Monitor, and Improve
Everyone in your organization should have visibility to key metrics and understand how quality management has contributed to positive outcomes. In other words, report your successes and make it very clear how quality management has supported those results. II and I
Define your metrics in advance, and make sure you have mechanisms in place to record and report that information frequently and consistently. Flexible, configurable QMS software makes this substantially easier as it can makes data collection easier and more efficient. It also ensures that data conforms to a standardized format that easily lends itself to consistent reporting.
By measuring and reporting results, quality managers can help employees complete the picture, connecting the dots between the initial “why” conversation and improved productivity.
If your organization is aiming to move away from compliance mode and build a culture of quality and productivity, contact us. We’d love to talk about your quality initiatives and see how we can help.