Everybody loves the idea of quality; but when it comes to quality programs, some people are not quite so enthusiastic. That’s a tragedy, given the fact that consistent and pervasive quality programs invariably produce positive results, yielding higher profits and increased customer satisfaction. When quality programs are poorly understood throughout an organization, though, they may be regarded as too restrictive and excessively focused on rule-following, compliance, and seemingly meaningless processes.
World-class companies who are known for their high quality typically achieve their good reputations through hard work and the steady application of quality standards and programs. Top management talks about quality on a regular basis. Employees are recognized for their contributions to quality. Incentives are aligned. Employees are empowered to call attention to potential issues impacting quality. There is a culture of quality that permeates those kinds of companies.
That’s a high standard to meet, and it takes a lot of work to develop an organizational culture that embraces quality as a body of practices to drive constant improvement. For organizations that make the commitment and see it through to its completion, though, the effort is well worth it.
So what exactly is quality? It starts with developing a clear understanding of customer expectations. Quality programs must be oriented toward meeting or exceeding the standards that customers expect from your product or service. World-class quality leaders routinely solicit feedback from their customers, measuring things like their net promoter score (NPS) and asking “How can we be better?” That path leads to a clear definition of quality standards around which the entire organization can align.
The next component is a structured process. Successful businesses are built around consistent and repeatable processes,- that is, turning a good idea into a repeatable algorithm. Ray Kroc built a multi-billion dollar fast food enterprise around that idea. Every other successful business that has ever operated at scale has done the same thing; building processes that produce consistent results.
Quality is no exception; if you want to do it right, you need to standardize around repeatable processes. That means having a structured approach to defining quality processes, training employees to understand and follow them, monitoring and documenting outcomes, and handling exceptions when they arise.
The primary barrier to quality programs is the perception that such structured processes are excessively bureaucratic; that they serve little practical purpose but require substantial additional effort. A key factor, therefore, in establishing an effective quality program is the expression of a clear “why”. When every member of the team understands the reasons for quality processes, - when they can connect the dots between the process and the positive outcomes it produces, - then you’ll know you’re on the right track.
Empowering Quality Programs
Good quality programs are empowering. Just as Toyota revolutionized automotive industry by empowering employees to stop the production line, leading companies send a clear message to their workforce; “We care about quality, and you have our permission to take corrective action when we’re at risk of falling short.” That’s a strong message, and it has the power to change everything.
Companies can further empower employees by taking friction out of the process. By investing the right technology, organizations can reduce the burdens associated with quality programs while increasing their effectiveness. Mobile apps, for example, make it remarkably easy to document an inspection, giving the user a simple and effective way to record pertinent data and to attach photos or other supporting information to a record. Automated workflows ensure that employees can spend less time chasing down the status of an exception and focus on activities that actually add value.
At the same time, using the right technology leads to better outcomes. By moving away from paper-based systems, companies can collaborate more easily. They can document exceptions more thoroughly. They can eliminate paper-based systems in favor of digital records that flow faster and are more complete.
Ultimately, quality creates a virtuous cycle, driving a culture in which employees can take greater pride in their work. It fosters a stronger sense of meaning and purpose, motivating the organization to achieve better results in a spirit of continuous improvement. It establishes your company as an employer of choice,- a fulfilling place to build a career.
If you’re interested in driving a quality culture within your organization, we’d love to talk. Contact us to discuss your situation and learn how Intellect QMS can help you achieve your quality goals.