We all know that quality is important, but quality initiatives sometimes carry less weight for others in your organization, especially if the resulting benefits are not visible to them on a regular basis. Effective reports help to communicate and establish the value of quality management activities. Just as importantly, reporting supports accountability by providing a visibility to the things that might not be working so well. That, in turn, can provide the basis for course corrections that ultimately help the organization to achieve its business objectives.
In previous posts on the Intellect Blog, we have stressed how important it is to draw the connection between quality management initiatives with overall business objectives. We have emphasized the importance of communicating your successes, – and your failures too, so that you can improve as an organization. Effective reporting serves as a kind of scoreboard, – a mechanism to ensure that everyone in your organization understands the impact they are having on key business objectives, and can engage with others in the business to affect continuous improvement.
In order for quality management reports to be effective, though, they must be relevant, accurate, and timely. In other words, you must reach the right people with the right information so that they are empowered to act promptly, and with maximum effect.
Which Information is Most Relevant?
In a sense, reports serve as a kind of communication. As with any other mode of communication, it’s best to begin with the age-old advice, – “know your audience.” Focus on giving your colleagues the information they need to be effective. At the same time, be careful to avoid overloading your audience with too much information. This is especially important when you are providing reports to upper management. Brevity is a virtue.
For team leads and line managers who operate closer to ground level, reports should focus on those factors that directly impact the job at hand. How is the team evaluated? What are the top-level objectives that management has established for them? What kinds of compliance audits are they subject to? At this level, quality reports might include things like the number of open non-conformities, or the number of non-conformities closed within the last week or month.
Avoid getting lost in too much detail, though, as an excess of information can sometimes obscure the things that are most important. In their bestselling book Extreme Ownership, for example, Navy SEAL veterans Jocko Willink and Leif Babin describe working with manufacturing plant managers who had devised a highly complex incentive scheme for their employees. To the managers’ dismay, the plan wasn’t having the intended effect. The authors advised them to replace it with a far simpler program that everyone could easily understand. Virtually overnight, the employees’ efforts were aligned with company objectives, and performance improved.
For colleagues who hold key positions in involving compliance, or in engineering and design; greater levels of detail are usually called for. In those types of positions, quality metrics have a great deal of importance, and attention to the particulars is critical. Find out what matters to this audience and make sure your reports are tailored to their needs.
Soliciting that kind of input, – that is, asking your stakeholders what information they need, – can be taken a step further. Extreme configurability makes it easy to design and implement new methods for collecting and managing data. Mobile apps and other data collection mechanisms can address virtually any element of a quality management process. Extreme configurability enables quality managers to work with others throughout the organization to define the right data and metrics collaboratively, then to put mechanisms in place to collect and analyze that information.
As you move higher up the chain of management, the focus for reporting may shift to a wider-angle view of the organization and its strategic goals. All quality initiatives should ultimately be aligned with those big picture objectives. Effective reporting is designed so that executive management can have clear visibility to the positive impact quality management programs have on the business.
Accuracy and Timeliness
Today’s technology makes it possible to gather data more easily than ever before, and to get it to the right people very quickly. As more companies replace their paper-based systems with mobile apps, online forms, and workflows; the movement of information has accelerated greatly. At the same time, accuracy has improved tremendously, as the kind of automation tools eliminate many of the common errors that arise from manually keyed information. Extreme configurability provides a distinct advantage for quality managers looking to improve the accuracy and timeliness of information.
If you’re interested in increasing transparency and building a quality culture in your organization, give us a call. We’d love to discuss your situation and learn how Intellect QMS can help you achieve your quality objectives.