BACK TO BASICS
How to attain and sustain a quality culture
by Lorraine Fraser
Quality is critically important to organizations because it is closely tied to customer satisfaction, customer loyalty and, ultimately, the growth and sustenance of business. The customer’s opinion matters most. To ensure it is always meeting customer needs, an organization must establish a culture of quality.
Capturing market share is a key factor in the growth of the organization, and it must be perceived as offering a quality product or service. But if the organization’s mantra is to inspect quality into a product, it runs the risk of providing substandard products to its customers. Instead, quality must be built into a product. The organization can ensure it is building quality into its products if it has a quality culture.
To attain and sustain a quality culture, the organization must achieve extraordinary results by creating an environment that is conducive to excellence. To do that, employees must adopt new mindsets, which can be easier said than done. Sometimes a message must be communicated many ways before employees will adopt new behaviors. Leaders also must communicate ideas in a way that energizes the organization.
The organization must define a set of values that employees can refer to, internalize and follow. Here are a few foundational elements to achieving a quality culture:
- Vision, mission and values are important to the organization’s culture. It is necessary to provide employees with a vision that clearly details the pathway to the organization’s end result. To build a business, you must build people. Creating a unified vision of employees accomplishing a common mission allows for a breakthrough culture because everyone is headed in the same direction.
- Employees’ goals must align with the organization’s goals. If the organization doesn’t keep itself nimble and at the forefront, it risks being outpaced by competitors. To become successful, the organization must behave like it is a success. As employees achieve their individual goals, the goals of the team and the broader goals of the organization can be achieved.
- Good, honest data are key. A baseline cannot be established without good data—good data provide the fodder for analysis. And without data, the organization can’t effectively use quality tools—such as statistical process control, design of experiments and process capability studies—to identify, reduce and eliminate defects.
- Address issues expediently. The more employees who can effectively address an incident or issue, the lower the chance of that incident recurring.
Consider the concept of muda, which in Japanese means futility or uselessness: As a river’s water level is lowered, new rocks (problems, opportunities and inefficiencies) are exposed. To ensure progress, they must be addressed as soon as they emerge, which requires a competent workforce.
- Recognize and celebrate success. Celebrating success can take many forms. Each improvement can be documented and turned into best practices, for example, which can be shared among sister sites.
Also, posting positive results provides employees with the acknowledgement that they are capable of meeting the ever-expanding needs of the customer.
Barry, Thomas J., Excellence is a Habit: How to Avoid Quality Burnout, ASQ Quality Press, 1994.
Sayle, Bart and Surinder Kuman, Riding the Blue Train, Penguin Books Ltd, 2006.
Lorraine Fraser is director of quality and process improvement at Paradigm Electronics Inc. & MartinLogan Ltd. in Mississauga, Ontario. She earned a master’s degree in engineering from the University of Toronto and an MBA from the University of Windsor in Ontario. Fraser is a senior member of ASQ.