Proactive Leaders Are Essential to a Sustainable, Successful Culture of Quality

The study, Culture of Quality: Accelerating Growth and Performance in the Enterprise, shares actionable insight from organizations such as Samsung, Boeing and Tata into how a quality-driven culture can accelerate business performance, lead to a competitive advantage and affect the bottom line.

FedEx acknowledged in the study that its Quality Driven Management program, launched in 2008, has resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars saved.

“CEOs and the C-suite tend to receive filtered, big-picture material that has been ‘prettied up’ for management.”

To build a sustainable and successful culture of quality, CEOs need to:

  1. Always Be Accountable. Communicate openly and frequently about quality; and own quality issues through to their resolution.
  2. Have a Will to Win. Set audacious quality and continual improvement goals; and partner to deliver market-defining quality.
  3. Exhibit a Passion for Customers. Advocate for your customers at every opportunity and make them a priority when considering tradeoffs.
  4. Demonstrate a High Level of Capability & Innovation. Demand quality excellence through the business lifecycle; empower others, encourage quality innovation and challenge the status quo.
  5. Develop Your People and Teams. Invest in quality talent, tools and processes; reward and recognize excellence in quality.

The research currently shows a disconnect between how CEOs and quality improvement professionals view their organizations’ pursuit of quality. Seventy-one percent of senior executives surveyed rate their pursuit of quality as world class, among the best in the world or advanced, compared to 40% of quality professionals. Conversely, 59% of quality professionals rate their pursuit of quality as average or below average.

Additionally, 47% of all respondents say CEOs and senior management lead by example, while 35 percent say CEOs and senior management are involved in quality training and development.

“CEOs and the C-suite tend to receive filtered, big-picture material that has been ‘prettied up’ for management,” said Elizabeth Keim, managing partner at Integrated Quality Resources, a quality-management tools, practices and strategy-focused consultancy. “So when quality improvement projects and results are presented, the ‘dirty secrets’ of the process are often excluded from the short, summary presentations.”  As a result, says Keim, senior executives “often do not realize how badly some of their processes are performing.”

In addition to strong leadership, quality vision and values are critical to a successful quality culture. A quality vision is a clearly articulated business case mandating how the pursuit of quality advances an organization’s objectives. An organization’s values can help individuals at all levels make better and more responsible decisions related to quality.

Sixty percent of respondents say their organization’s quality vision is clearly stated, while an equal amount say their organization’s values are clearly stated. Furthermore, only half of respondents claim their company’s quality vision and values are understood throughout the organization.

How can CEOs sharpen their quality focus?

  • Poll your organization to find out how it is performing. Is there a clear process or are there gaps?
  • Get out of your office. Find something that doesn’t work the way it should and fix it.
  • Integrate accountability into job descriptions so quality is expected.

The value of taking steps to shift an organization toward a more quality-driven culture can be substantial. By incorporating the essential elements of a successful culture of quality, organizations can accelerate growth and performance in their enterprise.

Culture of Quality: Accelerating Growth and Performance in the Enterprise

Take a self-assessment at cultureofquality.org.

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William Troy
William Troy is chief executive officer of ASQ, the American Society for Quality (asq.org). Troy, who took command of Milwaukee-based ASQ in April, is a retired three-star general with a military career spanning 38 years, during which he was responsible for the safety and success of thousands of soldiers and the welfare of their family members.

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