Creating a Culture of Quality

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Creating a Culture of Quality

20 June 2012

To continually improve operations, satisfy customers and successfully achieve universally recognized accreditations such as Nadcap, it is important to have a company culture that is focused on quality.

Too often, the quality team is seen as an expensive obstacle to efficiency. But, as the saying goes, “if you don’t have time to do it right first time, you don’t have time to do it again”.

Establishing a company-wide understanding of the importance of quality and making it a cornerstone of the company culture is a critical step forward in aligning the organization to a shared vision of the future.

But what’s the best way to go about this?

The Current Situation

First of all, it is important to determine the extent to which a quality culture already exists in your organization.

Which of the following statements apply to your company?

1)      There is a sense that everyone is working together towards the same goal

2)      Everyone’s opinion is valid

3)      Information is shared on a need-to-know basis

4)      We work with our customers in a collaborative manner

5)      I am never made to feel like I’ve failed, only that I’ve had an experience I can learn from

6)      There is open communication among all staff levels and information is shared with everyone

7)      Everyone’s primary concern is that their own work is done right

8)      I don’t feel my opinion is valued; the boss is always right

9)      Failure and mistakes are not tolerated

10)   The focus at work is ensuring that processes work well

If you agree with 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 and 10 – congratulations! Your company is quality-focused and understands the value of bringing staff and customers together in a process-driven way to optimize the outcome for all parties.

If you agreed with any of the other statements, there is room to improve, and this article focuses on the desired attributes of a quality-oriented company culture.

The Goal

Next, you need to determine what the ideal quality-focused company culture entails. There are several critical success factors to creating a culture of quality:

Transparency and listening

An organization that encourages open, honest communication and clearly explains expectations is less likely to make avoidable mistakes that occur due to misunderstandings or lack of information. This is a multi-layered responsibility however: it is not just for Management to share information with staff but also vice versa; not just for the company to share information with customers but vice versa; and as part of that, good listening skills are key.

Empowerment and teamwork
Where staff feel empowered to challenge the status quo and are encouraged to work together and with customers, not only does the organization end up with a bottom-up approach that strengthens their processes through expert insight but also staff who are “bought in” to the strategic vision because they have been allowed to question it.

Personal identification with the company

Staff who feel that the company’s success is their success, and vice versa, tend to feel a sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare. These are not short-term attitudes, but are developed in environments where loyalty, retention, continual improvement and consistency are valued.

Focused on processes

Part of the Nadcap ethos is that the root cause of any problem is never human error. If you doubt this, consider: if the person who made the error was no longer at the company, would that eliminate the possibility of the problem recurring? The answer is almost certainly “no”. Consequently, blaming individuals for problems is not the way forward for a quality-focused organization; identifying process improvements to mitigate risk is a better approach.

Closing The Gap

So if your organization is not quality-focused, what can you do about it? Many companies and individuals fall into a natural rhythm of “how we do things here”. That has some value but needs to be challenged sometimes to avoid silly oversights. Some easy ideas to promote quality in your organization are suggested below.

Clearly identify and share the goals of the organization

This can be done through performance appraisals, which will help staff understand how their own objectives are linked with those of the company

Ensure there are effective, consistent processes in place

Have procedures available where they are being used. A central notice board may be good for flow diagrams for some key procedures such as non-conforming material or process change requests

Encourage interdepartmental teamwork

Short or medium term projects are ideal for this, as they offer an opportunity for staff to work together without compromising their primary work responsibilities

Empower staff by delegating responsibility

The scope of delegation and frequency of report-backs needs to be clearly communicated

Share information with all staff where possible

Staff meetings are ideal for this as it provides an interactive environment for answering questions and giving additional information