Sunday, January 16, 2011

Raising the Global Awareness of Quality

In his January 2011 'A view from the Q' blog post, Paul Borawski, ASQ Executive Director, asks how we can raise the global awareness that Quality works. In my opinion, the best way to "engage" the C-Suite (i.e. win the hearts and minds of executives) is to move the dialogue from little q to Big Q - from quality control to strategic quality planning; from process improvement to business performance excellence.

How often have we heard the tired phrase, "Quality is a given"? What does that mean? More importantly, what does Top Management think the phrase means? Has Top Management truly embraced quality as a competitive weapon - a value differentiator - and a means to build sustainable organizational results? Or, does Top Management behave as though their organization's quality processes are working fine (e.g. on par with current competition) and therefore shift resources to the next big thing?

A common and all too frequently heard definition of quality is "Conformance to Requirements". I emphatically dislike this definition. It sets the bar at mediocrity and drives goal post mentality (in-spec is "good enough"). Where is the passion and vision for excellence? Then there is the argument that customer requirements are constantly changing; when was the last time we validated our customers' requirements? Are we just meeting requirements or are we delivering exciting quality? Meeting requirements may result in short-term customer satisfaction but does not address those value propositions leading to loyalty. Conformance to requirements evokes images of a statistical tool pharmacy - providing training to the masses and doling out tools and techniques of the month with little connection to what drives sustainable organizational success.

Success in an ever-increasingly competitive world requires enterprise-level strategic quality planning, structured quality management systems, and flawless execution. Top Management must champion investments and deploy visionary strategy that connect quality improvement to sustainable growth, meaningful results and customer satisfaction & loyalty.

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