For many years, I have been working at trying to help organisations improve their quality. One of the main issues in quality management is largely because of biased views of what quality means. My role is to help you understand what this means and bring things together.
What is Quality?
Quality is not…
Quality is not generated by processes, tools, technology, standards, laws, measurements, KPI, consultants, strategies, policies, job descriptions, leaders, management techniques, engineering trends and buzzwords.
Quality is what your clients say it is. No matter how good you think your product is, if it does not meet your clients’ expectations, it is not good quality.
Quality is produced by the people who are planning, designing and building your products, by the people who are delivering and supporting your services.
Quality is the result of providing the people in your organization with the things they need to satisfy your clients.
Quality is the consequence of clear communication and a consistent message.
Quality is sharing the knowledge with the people who need it, when they need it.
Quality is what your people do, day by day, hour by hour, task by task, project by project.
Fractals are mathematical designs that are detailed, recursive and infinitely self-similar. Quality needs to demonstrate the same properties, allowing the same level of quality demands to be implemented at every level of the organization.
Every company offers some kind of vision. Typically, this is a marketing vision statement that offers little in terms of reality. Vision statements usually talk about being the world leader, the best, recognized as the standard, etc. This doesn’t mean much and is usually not reflected in any concrete action or effect on product, staff or clients. The vision statement is purely for marketing purposes and is best forgotten as soon as you move beyond marketing and reach sales. It rarely has any meaning whatsoever for the staff in the companies.
A second vision statement is necessary, from the board level, which is the internal vision for staff members: tell me why I should want to work here, knowing that I could earn more somewhere else. This vision statement goes beyond the marketing vision as it is for internal consumption and needs to be broken down explicitly into effects and consequences that will be seen by the staff to show that the vision is being implemented.
The company’s strategy needs to be clearly communicated. It may change over time (not too frequently), but everyone needs to understand it and support it.
The strategy is the translation of the vision statements (both of them) into an explanation as to how this is going to be achieved. The strategy must come from the executive team and be translated at various departments through objectives that are realistic and achievable. The department levels will translate the strategy into tactics to achieve the desired results.
When climbing a staircase, you go step by step. If the strategy is the implementation of the vision, the objectives are the steps that are necessary to achieve the strategy. Different teams, departments and individuals should have clear objectives and understand how these objectives fit into the overall strategy and vision.
Process and procedures are key elements in any organization. They are needed in order to be able to ensure that results are repeatable and lessons can be learnt and shared whether things go well or not.
The process is not the law: it is the practical implementation of what needs to be done in order to achieve the objectives; the procedures are ways to satisfy the process.
It is very difficult for anyone to produce quality of the objectives, vision, strategy or organization keep on changing. Employee cannot believe in the usefulness of their activities if the end goals keep on changing.
Vitruvian quality is a principle of effectiveness: bringing quality down to a human-size concepts.
Remember that quality is produced by humans, everything else is only there to facilitate their work and make it easier to do their job well. Whether you are running a large company or a small team, you need to understand the needs of the individuals who are working for you, so that you can understand how to motivate and encourage them. This is not an easy task, because it means being able to take the measure of the individuals and fit them into your global vision.
This is squaring the circle.
Can I be of Assistance?
My job, as a consultant and coach, is to seek out the missing links in your quality chain. Help the executives translate a vision statement into practical results, but also speak to the people delivering the end product and report back to management the things that employees are not allowed to say themselves.
Of course, this means filtering and consolidating the information to avoid making a big deal of one person’s problems, but not missing out on something key even if only one has mentioned it…
Quality – from Vision to Reality.