Does your organization talk about quality? Does it put quality concepts into practice in every aspect of the business, from design and development to product delivery? Is your firm practicing quality from top to bottom, from the chief executive to your newest hires? Commitment to quality starts at the top and flows from there throughout the organization. Whether management is sold on the notion of “quality in everything we do” or they’re not, the rest of the company follows suit.
Here are ten indicators that your company’s top management is making the commitment to quality.
If management puts money on the table, they obviously have a commitment to quality. Quality requires a budget to prevent problems from occurring and recurring. Quality requires training. And Quality requires gentle prodding from internal audits, to ensure the quality system is continuously improving, not stagnating.
Having a monetary budget for Quality is great but if you can’t use it because there are too many orders that need to get out or there are never enough worker-hours to work on Quality, do you really have a budget for Quality? Don’t forget — time has to be budgeted, too.
Your cost of quality includes scrap, defects, rework, corrective actions, preventive actions, quality training, audits, management reviews, lost business due to customer complaints (i.e., returns), warranty claims, and other such “quality” costs. If you’re actively tracking and comparing your cost of quality to your revenues, expenses, and profits, you’re displaying a keen sense of what quality means to your business.
Quality management reviews are critical to management’s understanding of the future of the business. Top management’s attendance demonstrates that the future of the business is important to it and the results of management reviews are a valuable input to management’s strategic direction and execution.
Quality management’s attendance at the management meetings demonstrates that input from quality is important. Can your company expand, add new products, contract, cut costs, or implement strategic actions without understanding how it may impact the operation’s quality? Cross-functional teams at all levels provide an early warning to management that improves the execution of your plans.
Quality management’s input is vital to strategic execution and requires that quality management be a peer (equal) at the top management level. Quality management needs to attend critical meetings, needs resources to act on Quality issues, needs to act across the organization chart, and needs the active support of top management for quality success. Can you really achieve high levels of quality by delegating quality to lower levels of the organization’s management?
In order for top management to appoint a quality manager at the top management level, that quality manager has to have a budget and has to interact with all other departments. To ensure the future of the business is secure, top management needs to understand how quality impacts the company and it needs to communicate that impact to the entire organization. Quality takes discipline and only top management can instill the discipline required for success.
The road to quality takes time measured in years. Top management can communicate its commitment to quality through the successive achievement of quality awards over the years (e.g., ISO 9001, Shingo, state Quality awards, Baldrige). I have seen one organization that, after winning Baldrige, required its individual operating units to all go for Baldrige. Top management can keep on the continuous improvement road by driving quality milestones deeper into the organization.
Improvement is really about failure. If you’re allowed to fail, you can learn from your mistakes. Conversely, if you’re not allowed to make mistakes, you’re being deprived of learning and growth opportunities.
Without learning, there is no quality. When top management allows people to fail, they allow people to learn and grow. Fire people for failure and people will stop reporting failures…and they will stop learning, too.
Top management is focused on commitment to quality because it represents improvement, being better than others, and the future. If a customer has to ask you for proof of quality, do you have a problem? Even worse, if you only implement quality because the customer asks and not because you want to, then do you really have quality? Committed top management doesn’t wait for customers to ask for quality — they integrate quality into their strategy.