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Why Top Management is Key to Quality Management

By Paul Dionne on Mon, Aug 16, 2021 @ 09:47 AM

Intuitively, we all understand that there is a continuum of maturity in quality management practices that ranges from zero (that is, a company that has no quality management systems in place at all) to 100% (that is, a company that’s doing everything right and is an absolute champion in delivering quality products and services). Companies in the latter category include Toyota, HP, 3M, and others who have led the quality management revolution over the past half-century.
The late quality guru Philip Crosby developed a model for this continuum, which he called the Quality Management Maturity Grid (QMMG). Across the top of the grid, he outlined five stages of maturity ranging from Level 1 (which he called “uncertainty”) to Level 5 (“certainty”). Within each row, he described the characteristics exhibited by companies at various stages in the evolution of their quality management practices.
Not surprisingly, the top row in Crosby’s QMMG describes the role that a company’s top management plays in supporting a healthy culture of quality. In other words, in Crosby’s view, leadership attitudes and behavior with respect to quality are the most important consideration when it comes to assessing an organization’s overall maturity level on the continuum.
It’s also worth noting that the second row in the QMMG matrix also pertains to management; specifically, it addresses the relationship between an organization’s quality department and top management. In organizations that fall toward the left side of the QMMG grid, quality departments perform rote inspection tasks; they’re not strategic. In Level 5 organizations, in contrast, quality management is represented on the corporate Board of Directors.
Out of the six categories Crosby examines to assess organizational maturity, the first two stem from top management. Let’s take a look at leadership’s role within each of the five levels as Crosby defines them:


Crosby’s Five Levels of Quality Maturity
In Level 1, top management has “no comprehension of quality as a management tool.” To make matters even worse, they “tend to blame the quality department” for any issues that may arise. In a Level 1 organization, the quality department is “hidden within the manufacturing or engineering departments”, and their focus is on inspection and appraisal rather than on improvement.
Crosby refers to maturity Level 2 as “Awakening”. It is characterized by senior leadership that has begun to recognize the potential value of quality management practices, but remains unwilling to commit the necessary resources (time and money) to make it happen. While there might be some incremental improvements relative to a Level 1 organization, companies in this phase still remain focused on inspection and appraisal.
Level 3 is referred to as “Enlightenment”. This is the stage at which a company’s management begins to explore quality in more detail, learning more about the subject and warming up to the idea of investing in QMS. Notably, this is also the phase at which the quality management department begins reporting to top management. The quality team shifts from performing rote inspection and appraisal tasks, and instead assumes a more active role in the organization’s management.
As an organization climbs further up the QMMG ladder to Level 4 (“Wisdom”), top management takes an even stronger interest in quality and becomes an active participant in its management. They “understand the absolutes of quality management” and “recognize their personal role” in its continued emphasis. At this level, the company’s quality manager is elevated to level of corporate officer.
The highest stage of maturity, – Level 5, – is described by Crosby as “Certainty”. In this stage, top management considers quality to be an essential ingredient in their success as a business. The organization’s leading quality management executive sits on the company’s Board of Directors. Corporate leaders routinely talk about quality. They also recognize employees who contribute to it. This brings us to another key attribute of companies with a strong culture of quality: communication.


Quality Happens When Top Leadership Communicates its Commitment
Company leadership must include quality initiatives in their communications regularly. They must talk about its value, – it meaningful contribution to the bottom line. Top management must emphasize the need for strong standards, effective controls, and good data analysis. When everyone in the organization hears from the CEO’s own mouth that quality is a priority, and when they see follow-up actions to back up those words, then everyone in the company will follow suit.
Crosby’s QMMG grid also includes a row that describes the kinds of statements management might make about quality within their organizations. At Level 1, for example, they might say “We don’t know why we have problems with quality.” Mature organizations, in contrast, are more likely to say “We know why we don’t have problems with quality.” In a Level 5 QMMG company, members of the executive team can explain exactly why the business is performing so well with respect to quality; it matters that much.
Effective leadership also rewards behavior that supports priority goals. That means building incentive structures that reward contributions to quality and recognizing employees in quarterly and annual awards ceremonies. It means establishing quality as a non-negotiable attribute of the company’s products and services. Without that kind of vocal management commitment from executives, quality will simply fall by the wayside.


“Putting Their Money Where their Mouth Is”
Management commitment quality also extends to investment. Companies that are serious about quality management are willing to put money into its improvement, knowing that those investments will pay dividends on the bottom line. In immature organizations, management may attempt to achieve higher quality levels using short-term motivational efforts that don’t cost much, if anything. Those who are truly committed to quality invest in people and systems around which a process of continuous improvement can succeed.
If you’re seeking to develop a strong culture of quality and develop your team’s quality management chops, we can help. Here at Intellect, quality is at the heart of who we are; we live what we preach and our software shows it. Let us help you build a culture of quality within your. Contact us today to talk about how Intellect can help him.

Paul Dionne

Written by Paul Dionne