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!


Using Quality Management systems as focus for improvement

My first question to my clients is ‘Do you have a Quality Management system?’ This does not have to be an certified system I am talking about the structure of the business. You do not necessarily need to have a certificate to prove that you are producing a quality product or service; your customers will verify that. In my experience many people have ISO9001 without really understanding the full potential that it can deliver. It then becomes more of a chore with only costs attributed to it rather that cost savings; hence it is not looked upon favourably. I am so pleased that the message between my clients is taking hold which is “Focus on improving your business process and Quality Management System to achieve your goals”. The process improvements will be done being mindful of the ISO9001 standard if this is what you want to achieve but it has to be designed to fit in with your culture and work/process flow.

An effective Quality Management system can provide clear purpose for the business and consistency in the way processes are run / actions are carried out. It can also help when you have specific instructions / specifications for different customers / industry sectors. My advice is to set up an approach to Quality that is suitable for your business; a bespoke system leads to more successful results for you and your customers.

I like to keep things simple, refer to the Tigers Roar diagram!

The Tigers Roar

We make decisions constantly about our business and what we want to do; which then impacts on the employees around us and the culture that grows from that. We take responsibility for the planning of our business and the ethics we follow ensuring we meet both our legal obligations and society expectations. We control our processes and people to deliver our service / product to meet the customer / market needs. I believe we just need to focus on our vision, communicate this well, ensure our wishes are being consistently carried out, measure our performance and review our position regularly. Then always take the appropriate action on what we find in a controlled manner. All I ask is that you invest in and take your QMS seriously, adopt it on a holistic approach and not just a necessary documentation process for accreditation.

Forthcoming topics:  ISO9001:2015 the changesLeadership for the culture you desire; Documenting your business, where to start!