One of our company's core values is continual learning and hunt improvement. It's baked into our culture through our weekly Quality Circles. This is where we reflect on what we've learned in the past week and how we can help others improve.
This week, we decided it would be interesting to open up our Quality Circle and ask quality leaders across the globe about their key lessons learned and offer any advice.
If you are looking for inspiration to transform your quality management strategy or want some useful tips to drive more engagement with quality, here are 10 takeaways offered by quality leaders:
#1: Set Goals
“Cultural change is difficult to implement and takes a longer time than anticipated.”
Several respondents commented that not having defined goals affected their ability to implement change in 2016.
The aim in setting goals is to enable quality professionals to define their objectives in real terms, to help achieve buy-in from leadership. It also helps to measure success with culture change and the roll-out of new systems such as EQMS.
#2: Get Buy-In Early
Throughout the survey, a common theme was the lack of support from top management impacting upon a quality professional’s ability to be in effective in their role.
“You can only progress with any project if the top management allows you to.”
Those that felt top management were in support of quality as a business process had far better survey responses overall, reporting less stress and more authority to influence change.
“Top management was involved in the strategic planning and thinking of the organisation and quality projects.”
Getting buy-in at the earliest stage possible for any quality process change, such as implementing a new quality management system, is the best way to ensure engagement and support from leadership throughout the project.
#3: Start At The Top And Work Down
Once you have leadership support, thanks to your early communication (see above), it’s time to roll-out the ideas of quality improvement to the rest of the organisation.
“Communication is key.”
Quality professionals responding to the survey found that it was most effective to start with leadership, then middle management, and then communicate with the rest of the staff, in a cascade communications plan. Managers are more likely to push for change where leadership have determined it as essential, and staff at lower levels can champion a project to their peers for further influence.
#4: Plan, Plan, Plan
Gap analysis is your friend when it comes to implementing changes to quality culture. Those taking part in the survey who felt they had not planned enough before rolling out a new quality management system, or taking on a new ISO Standard, felt the pressure later down the line.
“A small change can end up taking a considerable amount of time to implement and get agreement.”
Planning as much as possible, from actual implementation actions to a full communication plan that identifies stakeholders at each stage, will ensure change management success. Time is a key factor: most respondents agreed that more time should be allowed than anticipated during the planning stage, to ensure success.
#5: Keep It Simple
End users don’t need to know how a quality management system works, or the details of an ISO Standard. They want to know why they need to do it (the benefits to them, not necessarily the business), and what they need to do (book training etc).
“No one buys in to quality until they see a positive impact on their role or other aspect of life at work.”
Avoiding jargon and keeping the message simple at all stages of a plan was a big lesson learned by several quality professionals in 2016. Some felt that an overly-complicated plan, that involved too many stakeholders, meant projects were slow to get off the ground. Others found that engaging end users was their biggest challenge, as the messaging was too complex or irrelevant to an individual’s role.
#6: Don’t Do It On Your Own
“Don’t take on too much.”
As quality professionals face business growth (without growth in their department), it’s ever clearer that success cannot be achieved if a quality manager takes on a change process alone.
With 57% of respondents feeling overworked or extremely overworked, it’s important to remember that going it alone won’t lead to success – either on a personal level (you will face burnout!) or organisation level (projects without buy-in are unlikely to succeed).
“Learning to delegate and project manage rather than doing everything myself was the best lesson I learned last year.”
Those that work in teams can share the workload, and draw on shared experience as well as different skills to achieve change success. Whether transitioning to ISO 9001:2015 or implementing a quality management system, working in a team delivers more benefits than simple stress reduction. It ensures buy-in across an organisation, creates project champions who can influence change on a peer level, and drives success through group interest.
Choose the Best Project Team: How to Herd Cats
#7: Do It For The Business, Not ISO 9001
While 62% of respondents agreed that the changes and transition to ISO 9001:2015 will have a positive impact on the organisation, there is a common feeling that Standards are not the be-all and end-all.
The benefits brought by Standard certification, such as business growth opportunities and greater efficiency, are a sideline to overall quality improvement.
“Constant changes to Standards make for a heavy workload. You need to approach it as continuous quality improvement rather than just for certification – then you see long-term culture change as people realise personal benefits instead of a technical certificate.”
The integration of quality into a business-wide culture was a clear success driver for many respondents, suggesting that ISO certification is an ideal achievement but is still secondary to overall business objectives when it comes to quality and continuous improvement.
“Don't get too tied up with the day job to look around at other business environment issues.”
#8: Have a Little Patience
“It takes a long time to turn the boat.”
It can be tempting to run headlong into project roll-outs as you get excited about the benefits ISO certification or QMS implementation will bring. However, a clear theme for quality professionals in 2016 was to anticipate that things take longer than you expect.
"This year made clear the difficulty of changes a quality culture in a large organisation driven by time constraints.”
Time is needed to achieve full buy-in from all stakeholders, allow for technical implementation, and build a communications plan for long-term success.
Quality professionals who allowed plenty of time for a project felt less overworked, and had a more positive outlook on top management engagement. A long-term plan means fewer long-term costs, too, as one respondent pointed out from experience:
“Too much done too quickly generates too much rework and lots of unnecessary costs.”
#9: Go Digital
“We need to adapt to technology advances more if we want to succeed.”
The importance of technology in driving continuous improvement – and personal success – was evident in the survey results.
Of the respondents who had recently implemented a quality management system, 41% had received a promotion.
More than that, technology has been identified by respondents as a key driver to integrate quality as part of the business, rather than as a standalone department.
#10: Implement As Much Training As You Can
Quality managers reported that staff education was a big barrier to success in 2016, and they learned that training is the only solution.
“QMS works best when employees ‘get it’.”
The lack of clarity about ‘why ISO 9001’, and understanding of quality as an organisation-wide responsibility, led many quality professionals to develop training programmes for 2017. Training wa highlighted throughout the survey as something that many organisations require on a more frequent and in-depth scale – and those that have comprehensive training are seeing greater success overall.
“I felt great enjoyment gained from training staff and delivering this in line with the company values.”
What you should do now:
You can download the full Global Quality Survey Results here >>>
Alternatively, download the ISO 9001:2015 toolkit for more tutorials, tips and advice from quality professionals.