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Arron Angle

Management

Is Quality a Factor in Considering Your Company’s Organizational Health?

Behavior-based quality: How do you act when no one is looking?

Published: Monday, June 7, 2021 - 12:03

Iwas talking to a friend recently, and the subject of organizational health came up. With my quality background my ears perked up, and I asked him to explain what he thought organizational health meant.

The friend went on for several minutes explaining that organizational health was all about six main sectors of a fishbone diagram which he described as: policies, experience and knowledge, process safety, operational reliability, engagement, and occupational health and safety. Of course, each bone of the “fish” contained sub-elements that expanded the definition of each sector. Health, he said was the measure of cultural awareness, management attention, focus, discipline, and training afforded to each element and sub-element.

All remarkably interesting, I thought, as I queried back to him about organizational culture and why specifically quality was not noted as one of the bones of the “fish” when safety was. The blank look on his face told me all that I needed to know about his and most people’s perception of organizational health. While the elements and sub elements on which he opined where all relevant and proper, the lack of noting quality as an important ingredient to organizational health was stunning to me. Of course, I am an advocate of a culture of quality. More specifically, I am an advocate for behavior-based quality (BBQ). Perhaps from my book Unleash Quality (ASQ Press, 2019) and various articles on the subject, one might suggest that I am the instigator of the term BBQ. So, it only comes naturally to me to think of quality as a behavior (like safety) and quality as a cultural necessity in any company, line of work, small business, or profession.

So why is quality missing from my friend’s definition as well as most companies’ consideration when measuring organizational health? There are several factors to consider. The first that I would offer is that historically quality was generally relegated to manufacturing as a review activity to weed out rejects (inspection); more recently service organizations got involved in quality as a way, again, to measure output goodness (inspection). As industries matured over the years various consortia gathered to set standards that provided guidelines to achieve (assurance) of quality effectiveness in product and process. Some of these standards became global in nature. This led to expanding a sort of quality thinking in engineering development that I will call design effectiveness or integrity. Still, it was up to the factory and the service organization to render quality “into” the product or process.

Cost drove companies to consider other approaches to improving quality. Six Sigma and lean were born to lower cost and improve throughput. Quality was often not considered in this as making bad product faster and cheaper were the driving forces in many companies that were not willing to put forth more effort into taking a 90-percent efficient process to higher numbers because the diminishing return on investment was hard to justify to top management.

Now about top management: Most of executives come out of engineering, finance, or sales or a combination of those disciplines. Certainly there may be an occasional manufacturing-oriented person put in the corner office. Note that quality is seldom taught at the college level or even as a career path. Thus, it should not be much of a surprise that those that reach the corner office from these disciplines have little understanding of quality practices or policy. Their primary interest when an issue comes up is “fix it,” often with the focus on corrective action and little regard to root causes or long-term prevention.

While a company may be culturally aware and strong in a culture of behavior-based safety, the connection is often missed with quality. Safety can be a cause of poor quality and quality can be a factor in poor safety. In this writer’s opinion they are intrinsically related as both are about behaviors. Meaning, what do you do and how do you act when no one is looking?

The answer related to quality behaviors originates in adherence to the interaction of three simple tenants of behavior-based quality, specifically: compliance, prevention, and improvement. Compliance would be the conformance to all requirements. This means industry standards, design specifications, customer requirements, processes and procedures, industry or governmental rules and regulations. Prevention means that once you discover an error in any one of the requirements noted above you determine the root cause, and design and implement corrective action to prevent it from reoccurring. Finally, when prevention is accomplished, you have the opportunity to improve the product, process, or procedure to reduce cost and improve throughput. The culmination of the interaction of compliance, prevention, and improvement will bring positive results to the financial bottom line of the business. These three tenants are so interrelated that not including one of them in the BBQ process or even doing improvement before compliance or prevention will not achieve the sustainable results that are possible.

But wait, how do we get there? The answer is through education. Quality needs a place in the college curriculum for the future executive to have a basic understanding of the quality behaviors that drive profit to the bottom line. Moreover, this education process needs to promote that quality lives in every department within a company. Specifically, every department can make a quality contribution to the bottom line by defining what a reject means in their department, how to prevent it, as well as how to improve upon it so that there is a financial gain that comes with reject reduction and improvement. Sales, marketing, human resources, accounting, engineering, and finance are all able to make a quality contribution to the company’s financial bottom line, just as manufacturing and service departments do.

Understanding this, an executive can then be an advocate of behavior-based quality and promote and insist upon its implementation down into and within his organization. The quality professionals in the company can assist in this cultural transformation, but it is not their responsibility to make the change. The cultural change has to come from every employee in the company. Most important, it needs to be led and promoted from the top.

Still dubious about BBQ? If your company, or a friend’s company, has a culture of behavior-based safety and you have seen positive improvement in total recordable incident rates, then why would it be a stretch to think that improvement would not be found in a culture of behavior-based quality? If you are not sure how to get there, I’ll offer a shameless plug for the book Unleash Quality. The book will provide a rationale why quality is important as well as an easy-to-follow road map on how to implement a culture of quality.

Safe travels on your journey to bring quality into the discussion of organizational health.

Discuss

About The Author

Arron Angle’s picture

Arron Angle

Arron Angle has built a broad spectrum of experience in mid-level to executive roles ranging from Operations, Supply Chain, Quality, Engineering and Project Management, coming from a background in industries ranging from high-tech commercial and consumer electronics, network communications equipment, to light and heavy manufacturing in the energy sector. This has allowed him to develop his critical thinking skills to understand an organization’s strengths and weaknesses; identify external threats and opportunities; define and adopt strategies to changing conditions while developing initiatives to achieve organizational goals and objectives. His educational background includes a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Technologies with a Master’s degree in Systems Management. The combination provides a unique perspective of the integration of supporting system processes that bring about profitable results. Mr. Angle is the author of the book “Unleash Quality, Build a Winning Strategy for a Culture of Quality that Will Unleash Your Growth and Profit,” published by the American Society of Quality.

Comments

Quality is fundamental to any

Quality is fundamental to any organization. Without quality, it would not be possible to even begin to manage safety. Process safety is something that is even higher up the ladder. Culture is much more important than policies as a policy can be just a piece of paper in many organizations. Behavious-based Safety has turned out to be a "Big Bull Shit" in many organizations so hopefully BBQ will have a better fate. Yes, safety can be a cause of poor quality but quality almost always improve safety. I think BBQ has a higher chance of success than BBS but unfortunately most management is more focused on short-term profits.