17 Nov Learn The Truth About Quality In 5 Minutes.
Learn The Truth About Quality In 5 Minutes…..
In this weeks’ article we tackle what Quality really means. How it is applied to everyday life. And what it means for your organisation and its people.
“Quality is the responsibility of the Quality Department!”. We often hear these words spoken.
Do you see quality as an optional “add-on”?. Something that you may choose to have… or not.
There is a common belief that quality is only about checking to make sure that the product is inspected and is an acceptable standard.
What is this word “Quality” all about?
Whether it is how you communicate and treat others or your attention to detail and diligence in performing your role at work.
The way you dress for work, and maintain your appearance. Or even your timeliness on completing a tax return.
Everything we do as individuals, is governed to a certain degree by a set of “standards” that we set ourselves; subconsciously or not.
Our “standards” are based on our beliefs and opinions about the subject matter. They are also formed from our experience, culture, background, and even from our frame of mind on the day.
Our standards, opinions and beliefs affect everything we do, and everyone around us.
Lets imagine any one of these scenarios.
Our standards affect everything
- We always arrive to work a bit late.
- We are not completing our tasks and are always late in delivery.
- We forget to call back a customer, and avoid to make sales call.
- We process our admin work, not to the same level of detail and accuracy, as our colleagues.
The result of any of these situations would mean time and money lost to our Employer. Potentially there could be lost revenue from our customers, due to our lack of action and our lateness.
Our inefficiency could cause gaps and bottlenecks in work processes, and impact products and services from being delivered on time.
Our colleagues may have to wait for our part of the activity sequence to be completed, before they are able to start theirs. This could cause delays and even work friction.
Now our Customers are complaining because they didn’t receive a call back.
If we continue to lower our standards altogether, we will receive complaints and warnings from our Employer and a possible termination.
These consequences are a direct result of our actions and “low” standards.
We may feel, in our opinion, that our work standards are high and totally acceptable. After all what we are comparing our standards to? Other people? Worldwide etiquette. Best practice?.. or defined Company standards?.
These standards we are referring to are commonly known as “Quality” standards.
Quality is in everything!
Everything is affected by “Quality”. The quality level of our standards, affects the final outcome.
Yes, that’s right. Quality is in every single action or activity.
It is not only applied through inspections on finished products.
You might be a bit confused right now. Perhaps you are thinking this is different to how you understood quality.
Take some time to think about this concept. Is this a different perspective to how you view Quality?
We hear regularly within the construction industry that Quality is the obligation of the Quality Department and Quality is, identifying defects in products and services. Or even obtaining an ISO certificate through implementing processes.
How do we apply these “Quality” standards to an organisation?
Earlier we discussed how everyone has a different perspective and set of standards, based on beliefs, opinions, experience and culture. We also determined that Quality isn’t about checking the finished product.
With this knowledge, let’s apply it to an organisation. How do we set quality standards?.
Business owners need to agree on the way that they will run their operations; to ensure that they meet the requirements of all of their customers (whether the customer is internal or external) and to deliver work in a consistent way. They also set out their business objectives, targets and goals, for delivering their products and services.
Management will need to agree on the operational quality standards that they want to achieve. To make sure each of their “customer” requirements are met, and in the way that they have envisaged.
If you are managing a small organisation agreement of the processes and standards may be agreed verbally. This works when there is only a small group of people working together. Information on values, aspirations, direction and process can be transferred, understood and monitored, from one person to another easily.
However, when the organisation starts to grow with new employees, and customers. This is where the problem starts. Every employee needs to understand and follow the business direction, objectives, targets, procedures and understand your unique corporate standards.
How to relay your standards to an organisation?
How will your employees be able to achieve your business objectives, targets and standards and deliver them in a consistent way?. Especially if you haven’t communicated these?.
We mentioned at the start of this article, that everyone has a different set of ideals, standards and ways of operating.
What if your perception of an acceptable standard, is different to another persons view? How will you know what standards to work to?
As a manager you need a mechanism to effectively communicate and direct this information to your employees. One of the primary methods is to establish a set of business procedures and processes. This could be through pictorials or documented processes.
An Instruction Manual (rather like what you get with products that you buy from the store), to set out how your employees will administer their work, and the standards to be applied.
Are you familiar with the term Quality Policy and a Quality Manual?. The Quality manual acts as a company instruction manual.
The Quality Manual details the process steps to be followed related to each role and activity. It also sets out the company standards and values to be applied for each main activity. These could be illustrated in various ways from targets and objective setting, to detailed roles and responsibilities, contained in a job description.
A Quality Policy, acts as a way to communicate the Company standards, to anyone working in conjunction with the organisation.
Your employees need to be aware of the objectives, targets and goals for your business, so that they understand their part in the overall process and how their work interfaces and impacts other departments and business activities. They also need to understand where the business is heading.
Providing a handbook and expecting that this will be read however, is not always realistic. It is the managements’ responsibility to communicate and cascade this information continuously, through the organisation and to their employees. To ensure it is read and understood. This can be initiated through regular workshops and training sessions.
This develops a corporate identity and a company quality culture. It is a way to ensure that your standards are communicated consistently and upheld in your company.
Establishing a corporate identity and quality culture, will ensure that the whole company is operating on the same set of values and attributes, as you have defined for your business. It means that employees and associates will not be deciding what is needed, based on their own perception.
Do you ever see employees following their own processes and failure to meet company requirements? This happens as a direct result of a lack of communication on the business procedures and company standards to be followed. The employees will develop their own.
Quality isn’t just about the finished product. It is about ensuring that all parties are aware of how work is to be delivered, and to what level. It is about installing an inherent company culture, that promotes high quality standards and that is able to deliver on those standards and company values, consistently.
Products and services can be copied in this new technology age, however company culture cannot.