In our last article, The Return of “What Is Quality?”, we identified that the quality conversation is not understood with the depth of appreciation, and insight, that it should. As an analogy, we compared current strategies of defining quality akin to a short lived but entertaining sitcom. We watch, enjoy in the moment and move on to something else. While in reality, quality should be more like a favorite movie franchise, with sequels, complex characters and a cult following. It should be reviewed as a well-developed theme of interest that we come back to over and over again.
We proposed that the “What Is Quality?” question needs expanded conversation in two parts: that quality is actually a destination of quality outcomes AND a journey of quality behaviors that lead us to achieve quality outcomes. We want to explore this more, to expand on that conversation.
Quality as a journey requires effort and discipline to arrive successfully at our planned destination. There needs to be a map with points of reference and guidance on measuring progress. There also needs to be resources to fuel the journey. We do not travel without GPS, maps or knowledge of how to get where we are going. We do not make a journey without a mode of transportation – a bus or plane ticket, gas for a boat or car, a bicycle with inflated tires and lubricated chains. We cannot travel the journey to quality outcomes without a quality plan and resources.
Quality as a destination requires us to define where we want to be and how we will know we have arrived. For a trip where we know where we want to go, we can use an address, sign on a freeway exit, or even latitude and longitude to help us identify we have arrived at the right spot. There is always a way to measure accurate arrival at our destination The challenge of quality for every organization is determining the right destination and applying the right methods for identifying the destination.
Navigate Your Own Quality Journey
If you do not yet have a quality destination or a journey defined for your organization, there are many tools from the quality body of knowledge and various regulatory environments to help you:
- Six Sigma uses customer satisfaction as a method to identify likely destinations;
- ISO9000 is structured around a concept of continuous improvement;
- HACCP principles help us identify measurement factors that will keep us on course.
The data you need to manage your journeys, and recognize your destinations, is available to you in many forms. All are methods of providing the compass points that manage and evaluate the progress of the journey:
- Key Performance Indicators or Metrics;
- Statistical Process Control;
- Lot trace;
- Monthly financial reports.
Being Responsive to the Data Journey Gets to the Data Destination Faster, Better
Using real-time data allows you to make better decisions. Obtaining data to navigate your course, and not using it right away, may even prevent you from reaching your planned destination in a timely manner.
In other words, if our competition is working with more automated tools like real time data collection, or more accurate charts like customer surveys, then they likely are responding faster to new navigation data and making course corrections way ahead of us.
The overwhelming preference for paper or spreadsheet based systems is an indicator of comfort and reliance on the known. For many organizations it meets the minimum requirements for conformance to guidance and costs. But is minimum really still good enough for your journey?
Tell us about your quality journey. Do you have a clearly recognized destination and how are you fueling your travel? Are your navigation tools still old world?