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Jim Verzino

Quality Insider

Nobody Plans for Poor Quality Management Solutions

Over time, harmless little decisions can derail a quality management system

Published: Monday, September 30, 2013 - 16:04

When I work with customers, I see all kinds of quality management systems. The performance of an environmental or quality system is consistently driven by people’s ability to make good decisions. Any good quality management system is the sum of the decisions made within it.

Each time we choose to sacrifice the good of the system for one person, or allow an ineffective, outdated legacy practice to continue, we take small steps toward lower and lower standards.

When we have a culture that puts quality and environmental attainment at a lower priority than feelings and keeping the status quo, slowly we make the hundreds of decisions that eat away at total performance.

What if that new practice can reduce our environmental footprint by 25 percent while simultaneously saving us money? It’s a no-brainer, right? But wait: What if the sales rep for the company who would be displaced from this change is a college roommate of the executive decision maker?

What if we all know the new corrective and preventive action (CAPA) system will operate much more smoothly than the current way of using a spreadsheet and email? But if we use the new system, a 25-year employee will have to find a new job within the group, or retire. Are we willing to make those kinds of decisions? Or maybe find additional creative solutions?

Every week tens, if not hundreds, of little decisions like these are made in a large company. Any one decision will not make or break the system. However, hundreds of decisions being made with a priority on entrenched personnel or ideas rather than the higher goals of continuous improvement will bring the system to its knees over time.

Now that we know this, what do we do with this information? Anywhere you are in the organization, a difference can be made. As a senior manager you can set the right priorities and act as an example to those in and around your group. This will start a virtuous cycle.

If you’re an engineer, you can begin to put practices in place and watch the results play out over time. Before you know it, you will be a hero. Occasionally the time lag between the improved priorities will be longer than management is willing to wait. This is the art of organizational navigation.

In the end, nobody plans to have poor quality or environmental performance. It sneaks up on us like the addict waking up one day and suddenly realizing the sum of so many bad decisions.

If this problem exists in your organization, the right time to start fixing it is now. If this problem doesn't exist in your company, count yourself lucky.

First published July 24, 2013, on the IBS blog.


About The Author

Jim Verzino’s picture

Jim Verzino

Jim Verzino has helped more than 50 companies implement Q-ESG (quality, environmental, social, and governance) management systems. These include tools for compliance to ISO 9000, ISO 14000, ISO 50001, the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), and the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). Verzino also works on reshoring IT jobs from overseas to rural and under-served U.S. communities.


A Nice Picture

A nice picture indeed, Mr. Verzino: whoever has (had) to honestly and professionally work with management systems has seen it, many times. It's many sand granules that make a beach, not the beach that makes them. Despite any predictability tools we dispose of and use, we are very seldom aware of the effects of our apparently meaningless actions. The old Zen wise man said "I pray god to be aware of any step I make". May be that when we consult on management systems should warn our customers of such risks.