Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Build and sustain quality within your organization

In our business life, most of us have experienced at least one or more quality-type initiatives. It may have been a series of training courses on LEAN methodology or perhaps management introduced ISO best practices and even worked towards certification. Maybe your company actively sponsors six sigma or other projects aimed at process improvement. All of the aforementioned strategies can and will drive improvement throughout your business, but for how long?

After 15 years of personally witnessing “quality” succeed and fail within departments, divisions, and companies, I’ve realized something. Organizational quality is not an “end state”. There is no road map with a discrete number of steps that will get us to our destination. Quality is cyclical process that must be deliberately started and actively sustained within a company. The three critical components to the quality cycle include: 1) quality mgt system; 2) process improvement program; and 3) organizational development & culture.

Quality Management System
QMS best practices, as outlined by the international standards organization (ISO 9001:2008), serve as the foundation for quality within any organization. These standards, when implemented and continually audited, create organizational structure around resource planning, document & records control, process sequencing, product conformance, and management accountability. Establish a baseline by auditing all departments and processes against the standards.

Process Improvement Program
A robust process improvement program built upon the methodologies of lean and six sigma will drive positive change. Develop a process for identifying, prioritizing, and managing improvement opportunities across the enterprise. This can be managed through a centralized quality office, or directly at the line manager level. Either way, the key is to share a common framework and tool-set for classifying defects, quantifying financial opportunity, and driving work flow improvements.

Organizational Development and Culture
Start a cultural shift where everyone in the business takes accountability and personal ownership of quality. Employees are the ones affecting product conformance on a daily basis; they should have the training, tools, and authority to affect change at the customer level. Your managers must be highly skilled at implementing QMS elements, auditing performance, and driving process improvement. Continual education, awareness, and reward are all essential.

In conclusion, don’t pay any attention to my arrangement of these components. There is no precise order to their implementation. All three are equally important to sustaining the quality cycle within your organization. They all feed from and into each other. So start anywhere and everywhere!

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