Let’s start with a quote from ISO 9001 on this knotty and amorphous topic
5.1 Management commitment
Top management shall provide evidence of its commitment to the development and implementation of the quality management system and continually improving its effectiveness by
a) communicating to the organisation the importance of meeting customer as well as statutory and regulatory requirements
b) establishing the quality policy
c) ensuring the quality objectives are established
d) conducting management reviews, and
e) ensuring the availability of resources
So we need management commitment, and we struggle to get things off the ground if we don’t have it, that’s fine. Go to any major facility that has operated for any length of time and ask about quality initiatives that have failed, and you won’t have to wait too long before the finger of blame is pointed at the top team. Sometimes they may deserve it, but often they are a visible and easy target
I was moved to explore this topic when I stumbled upon a useful thread on LinkedIn (now gone, unfortunately). There is some good sense offered, but maybe a fundamental point of understanding is being missed. Put yourself in the CEO’s shoes. You’ve got this QA manager who is banging on about something or other, be it lean, six sigma, EFQM Excellence or whatever (whichever way you don’t really understand the ins and outs of it), they want to give it a shot and they also want/need you (the CEO) to put YOUR money where HIS mouth is. What would you do? Is this support meant to be unconditional? Or is there some front end work to be done by QA before this even hits the CEO’s agenda?
Frankly I’ve seen so many proposed programs lack the commitment from senior management from day one, usually through under-resourcing, but the key point that is always ALWAYS overlooked in the post-mortem is that every business decision is a risk, a gamble, and the best gamblers are those that understand the odds and the statistical probability of success. That means that if you judge the odds are long, you may take a punt but you might not put your house on it, if the odds are short on the other hand, your bet may be more substantial. The investment needs to look like a good bet. That, QA Department, is how it works. It was Philip Crosby, some time ago, that warned QA Manager’s that to be successful they needed to learn to speak the language of the boardroom, dollars, but since those words were spoken how many have listened?
The point is that, in my experience, too many QA Managers expect the senior team to blindly commit to something that on the face of it looks like a long-odds bet, or otherwise the information is not given to enable the odds to be sized up. They do not take the time and put in the effort to develop a more persuasive case and shorten the odds of success. Let’s face it, we all want the same thing, a successful business, and (assuming the senior team aren’t a load of idiots) any proposal that looks a safe bet to improve business performance is going to get some air-time
So there are competences to be developed and disciplines to be followed – this again won’t guarantee success but, again, it will shorten the odds. Once again the whole process of decision making comes back to the management of risk
I’ve trawled around for articles to provide some useful pointers, and found this useful little “How to” guide to ROI worksheets on Sith Sigma. A very useful business tool, and one that translates easily into boardroom language. Also, check out our recent post on the principles of embedding risk management. It’s something we all need to understand. The nature of quality is evolving. I assert that conformity is no longer the number one key success criterion. Customers expect everything to be functional – it is now a given, not a bonus. The future lies with those companies that can accurately understand, and hence manage, their risks, and also effectively manage the customer interface. They shall inherit the earth