10 Building Blocks for a “Quality Culture” (Part 1)
By Jim Moran, BRC Consultant
I’ve been a big fan of Edward de Bono for about 30 years. Over that period of time he has given us hundreds of ideas about Creative Thinking. In fact, if you’ve ever heard the term ‘lateral thinking’, according to Wikipedia, “The term was coined in 1967 by Edward de Bono”.
In my role as a catalyst to help organizations simplify their ISO 9001 Management Systems since 1992, I have used numerous ideas from De Bono. One of his books, ‘Simplicity’ has 10 rules of Simplicity. I realized that they translate perfectly to ISO Management Systems. This article is on a Quality Culture, but it would work just as well for Environmental, Energy, Health and Safety, Information Security or any Management System you are using.
This approach will also guide Top Management onto the path to meet the requirements for the ISO 9001:2015 Standard, clause 5.1.1 Leadership. These 10 blocks provide practical ideas to create a quality culture.
1) You need to put a very high value on Quality.
Employees have to see Management walking the talk on Quality. To say that we value quality then implement a reward program for cutting costs is not consistent with putting a high value on quality. That’s not to say that we don’t have to pay attention to costs – we need to control and manage costs for sure, especially cash flow. What we reward is what employees pay attention to. And not just cash rewards – rewards of acknowledgement, pats on the back, announcements, promotions and all the other subtle ways we signal ‘what is important’.
On the bottom line, quality pays in so many ways, not the least of which is doing it right the first time, especially in the world of services. Improving quality will cut costs, so by rewarding quality improvement, the bottom line will benefit.
Any organization can say they are quality focused, but what activities would we see in our organizations if we were ‘actively seeking quality’?
What would we point to if a potential customer asked how will we fill their orders?
If we are focused on cutting costs or finding new clients or getting a late order shipped by a very expensive expediter, we’ve already missed the boat and are only paying lip service to the concept of being determined to seek quality.
“Nothing in the world”, said Calvin Coolidge, “can take the place of persistence.”
3) You need to understand your processes and their interactions very well.
We need to be clear about what we’re trying to do, and clear about values. The values must be communicated and understood – part of the fabric of our organization.
Deming’s ‘Plan, Do, Study, Act’ mantra is a reminder that we can’t improve quality without knowing how processes work and interact. The activity of studying our processes will also give us a better idea of how changes in one area will affect results in a process further down the stream. Outputs from one process become the inputs for the next process, and every action (or cause) has an effect somewhere.
‘Taking a stab at improvement’ can end up causing more harm than good.
4) You need to design alternatives and possibilities.
Bumps will occur on the road to creating a quality culture (as on any road!). We need a roadmap, or design, for creating this culture we’re after.
The studying we did in Building Block #3 (understanding processes) can be a great set of inputs for the process of designing the path. Alternatives will give us something to fall back on if the way forward is not embraced by everyone.
Remember that your employees are intelligent, well trained individuals and will want to contribute their skills to this venture. Make sure the design allows for input from the ‘experts’ in your organization – the people doing the work.
5) You need to challenge and discard existing elements of your Management System.
Some systems can be helped by getting rid of ‘non-value added’ processes. “That’s the way we’ve always done it” doesn’t mean we have to live with it.
Systems seem to grown on their own, but will not shrink. The 2nd law of thermodynamics says that the universe will trend toward disorder…and this is true for quality management systems.
Lean activities, mistake-proofing and looking at workflow can help us find ways to challenge what we do and shed the ‘muda’ (waste) that Taiichi Ohno talked about in ‘The Toyota Production System’. There are plenty of ways to improve the effectiveness of our management system if we’re willing to step back and assess whether a process is as good as it can be.
Our people won’t buy into the concept of a ‘Quality Culture’ if they have to do things that they perceive are not adding value to the customer (internal and external) and are not regulatory or legal requirements.
See Issue 174 of the Quality Review for Building Blocks 6 through 10…