Winning Them Over

Show staff what quality can do for them

by Steve Becker Jr.

You’re the new quality manager. You meet the management team and it seems committed to quality and fulfilling regulatory requirements. You’re relieved. Obtaining buy-in is half the battle. Now, it’s time to show the team what you can do and improve the quality system.

Measurement matters

The first task on your list is implementing an off-the-shelf software program to manage issues and support continuous improvement. Next, you develop rules for what must be recorded in the system and what must be elevated to corrective action and preventative action (CAPA) status.

To collect the data needed to gauge the organization’s performance, you train customer service staff members, field representatives and production supervisors to use the software program. You teach the supervisory team to conduct root cause analyses. Now that the staff is equipped to handle customer issues, it swiftly resolves problems as they arise, applies containment solutions and keeps customers informed so they know about the good work the organization is doing to improve product and service quality.

Ready for success

After three months, it’s time to review the data and establish a baseline to measure the impact of impending long-term solutions. Each department manager and director is charged with overseeing improvement projects and teams. The quality department is ready to collect and parse the data and review root causes and corrective actions taken. At this point, you’re certain that you’re going to be a hero and that a promotion is around the corner.

Three more months pass and it’s time to present the data at an upcoming management meeting. As you prepare, you become perplexed—the results haven’t changed much. What could have gone wrong? Tools and processes are in place, and your organization is measuring the outcome of its efforts. As you feel your hero status slipping away, an uneasy realization dawns on you: Staff is addressing quality improvement as another item on the to-do list.

Speak their language

Why did the plan fail? You didn’t explain the why when you gave staff the what. Quality professionals often provide tools to frontline staff members without explaining what the tools can do for them. To help staff embrace quality, you must show them that quality brings good things—from reducing rework, to improving production rates and saving money for technology upgrades and raises.

Before improvement can happen, the quality professional must obtain support and participation from management, which will send the message that quality is important. The most effective way to get management on your side is to make improvements measurable and to tie quality to regulatory compliance and cost savings.

Start small

Quality professionals also must be visible in the organization and take small steps to build momentum. Before tackling a breakthrough project, carry out a few small-scale improvements. Not only does that approach produce wins the organization can celebrate, it proves that theories work in practice. When you build teams of interested participants to help with those first small projects, you seed the company with employees who buy into quality already. By making data from those projects available to management, you’re securing management buy-in and encouraging resource allocation for the big ones.

After you position your organization for quality improvement and watch all the careful planning pay off, not only will you feel like a hero—everyone else in the organization will, too.

Steve Becker Jr. is the quality regulatory manager for ROi, a provider-owned healthcare supply chain organization in St. Louis. Becker holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the Sam Walton School of Business at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. He is a certified quality auditor and a Mercy-certified Six Sigma Green Belt.

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