Laying the Foundation for a Quality Culture

Establishing a quality culture is a lot like constructing a building. The process begins with laying a solid foundation. Like a building, without a solid foundation an organization’s corporate culture will quickly crumble. What follows is a ten-step model that quality professionals can use to establish a solid foundation for a quality culture in any organization.

  1. Understand. Quality is at its heart a cultural con­cept. The tone for an organization’s culture is set by the CEO and executive managers. Without the buy-in and commitment of executive management, there can be no quality culture. Consequently, the cornerstone of the cultural foundation must be an understanding on the part of executive managers of the concept of a quality culture and their role in establishing and main­taining such a culture. Brien Palmer recommends a three-pronged approach when attempting to sell higher management on the concept of quality culture: (1) align the concept with organizational goals, and get help to identify the financial benefits; (2) become the project manager of this challenge, and then measure and miti­gate resistance, inertia, and opposition; and (3) prepare a brief but powerful presentation that can be made for executive managers.1
  2. Assess. In this step, a comprehensive assessment of the existing corporate culture as it relates to quality is completed and the results are compiled. Figure 6.6, dis­cussed later in the chapter, is a sample quality culture assessment instrument that can be used as a guide in developing a similar assessment instrument for any or­ganization. The criteria in Figure 6.6 are suggested as examples of the kinds of items that should be contained in a quality culture assessment instrument. However, this example is not meant to be comprehensive. Most organizations will want to add other criteria and, per­haps, eliminate some of those shown. All employees should be allowed to complete the survey instrument without attribution, and the organization-wide average for each criterion should be compiled.
  3. Plan. Based on the results of the survey in the previ­ous step, develop a comprehensive plan for establishing a quality culture. For example, if the first criterion in the checklist in Figure 6.6—All employees know the mis­sion of the organization—receives an organization-wide average score that is unacceptably low (e.g., less than 3), specific actions should be planned for correcting this problem. The same is true of all criteria that receive low average ratings.
  1. Expect. An organization’s corporate culture is one of those phenomena in which you get what you expect. Consequently, it is important for executives, managers, and supervisors to make sure that all personnel know that quality-positive attitudes and behavior are expected. This can be achieved by (1) including a corporate value relating to quality in the organization’s strategic plan, (2) including quality in the job descriptions of all per­sonnel, (3) including quality in all of the organization’s team charters, (4) including quality criteria in all of the organization’s performance appraisal instruments, (5) talking about quality at all levels in the organization, (6) recognizing and rewarding quality-positive attitudes and behavior, (7) providing quality-related training for personnel at all levels, and (8) setting quality-related goals for all teams, units, departments, and divisions in the organization.
  2. Model. Executives, managers, and supervisors must be consistently positive role models of the quality-related at­titudes and behaviors expected of personnel. Employees are more likely to follow the behavior of management personnel than their words. Consequently, it is impor­tant to do more than talk a good game when it comes to quality. Management personnel must walk the talk.
  3. Orient. New employee orientations should have a comprehensive quality component. A new employee’s first exposure to the organization occurs during his or her initial orientation. Consequently, it is important to begin emphasizing the organization’s quality-related expecta­tions from the outset as part of the orientation process.
  4. Mentor. Many organizations use mentors to help in the development of employees. Typically, mentors provide technically oriented assistance (e.g., helping new person­nel learn the necessary job skills). By taking this concept one step further, organizations can help their new per­sonnel develop quality-positive attitudes and behaviors.
  5. Train. Providing quality training at all levels is not a new concept to competitive organizations. However, what might be new is the need to expand quality training be­yond the typical technical topics to include attitudinal and behavioral topics. In other words, it is important to help personnel understand not just the “how” of quality but also the “why.” The why can be summarized in just one word: competition. All personnel need to understand that the organization’s survival depends on its ability to com­pete successfully every day over the long term and that they play a critical role in helping the organization do so.
  6. Monitor. Attitudes and behaviors tend to be habitual. If people are allowed to continue inappropriate attitudes and behaviors relating to quality, those attitudes and behaviors can become habitual. When this happens, such attitudes and behaviors can be almost impossible to change. Consequently, it is important that supervisors monitor the quality-related attitudes and behaviors of their direct reports continually. When quality-positive attitudes and behaviors are observed, they should be reinforced immediately. Correspondingly, when quality­negative attitudes and behaviors are observed, they should be corrected immediately.
  7. Reinforce and maintain quality. In order to maintain a quality culture once it has been established, organiza­tions must reinforce the quality-related attitudes and behaviors they expect of their personnel. This means that recognition and reward systems must factor in quality as a key criterion. Quality-related attitudes and behaviors should be factors in all decisions about raises, promotions, and recognition awards.

Source: Goetsch David L., Davis Stanley B. (2016), Quality Management for organizational excellence introduction to total Quality, Pearson; 8th edition.

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