Every organization is attempting to improve the quality of what it provides and what it does. This chase of quality has taken various forms over the years. Over time we have moved from “Quality Assurance” to “Total Quality Management” and now to the modern concept of a “Culture of Quality”. A research based exploration of how to create a “culture of quality” within an organization has resulted in some simple guidelines.
Ashwin Srinivasan and Bryan Kury authors of a Harvard Business Review article titled: Creating a Culture of Quality (HBR April, 2014) describe a “true culture of quality” as “an environment in which employees not only follow quality guidelines but also consistently see others taking quality-focused actions, hear others talking about quality, and feel quality all around them”. In other words the organization, breathes, eats and sleeps “quality”; it is ingrained into its fabric.
Guidelines for a True Culture of Quality
1. Leadership Emphasis: executive level leaders must “walk the talk”. This means explaining clearly how the organization embraces quality as a key part of its culture and demonstrating through their actions what this means through their actions. Sometimes, there are “gaps between “what leaders) say and what they do”. Leaders in true quality organizations have eliminated these gaps.
2. Message Credibility: workers feel personally communicated to and messages are consistent and easy to understand. Clear and concise communication is vital to any successful organization and this is key for quality messages.
3. Peer Involvement: “companies that take a grassroots, peer-driven approach develop a culture of quality.” Peers encourage each other and hold each other accountable. Peers also regularly “raise quality as a topic for team discussion”.
4. Employee Ownership: People do not want to be “micro-managed” but they also need clear guidance. In the culture of quality, “workers understand how quality fits with the job”. In addition, workers are empowered to make decisions that support the quality goals of the organization.
Srinivasan and Kury state that following these guidelines leads to an organization that not only works to quality improvement but rather imbeds quality into everything it does. In this way, quality becomes the culture of the organization and not just another corporate exercise.