To effectively provide high-quality products, quality management must become part of each employee’s everyday thought processes. Market-leading companies can attest to the operational, branding, and bottom-line benefits of this approach. However, adopting an enterprisewide “how will this decision affect and improve quality mentality” is far more difficult than just sending out a memo. It must be strategically implemented into an organization’s culture over time.
The most efficient and successful examples of this are demonstrated by companies that have made quality initiatives an executive priority. Buy-in from the top works its way throughout the company until it’s ingrained in every worker, which is in contrast to traditional attempts at implementing quality via departmental silos. Support from the board of directors, in collaboration with the CEO and other executives, is critical for catalyzing cultural change and the viability of the initiative.
Below, I list specific steps board members, executives, and managers can take to propel their quality management initiatives forward.
Because the board of directors plays a significant role in setting strategic objectives and supporting the CEO, it can help build quality into an organization in the following ways:
• Permanently place quality management on the docket for each board meeting
• Make educated decisions by staying current on quality trends, emerging technologies, and regulations
• Develop a resource center with dynamic quality education courses, SOPs, and instructions
• Visibly advocate quality by walking around plants and attending both community and industry meetings
• Require that quality management metrics such as cost of quality be used in operations
Because CEOs are often the company’s internal and external figureheads, their decisions and actions have considerable impacts. CEOs can promote quality across an organization in the following ways:
• Assess and prioritize areas of improvement based on both internal and third-party quality audits
• Dedicate a portion of the annual budget to create an internal marketing plan for employees
• Develop a short- and long-term plan for internal education, process improvements, and capital investments
• Require departmental managers to report regularly on metrics and create plans for improvement
• Set rewards-based performance programs for quality improvements
Although executive buy-in may dictate whether these programs survive and excel, managers’ effectiveness and attitudes toward quality play a role as well. For instance, managers on the shop floor should be model quality proponents, wearing safety goggles, following SOPs, openly discussing the effects decisions will have on quality, and so on. Additionally, how these managers treat and interact with employees on a daily basis makes a significant difference. Stating that quality should be a priority in your department may not hold much weight if your management style is ineffective.
Ideally, once in full motion, workers shouldn’t feel as if they’re just another cog in the wheel. They should feel free to express their ideas on the topic. Only after a sense of ownership has been established on the ground floor will the benefits of the quality management initiative be experienced enterprisewide.
Companies today are building models of operational excellence that infuse quality into financial and operational objectives. Companies that are already building quality into the culture, even at a minimal level, have a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Recently, LNS Research published “Enterprise Quality Management Software Best Practices Guide,” which provides more information on taking a quality management approach to building a model of operational excellence.