5 Steps to Defining a True Culture of Quality
In his seminal book Organizational Culture and Leadership, Edgar H. Schein wrote: “The only thing of real importance that leaders do is to create and manage culture. If you do not manage culture, it manages you, and you may not even be aware of the extent to which this is happening.”
A good organizational culture is one of those things that is easy to identify, but exceedingly hard to create. It requires clarity of vision, alignment among key stakeholders, and effective communication from top leadership. Leaders who wish to foster a culture of quality must adopt an intentional approach, focusing on the best practices that have led to successful outcomes for the world’s leading companies. Here are some key areas to focus on:
Communicate Management’s Commitment to Quality
In organizations that are authentically committed to quality, management communicates its values clearly and frequently. Company leaders must express unwavering support for quality initiatives in their words and actions. This requires that C-suite executives first be aligned as a team; with a common understanding that quality drives both short-term and long-term success by increasing sales, improving customer satisfaction, lowering costs, and averting potential crises.
Clear communication of quality as a top priority is echoed in many of the following items in this list; but a common thread among world-class quality leaders is that top management communicates that commitment to quality on a regular and ongoing basis. It’s also important to explain why quality is so important and the benefits all employees and the company derives from a culture of quality.
Define Clear Quality Standards
Quality begins with a clear definition of expectations. Leading companies begin with an intentional approach to engaging with customers, understanding their needs, and identifying the factors that directly impact quality. By prioritizing key metrics such as the Net Promotor Score (NPS), organizations can establish a yardstick against which the overall effectiveness of quality culture can be measured.
The lack of clear standards, in contrast, can lead to a fragmented approach to quality and lack of direction for quality programs. In a 2014 report developed by Forbes Insights in association with American Society for Quality (ASQ), the lack of uniform quality standards was cited as a top challenge faced by senior management in global organizations.
Align Incentives Around Quality
Companies must not merely talk the talk; they must also walk the walk. When management aligns incentives to quality objectives, it sends a clear message to everyone in the organization that company leaders are prepared to stand behind their commitments with meaningful action. History provides us with far too many examples of projects that were rushed to completion, only to result in failure. When delivery deadlines and short-term margins take precedence over quality, it leads to an erosion of confidence in management’s commitment. Senior leaders may be perceived as paying lip service to quality. To avoid this and to create a true culture of quality, C-suite executives must be prepared to back up their words with actions, even when there is a potentially high cost.
Put Employee Recognition Programs in Place
Leading companies make quality visible by recognizing employees who demonstrate a commitment to quality in performing their everyday duties. The best of the best have put programs in place that enable employees to nominate their co-workers for outstanding performance as well. By incorporating quality into the evaluation process, setting individual targets and making those part of the standard performance review process; management sends a clear message that reinforces the culture of quality throughout the organization.
Empower Your Employees
Finally, companies that successfully foster a culture of quality empower their employees. In their words and actions, company leaders communicate that quality is everyone’s job; and that if an employee identifies a potential concern, they are encouraged to take action to rectify the situation. In a quality culture, it becomes easier to call attention to a problem than to sweep it under the rug.
Employee empowerment also means putting tools & technology in place that removes friction from the quality management process; making it faster and easier to follow important processes. At the same time, such tools & technologies enable better processes, more thorough documentation, and improved workflows throughout the organization.
If you are seeking to foster a culture of quality in your organization, we would love to talk. Contact us today to discuss your situation and learn how Intellect QMS can help.