A good business leader strives to run an organization in which everyone shares a common vision, understands the role they play in achieving that vision, and aims for continuous improvement. When everyone is pulling in the same direction, things just seem to click.
That kind of organizational culture doesn’t happen by accident, though; it has to be built from the ground up, with clear intention. The effort is well worth it. When everyone in a business is aligned around common goals, good things happen.
Quality is one of those truly essential topics around which employees should be aligned. What does that really mean, though? Here are some key elements of a well-aligned quality culture:
- Our team has a clear definition of quality. That definition begins with the customer’s perspective and extends to that of regulators, safety officers, and other key stakeholders. Quality standards must be clearly discernable and measurable; subjectivity should play little or no role.
- We agree that quality is important. Our team shares a common commitment to continuous improvement and is willing to devote the time and energy to making it happen. We listen to stakeholders and seek to understand what is important to them.
- We agree that quality requires everyone to follow repeatable processes. Consistent, repeatable processes are the foundation upon which quality is built; but merely designing processes is not enough. Employees must understand why those processes are in place, and must have a shared commitment to following them in their everyday work.
- We agree that continuous improvement requires systematic monitoring and feedback. To do quality right, organizations must have systems in place to measure, monitor, and improve. In some organizations, feedback is viewed as an unwelcome intrusion; but in a healthy quality culture, everyone understands that an effective process requires that feedback, and a willingness to recognize and correct deficiencies.
Benefits of a Well-Aligned Quality Culture
When those shared values are in place, a healthy quality culture can thrive. That has a number of different benefits, all of which have positive financial implications. While a few of the items on the list below may be easier to measure than others, they all deliver clear and valuable benefits to any organization.
Reduced waste: Consistent, repeatable processes built in accordance with sound quality management principles will reduce the number of product defects. When finished goods or materials must be scrapped due to nonconformance, that directly impacts the bottom line. Other forms of waste include production capacity allocated to re-work, or time and money spent on returns management and shipping replacement product.
Improved safety: For obvious reasons, the health and well-being of workers is a top priority for any organization. Quality management results in improved workplace safety because it is built around the premise that good processes produce good results. In most industries, product safety is also improved. That impacts customers, vendors, service providers, and end-users. In many organizations, the element of product safety also has regulatory implications.
Operational efficiency: Quality processes not only improve the conformance of products or services, – they also provide opportunities to improve operational efficiency, as QMS is keenly focused on process design. When employees share a common commitment to continuous improvement, increased efficiency is an inevitable byproduct.
Higher customer satisfaction: When you mention the word “quality”, what comes to mind for most people is the end product. In other words, is the customer satisfied with it? Fewer defects and fewer product returns are naturally linked to higher levels of customer satisfaction. High customer perceptions of your product quality result in a positive brand reputation and subsequently, increased revenue.
Pride in workmanship: This one is harder to measure, but for many people it is perhaps the most important item on this list. Employees typically enjoy their work when their work when they believe they are participating in something meaningful, – when they are part of a high-performance organization that is doing great things. That kind of culture drives higher employee satisfaction and lower turnover, resulting in and lower hiring and training costs.
Higher profitability: All of these benefits have implications for the bottom line, and an effective quality management program should measure and quantify the cost of quality and its effect on profitability. Success begets success, and when quality managers can demonstrate the financial benefits of QMS initiatives, it can further strengthen upper-level management’s commitment to nurturing and preserving a culture of quality in your organization.