Food for thought over Christmas

On the run up to Christmas you will be seeing many articles on what changes you should be making for the New Year. “What will you be doing to make a difference in 2016”, they ask. They are many good ideas and areas to focus on to improve, but whether it is your numbers, marketing or operations your people will be the key to success.

Your focus on your staff as the core of the changes is fundamental to the success of the improvement. Yes you need to look at the impact of any changes you make to ensure you address all possible risks but the new thinking required by employees does not happen on it’s own.

Having a fantastic business process is very important and should be celebrated but put it into the wrong environment and culture and it will not become the norm. Ask yourself this question about procedures you have put in place in your organisation. Is there anyone that repeatedly tries to cut out certain things, bypass your system? Have you asked the question why? Did you encourage your front line staff to help you write the procedure so that you can understand what life is like there?

Over the coming month of January my blogs are going to explore this more as it links to a lot of the areas covered by the new ISO9001:2015 standard. I want companies to understand the difference between instigating change within their company and building in fundamental lasting changes that will have an impact on their business.

Below I share my tips on key things to think about to nurture your culture and prepare for the changes ahead in 2016, these are not in order of importance just food for thought over the Christmas period..

  • Processes and systems – Have systems that are well written and effective. if there is a problem focus on the system first not who to blame, blame cultures destroy innovations and improvement.

  • Leadership and vision –  Knowing the why behind your business enables you to engage people with your story. True followers of a leader want to be inspired and the art is to help them develop their own dreams for their lives both work and at home. Lead by example and adhere to your systems; otherwise how can you expect anyone else to value what you say if you are not committed yourself. Systems also allow you to add the degree of control needed and put the boundaries in place to enable you to lead and manage the business.

  • Listen – Listen to your customers, listen to your staff and all interested parties that may have a direct impact in you being able to fulfil your purpose for the business. Do you actually know what your customers perception of you is? What do your staff say about you and the company?

  • Knowledge – Build a knowledge hub, encourage the sharing of information to remove the knowledge is power culture. Understand and build on the competencies of your people, make sure it links to the risks affecting your business. Ensure that your staff have the right knowledge to do their jobs, the most willing individual cannot perform if they do not have access to the correct information this is my next point.

  • Fact based decision making – You’re probably collect a lot of data without even knowing it, or maybe you do but it’s not not in an easy format to report from. Take away assumptions and start basing your decisions and fact, know your numbers and analyse for your Key Performance indicators.

  • Be SMART with your actions – Always link objectives to your why and make sure they are SMART, clear actions are the only way to achieve what you want and enable others to help you get there.

  • Values – We all have values we hold with high importance, make sure this is reflected in your business and maintain that integrity. Define your values for others and recruit on this basis to maintain your culture. If you have someone poisoning the culture it is far better to lose them however much knowledge they hold. The most efficient working team environment is one that is happy, fulfilled and dedicated to it’s purpose.

The important thing to remember is the clear line of sight between your vision and why to all of the above. Make sure there is reason and understanding behind what you do and communicate this in a way that your staff can understand and delivery on..

To all my friends, colleagues and customers have a very merry Christmas and I hope all your dreams for 2016 come true.

Merry Christmas to all

Merry Christmas to all







Time for a New Quality Assurance Focus

We all know the saying ‘Quality is Everyone’s business’ and have bought the posters and sold the message but how easy is it to make it your culture? Just like your company strategy quality is an integral part of your way of thinking and needs to start exactly here.

So what is it we mean when we look at the Quality in Strategy? One example of a company goal may be: ‘To harness the exceptional skills of it’s people, resources and materials used; to achieve the most efficient and effective way of meeting the customers and future customers needs’. This may be a bit of a mouthful but I see it as not a bad goal to have! The trick is to ensure that this broad statement can be turned into smart objectives (specific (I say simple), measurable, realistic and timely), micro tasks as some like to call them. Together they will ensure that you stay on the path to your goal, but are also small and manageable enough to ensure that you are flexible for ever changing demands. Business is so fast paced compared to the Quality days of old, so change the approach and it will guide the improvements you make. Once you have captured this all important action plan there are three essential phases TRAIN, MONITOR and COMMUNICATE. Ensure that you educate everyone so they know what is expected of them and how they can make a real difference to the company. Monitor how you are performing. Communicate the ongoing results and celebrate everyone’s achievements.

Use technology – whether you are in the cloud or not, get up to speed with the latest apps and software available. Caution – invest in what works for you not the best standard package – bespoke solutions that meet your needs will solve your issues. You will be surprised at how much is available free and when applied in the background can achieve process solutions where the users themselves do not even realise that the actions are being carried. I am specifically thinking of paperwork issues that are growing in the quality industry and the paper trails. Take time to experiment as you are making an investment into ensuring your system is the best it can be.

Develop your Approach to Quality just like any other business goal.

Develop your Approach to Quality just like any other business goal.

My final tips for this re-focus in your QA approach is address the costs of Non-Quality; know what your current level of Quality is costing you. I don’t just mean the scrapped materials, it is the extra time, effort, skills, lost business and poor customer perception. Prioritise these in terms of risk – the risk of not meeting and exceeding your customers needs. Customer focus is key. Link this to what impact these issues are having on your business and the bottom line – now you have a real action plan and a strategy for  investment in your Quality Assurance.

Building Quality into all designs and processes becomes a lot easier when you make it part of your culture and strategy. You may need further investment of time and money along with careful change management but you will be investing in a prevention based system – no more fire-fighting! Fire-fighting takes up valuable time that could be invested elsewhere more efficiently. There are many tools and techniques to help you , mistake proofing, lean, kaizen – my advice is use what works for you and don’t be afraid to adapt them. In many cases they are not set in stone and are usually common sense systematised!