Most SMEs these days have a quality department, or at least have a quality manager, and can demonstrate to some extent that they have some processes in place to ‘guarantee quality’. However, if the company’s culture is that quality, and more importantly continuous improvement, reside with the quality team then you are likely to be describing quality compliance rather than excellence.
The quality manager is the gatekeeper, the coach, the shepherd and the champion, but they alone are not responsible for quality. The quality manager’s role is to inspire a passion for excellence, to instil those principles throughout the organisation, to coordinate a consistent approach and to monitor the effectiveness of systems for delivering that mission. The delivery of quality therefore doesn’t just succeed and fail with your quality department, it is part of a company-wide mission driven by the day to day approach and philosophy of all employees.
Implementing quality checks, routinely ensuring compliance with external requirements and sustaining certifications to accredited management systems does not define a quality-centric culture, it describes a compliance-centric one. Standing still in today’s market is as good as going backwards, and making sustainable service delivery improvements will only be delivered once every individual has a shared passion, ownership and drive to make incremental improvements to processes and outputs.
This realisation is at the heart of what drives successful continuous improvement, market leading quality and sustainable growth for an organisation. It is not simply a set of processes and procedures obeyed to the letter, it is a culture. Mission, vision and value statements often refer to being the best in class, and quality statements often refer to quality being a function of everyone’s roles; however, making this reality is often the biggest challenge an organisation can face. We identify four fundamental building blocks on which excellence can be built:
Platforms should be given, and voices heard. Collaboration and inclusion are the greatest tools to create and maintain a culture. Simply taking people on the journey with you isn’t enough to deliver sustainable cultural change: they must help shape the journey too. Ensure through every step of the process from inception to delivery and on through to measuring its effectiveness, employees feel they play an integral part and not simply that it’s something that is done to them.
Value adding roles
Every role and action within an organisation should add value to the overall service delivery. If it doesn’t then why is it there? Every individual should recognise and understand they are contributing to the overall mission of the organisation. Famously, when asked what his job was, a janitor at NASA once replied, ‘I’m helping put a man on the Moon,’ and it is this sense of contribution and belief system that is required to deliver excellence.
Organisational cultures are set by the behaviours of senior managers and leaders. Simply placing responsibility with the senior managers for quality within their own department doesn’t deliver the overall objective of shared responsibility and so a balance between defining formal responsibility and providing mentorship must be found to ensure senior managers understand and embrace the relationship of inputs and outputs across departmental silos.
Never compromise or undermine the company values: practise what you preach. The saying may have been around longer than any management philosophy but for good reason. There is no more fragile aspect of a culture than the integrity of the vision itself, and a compromised value is not a value at all. If an organisation sets out to create a quality-centric culture then all aspects must be upheld, championed and delivered regardless of external pressure to do otherwise.
Whether an organisation chooses to perform value stream mapping, implement lean philosophies or deliver other continuous improvement programmes in a drive to achieve excellence, sustainable quality improvements are not simply a project or programme, they are a company-wide mission and a culture. If you face challenges with your quality culture, change management or business improvement initiatives, contact us today to see how we can support you.