Leadership shows up in different ways, with various personality types bringing different strengths and characteristics to the surface. Innovators have a reputation for creative energy and a powerful drive to make a meaningful impact on the world. Motivational leaders have charisma and vision, and a knack for communicating that in a way that inspires people to action. Strong managers are good at building organizations, cultivating talent, and bringing out the best in people. While some leaders exhibit more than one of these attributes, it is often the case that individuals are stronger in one of these key leadership qualities.
So where do quality leaders fit into this picture? What do creativity and innovation, motivation and communication, and good solid management acumen have to do with quality? The short answer is “everything”.
Quality Management is Fundamentally about Good Management
Good management is a combination of art and science. It allows the creative process to unfold, enabling innovation to happen through all stages of the value chain. At the same time, it exerts a necessary measure of discipline to ensure that processes are repeatable and consistent and that operations don’t turn chaotic and become unmanageable.
The science of quality management is in many respects a microcosm of management science as a whole. As a science, it’s driven by facts. Data collection and analysis provide the critical underpinnings of effective quality management processes. There is a level of rigor and discipline associated with this fact-driven approach that demands evidence to support the organization’s actions and decisions. If the ultimate goal is to do the things that work best, a relentlessly data-driven philosophy is important.
At the same time, good quality management practices aren’t merely about hard, cold facts. Effective management reserves an important place for the human element, understanding quite well that behind all of an organization’s processes are individuals with unique concerns and motivations. In fact, one can argue that the best aspects of quality management are about human excellence, – and that producing great products and services is ultimately about serving the needs of people. It’s about making, – and keeping, – promises to the customers who ultimately provide the funds to pay the bills.
While this might seem like heady philosophy to some, – it’s ultimately what drives meaningful results in any organization. Quality leaders can help shape a culture that strikes the delicate balance of art and science in its management practices.
Quality Management is About Innovation
When an organization has achieved high levels of maturity in its quality management practices, it has built a process for ferreting out defects, correcting and preventing problems in the future, and challenging members of the organization to strive for constant improvement.
Innovation often evokes images of visionary solo inventors, working assiduously to discover the answer to some critical problem. With a flash of insight, they suddenly see a clear solution that no one has ever identified previously. In another popular vision of the innovative process, a fortuitous accident often leads to the discovery of an opportunity that no one had seen before, – perhaps even solving a problem that no one had clearly identified up to that point. The invention of 3M’s Post-It pads is often cited as an example of fortuitous accidental innovation.
Although such examples do exist throughout history, the majority of innovations arise in a far less dramatic fashion. Modern organizations typically foster innovation by building cross-functional teams and providing them with opportunities to brainstorm together. Methodologies such as Design Thinking have emerged to systematize this process, engaging people’s creative juices within a team context, encouraging “out of the box” thinking while providing adequate structure and direction to support results that are useful in the real world.
Quality management, likewise, has established methodologies around continuous improvement and valuable feedback loops that are essential to innovation. Companies that actively seek to understand the needs of their customers, solicit feedback, and pursue ways to improve their products and services will be at a clear advantage in the race to develop better innovations.
Quality Management Fosters Better Employee Engagement
Finally, quality management supports the broader objective of strong employee engagement. When an organization is obsessively attentive to the needs of its customers, that philosophy is infused in workers at all levels throughout the company. Quality leaders contribute to this process by understanding the motivational aspects of quality management, – and the fundamental need for people to find meaning in what they do.
Most people naturally seek meaning and purpose in their work. In organizations with a strong culture of quality, employees intuitively see a direct connection between their day-to-day activities and the positive impact those activities have on the lives of their customers. When employees understand how they make a difference, they are far more likely to “go the extra mile” in making sure things get done properly.
That commitment to quality typically flows from the top of the organization, – from executive managers who regularly talk about the importance of quality, who recognize employees’ contributions to quality at company meetings and awards ceremonies, and who routinely prioritize quality as a non-negotiable promise that the company’s name to their customers.
For front-line employees, that commitment to quality often shows up in the way they attend to small details. In many cases, it is the small details that make the biggest difference, and a workforce that innately cares about its customers and takes pride in its work will inevitably be more engaged and committed.
Wherever your organization may be on its journey to quality excellence, Intellect would like to be there with you. We build software that helps companies of all sizes to implement and manage quality processes that conform to the way they do business. Our focus is on ease of use and extreme configurability. Our customers appreciate how easy it is to tailor our software to meet their exact business needs, – without specialized technical skills, and without custom programming.
To learn more about Intellect’s QMS software and find out how we can help you achieve quality excellence, contact us today for a free demo, or discuss your specific needs.
Now that you've learned about how quality leaders increase employee engagement, learn about how implementing a culture of quality improves employee engagement.