Thoughts on Increasing the Value of Quality in Organizations

This month ASQ’s Paul Borawski asks the ASQ Influential Voices for our insights, experience, and thoughts on how to increase the value of quality in organizations beyond what is traditionally thought of as the quality function.

This is a good question as November, The Month of Quality, approaches.

The Dual Nature of Quality in an Enterprise

There is Big Q and there is Little Q. Most get that.

Quality in everything that we do (Big) and quality in the assembly of widget x and widget y into the xy subassembly (Little).

BIG Q: quality in the accuracy, appropriateness, timeliness and completeness of the financial transactions with our customers. And with the orders placed with our suppliers. And in the paperwork we file with government at all levels. And in how we treat our people.

The Quality Function

There is The Quality Function. This is not too tricky to define. This an organizational entity.

This is where one theoretically could find the captured definitions of the Enterprise’s internal and external customers, all of its stakeholders, what is required for each of its products and services, and clearly defined roles and responsibilities of it’s staff, suppliers and other collaborators in getting their mission accomplished – in operating its primary value chain – and also of all supporting/enabling processes.

And have that organized in some manner.

I would organize it by the Department – and maybe by the team – and know all of the above for each organizational entity and be able to roll that up like the budget. See the graphic below.

And then I would also know what to expect of the Managers, their products produced (Results) and their practice (Process) of management, and be able to troubleshoot that as needed.

But that is still Little Q.

To Get There – To Big Q

One could collaborate with the executives and others in targeting work efforts to begin the go slow to go faster later, in a cascade. And begin the drumbeat of continuous communications.

One could collaborate with the Stakeholders and Customers to determine satisfaction status quo and improvement targets with sufficient ROI.

One could Map it’s priorities’ most critical Processes – where there are perceived issues and symptoms for those issues – as a starting point – to determining where there is a breakdown – any gaps from ideal in terms of Products, Processes and Supplier’s Products and Processes.

One could begin to walk the talk and practice what one preaches – as a model – and a developmental test – of the organization and its people, itself.

Eat your own dog food, as they say.

The Function of Quality

The The Function of Quality.

This is much trickier to define exactly.

This is where it gets personal, nuanced, and murky. My nuanced meaning varies from yours.

For me the Quality Function has a limited role in establishing a Function of Quality – and that is to support the top executives in their efforts to create a working atmosphere, or culture, for performance excellence.

It is what enables Big Q.

And as that is enabled – or not – by the Organizational Culture  – which typically varies to some degree with each manager – so it is very difficult, but not impossible, to change the culture.

One needs to get the managers on board. They control, to a large extend, the adaptation or adoption of a new culture, by reinforcing certain things and extinguishing others.

One set of goals for the Quality Function is to work with all other organizational entities to help them instill a Quality Culture using a set of adopted or adapted Processes and Practices and create and reinforce a cultural mindset of all other managers, ll employees, all suppliers and other stakeholders.

So I see the Quality Function (working on Little Q) and the Function of Quality (Big Q thinking and actions by everyone) perhaps somewhat differently than you. But perhaps that only is true in the semantics. In the language you and I use.

Quality Function and the Function of Quality.

There is the Quality Function

This is an organization of people within the larger Enterprise.

This can big and represent big bucks – lots of shareholder equity is being invested in this.

And There Is the Function of Quality

This is the orientation of all people in the Enterprise. Big Q.

But the word Function might get in the way.

So let me say it this way…

Quality As An Orientation

This is where you want to go/end up.

But not – IMO – targeting everything and everyone for Improvement Initiatives regardless of the ROI.

Not spraying the message out by words rather than deeds – and results.  Not spraying and paraying – as they say – in order to get that job really quickly.

The need is to go slow to start – to go fast later.

Deciding as one progresses what needs rigor and what needs flexibility.

What needs Six Sigma levels of process control and which need whatever/however/whenever – or maybe just two out of those three.

And then doing targeted implementation of improvement initiatives where the ROI makes it business logical.

In my view – OK, IMO – Quality means investing time, energy and money into things that show the promise of great returns for those efforts, as compared to other efforts.

For their will always be more Quality issues – problems and opportunities – than you can shake the proverbial stick at.

Deciding what’s what and then communicating those determinations – and communicating the efforts and results – and celebrating the successes and failure (for LEARNING purposes only to avoid future repeats) will help everyone keep quality on everyone’s mind.

The Quality Organization serves the executives, the leaders. It’s really up to them to establish the culture.

Simply by not accepting failure, without an appropriate response, to stop the issue, after getting to the root cause.

And by supporting the wise investments in improvements for ROI.

It’s still a business decision.

Communications is the key. It, communications, is almost always is THE key.

And not just using slogans and platitudes. Communications by Actions, which speak louder than Words.

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