Ok, so we’ve been certified to the ISO 9001 standard for the longest. Yes our processes are better, we have gotten new customers over the years because of the certification, and yes we track our objectives and customer satisfaction. But is there anything else left to be extracted out of our program and its recurrent costs? Our sales don’t seem to be significantly affected by our certification anymore, and our improvements seem to be stagnated. So what else can ISO and other quality programs do for us? Boy oh boy, if you could only let top management cover themselves in Continual Improvement, would you only know the true benefits that ISO and other quality programs can bring.
A case of complacency
When it comes to achieving world class quality, few are the companies that go beyond the threshold of a good quality management system into world-class quality. Going from 5000 DPPM to 2000 DPPM is great, perhaps even down to 1100 DPPM. However once you get there, it is harder to go to 800 then 500 or a lesser DPPM. And that is because the commitment of the Top Management Executive stops at a certain point. Why is it that commitment and involvement decreases over time? Complacency is the word.
Suddenly, the Top Management Executive is never available for the Management Review or ISO opening or closing meetings. Top Management considers meetings with the quality individual a nuisance, while meetings with the operations or sales guys are always welcomed and needed. Indeed there could be nothing else extracted if nobody is there to do it.
A game of Titles
Much confusion has been brought by the title of Quality Manager and the title of Management Representative. Neither one of these persons can actually change or improve the overall quality of the organization unless they have full support from the Top Management Executive. However the Top Management Executive’s full support cannot and will not be evident unless he/she takes the roll of a Quality Leader.
The Top Management Executive is the only one that can truly bring Operations, Quality, Logistics, Engineering and the rest of the areas together towards excellence in customer satisfaction and dedication to continual improvement. Unless he/she has a deep commitment and shows quality leadership, everybody is going to go their own way, their own direction while the Quality Manager or Management Representative is busy chasing them and trying to make them work together. Although it is doable, it is unlikely and highly improbable that the Quality Manager or Management Representative can single handedly bring all these areas together in the quest for quality without the full support of the Top Management Executive. Quality they may achieve but not world class quality.
Top Management Support
Top Management Executive support does not mean a “You have my support” comment while at the water cooler. Top Management Executive’s support actually means that the top executive is living and breathing the quality management system. It means that he/she is walking the talk and talking the talk being a true Quality leader. When the last time was the Top Management Executive was present a Management Review meeting? When was the last time the Top Management Executive knew if the quality objectives were being met and could actually speak to the metrics? When was the last time the Top Management Executive dedicated the resources to continual improvement?
You cannot buy quality and you cannot bring quality into a product or service. Quality is a consequence, quality is the result of well established policies and procedures, well trained personnel, excellent suppliers who provide quality products and services, in essence quality is the result of a highly developed quality management system that has achieve a level of support and integration by everyone in the organization. With the deep ingrained leadership of the Top Management Executive, world class quality is attainable.
If you do something, if you improve something, then update your procedures, update your processes. This will help you be disciplined so that you can do things consistently better across your organization and improve customer satisfaction while doing that.
I have seen it and therefore I believe
I recently had the pleasure of working with a world class team in a neighboring country. Boy did I see Top Management at its fullest. From the moment we begin the Opening Meeting, the entire team seemed as energized and eager to participate in this long week of auditing. From the HR Manager to the Engineering and Improvement Managers, every department was so ready to show off their accomplishments. It was obvious there was a common sense of pride and I wondered how this was accomplished.
Such sense was evident when the Top Executive spoke. His words and command immediately demonstrated his infinite commitment to continual improvement, customer satisfaction and quality. His level of understanding, awareness and involvement were so obvious, I almost wanted to skip the Top Management portion of the audit. But, would I have missed something indeed! When we got to that part of the audit, it was incredible to hear Mr. Gearl describing each and every objective and how they fair against the goals. It was refreshing to see this level of management so abreast with everything that was discussed on the Management Review. He knew exactly what was being done and what initiatives were taking place to continue in the journey to world class quality. In tune with production numbers he was indeed, but no less than with every continual improvement initiative–including quality, engineering, lean manufacturing, etc.
Sitting around a table in his office, overlooking a flat screen TV mounted on the wall, which was continuously showing every single goal, objective and status of production, I dared to ask him a question. How do you know so much about quality and other quality and continual improvement initiatives, when production and sales are usually what most top executives care? Mr. Gearl replied: “I have to. How cannot I be involved in this, support this and know about this? I’m the quality leader; I set the example for everyone. Quality, customer satisfaction, continual improvement starts with me”. And with the help of great people Mr. Gearl showed me how each and every area of the factory was improving, meeting established goals that translated directly into cost savings and higher profits. I saw Mr. Gearl, and therefore I believe, when top management is involved, breakthroughs can happen.
Final Words on Commitment
If you are deeply committed to achieving world class quality, then you as the top management should be the Quality Leader. Get all aspects of your business involved in the Quality Management System, from Sales to Marketing to Shipping. A robust quality management system improves operations, improves quality, and improves all your processes. It is proven, it works! Then stick to it, do it!
Note: To maintain confidentiality, the names used in the article are not the real names.