Often big things lead to better performance, like investing in new systems, staff or assets. But it could as likely be the little things that create great outcomes, like executing the daily operational details with excellence. In either case, incorporating the basic principles of formal quality improvement methods will be an aid to your organization.
We know many organizations have formal quality programs because of the demands of regulatory and competitive factors. We know other organizations are conflicted about starting programs mostly because of the challenges of picking the ‘right’ one. But whether you are deeply engaged in a formal program like ISO or Six Sigma, or just starting out on program selection or deployment, there are a few behaviors that you can encourage with your team to aid in your success.
Our goal is to help you improve whatever program you have adopted and see the profitability and customer satisfaction improvements you desire, particularly if:
- You are a business leader who believes that little fixes, done right, add up to big dollars
- Your organization already has an active quality program but expected wins are not being realized
Wherever you are at, we recommend first considering the simple, effective low cost tasks that can help you do a better job for you and your customers. Words of inspiration and a little humor can go a long way to help keep your team focused on the constant effort for doing better.
With a focus on quality improvement specifically, here are four steps that will help you bring it back to basics.
- Write it down. Whether you have a fully compliant ISO9000 process or you are just starting out, writing it down is really important. In the electronic age, writing may seem like an old fashioned process. So, if we apply the concept that “if you don’t spell it out, it won’t happen” to mean actually write it or type it, the benefits can be the same. You are documenting and making a record of the expectation. You can go back and measure against it or staff can refer to it. It doesn’t have to be written in stone to be a long-term behavior requirement. It just has to be documented with a clear set of expectations of how the documentation should be used.Many of the challenges for writing it down, such as the right tools and the right place to keep the documents, are solved with Microsoft Office 365. If your struggle has been to provide staff access to the right tools, then this might help.
- Centrally track your data. A truth about a trend is you cannot see it from the inside. You have to step outside to see it. So when writing something down, you might want to get started by picking a single theme or activity. As an example, you could consider writing down your non-conforming events and collecting them in a central location.There is no point having staff or customers identify problems if that data is not being tallied in a central location. If you do not have somewhere to collect all those individual events then you are missing a big benefit from your employees’ and customers’ feedback. Because, without a central location for managing the data you just cannot see the trend. You can use your spreadsheet tools that come with Microsoft Office 365 or you could consider the Improvement Management module from Quality Essentials Suite to help you write it down and analyze the results.
- Rate the criticality. Look, no person or process is perfect. Mistakes happen. What is important is that we acknowledge and rate the criticality of the mistake. Then we need to communicate it (hint: back to writing it down).Some criticality is easy to see. Other times not so much. What is important is taking to the time to analyze what the error cost you directly in terms of fixing it and indirectly in terms of business opportunity lost or employee morale diminished. In their blog the dosomething.org group is very honest about their mistake and about the efforts to fix it.
- Take a breather. Yes. Take a break, pause and look around. Take some time to examine the data you have been collecting. After all, you aren’t writing it down, collecting it centrally and then rating if for criticality just because you want one more task. You are doing it because you would like to identify what two or three things you could do that would make the biggest positive impact on your profitability and customer satisfaction.In fact, if you have the tools, you can even ask your team to contribute to picking the most important improvements or help them analyze the results. Try using the dashboard capability in Quality Essentials Suite to help. Or simply use a web based survey tool.