In many companies Quality is just another area in the organizational chart structure. Although it has interaction with other areas, it seems that it is not considered a strategic area. There are iterative processes to ensure that the final product passes through quality control checks, but at the very end, when problems are found, everyone turns to the Quality area and its functioning and they wonder how that is possible.
Actually, the main problem is to think the productive chain with Quality at the end of the process, and not to think Quality as a strategic flow through all the areas and processes in the company.
Let’s take an example! Toyota has leaned on manufacturing processes. Its productive chain is controlled and supervised by each employee and every one of them is aware that quality is part of their scope of work, being client from the previous process and provider to the next one. Even more, everyone has the empowerment to stop the productive chain if something goes wrong! Amazing, isn’t it! They will not allow something wrong to reach the next stage in the productive chain. Every employee knows that every second that the line stops is considered non-productive time, which implies loss of productivity, efficiency, and of course a big amount of money. But, what if these employees allowed a malfunctioning product to continue through the line until the end? What if they thought that the next step or process would fix the problem?
To fully understand why Toyota employees do that, we have to read some company history, its ups and downs and, most of all, their organizational and social culture. Only then, we will start to understand the meaning of quality in every process people do, and the big cost of non-quality processes.
I hardly believe that Quality is a style of work. It must be inside our culture and values. Not just focused on the productive chain, but on the whole company. It sounds utopic though in fact it is not! Organizations that want to achieve that should follow at least the next two concepts:
- Continuity, rhythm and discipline in the purpose of continuous improvement.
- Being a client and a provider of any process in every area.
The previous bullets were taken and reformulated from the 14 points of Deming “The Fourteen Points For The Transformation Of Management”. I strongly recommend you to read them! They are quite easy to understand, but not that easy when you are trying to spread them all over the company because people need time to process ideas and acquire different ways of working. Maybe it is in each employee to be the example, to be self-critical about their own work and constructively critical about others´ work, and specially…keep it through time.
Organizations should focus on the idea that Quality must flow naturally through all areas and processes, best practices, quality assurance, functional tests, job descriptions, scopes of work, documentation, training, development, delivery, etc.
It is quite a big challenge, but I invite you to think again in the cost of non-quality and its effects in every day work, and I am sure you will find the answer.
I hope you enjoyed!
Lucas G. Obredor
Professional Services Manager