Elements of a Quality Culture

Indeed, quality culture starts with top management. There need to be top management leadership to drive this culture of quality across the organisation. For this to happen, business leaders and managers must have the commitment in setting up quality control programmes, strategic planning for quality and provide resources for quality. In addition, top management leadership role is also a distinguishing element of a quality culture. Adopting a democratic leadership style where workers are not punished for errors and failures and that continuous learning is what prevails in the organisation. Management attitudes should be towards treating employees as members and remove barriers of superiors or subordinates. This suggests to everyone that the work of all members of the company is important and adds value to the final outputs. Members of the organisation should focus on the purpose for which they are all here to get better and better at creating that mutually beneficial relationship between them and their customers. Therefore, the authority of the top management is to support the mutual interests of its team openly and conscientiously.

Employee focus

Employee, being the most prominent factor of production, needs to be given consistent attention by management. Their current skills and competencies (both technical and interpersonal) need to be assessed continuously through performance management programmes, the SERVE model for service competencies among others and training should be given as and when needed. Alternatively, managers must be attentive on the needs of employees with proper rewards and incentives programmes being conducted. For sustaining a quality culture, it is also vital to consider the non-work aspect of employees such as marital or family problems, financial or other social problems.

Employee empowerment

Management cannot on its own make quality a driving force of the organisation. Employees are those who are involved in processing and marketing the company’s product. As such, employees should be empowered to make timely, accurate and valuable decision with regards to improving the quality of the company’s product or service. Moreover, in some cases, empowerment may also in circumstances where the employee has to delegate some powers and authority to his/her colleagues with the sole aim of improving quality of service. However, effective empowerment involves appropriate training given to employees, management monitoring of the decision and review and feedback given to management.

Involvement and participation of the employee

Employee involvement programmes (EIPs) can take a variety of forms including: job participation, consisting of permanent programmes in which employees take a formal, direct role in decisions relating to quality issues; consultative participation with top management to improve their production lines, including long-term interventions like quality circles, employee suggestion schemes, brainstorming sessions, in which employees’ opinions are sought as managers engage in decision making regarding quality issues over the long term. On the other hand, employee participation will be at the board where discussions are held between managers and/or employees over issues that requires employees and/or management ideas and suggestions.

Customer focus

The impetus for quality improvement begins with the customer. Customers are drawn to products and services of a particular organisation because they feel their needs and expectations are met or exceeded by these products and services. The bottom line for the customer has always been whether he or she obtains the products and services desired. For this reason, a focus on customer needs and expectations is recognized as the key to quality improvement by Edwards Deming, Joseph.M.Juran, Crosby, and other pioneers of TQM. Therefore, customer driven values would be firstly to adopt a user based quality approach whereby the quality is based on what the customer wants since he/she has always reason. Furthermore, there should be a change in management/employee attitudes as well; the door should always be left open for maintenance and advice.

Continuous improvement and Innovation

A quality culture requires organisations to embrace “continuous improvement and kaizen” throughout their processes. This approach assumes that employees are the best people to identify room for improvement, since they see the processes in action all the time. A firm that uses this approach therefore has to have a culture that encourages and rewards employees for their contribution to the process but to meet the highest standard possible at any time. In line with this continuous mechanism, management should allow room for innovation and creativity, work alongside the research and development, and invest massively in the development and new products based on customer requirements.

Partnering with suppliers

Suppliers are probably among the most important stakeholders for businesses in quest for a sustainable quality culture. This is because, the essence of quality starts with the inputs of production which normally constitute of a greater proportion of raw materials and components. The values that the organisation needs to holds vis-a-vis its suppliers are not as stakeholder but as partner for the longer term. Clear emphasis should be laid on the quality of raw materials. The organisation could make an agreement by having quality control officers at the warehouse of the supplier. In addition, quality is also about the delivery of inputs which requires the principle of “just-in-time” where raw materials and components arrives at the factory as and when needed therefore reducing the cost of storage but also keep the materials at the standard required for production.

Performance measures

Quality standards are imperatives if quality is to be consistent in an organisation. However, using quality standards as performance measures will give employees room for continuous improvement in their skills and competencies. The culture that needs to prevail in the organisation is that performance of employees needs to be assessed with regards to quality standards and not based on the quantities of output produced.

Communication

In order to have a dominant quality culture prevailing in the organisation, open, honest communication is vital. Dishonest communication is the kind of communication that leads to misunderstandings which frequently create problems on the job. In an environment where open communication is a stated value, such dishonesty in how people interact with each other makes little sense and therefore quality is reached in terms of conversations, discussion and sharing of ideas. Another essential element of a quality culture is empathy which is to do with proactively seeing the world from the perspective of others-other members of the company, customers, suppliers, the community. It is having a sense and appreciation of their problems, their abilities, and their behaviors. Finally, in connection with empathy, members of the organisation need to have active listening skills by suspending judgments.

Team building

Individual success depends on how everyone in the company works together, and the company’s success depends on all individuals doing their work well. This crucial element of quality culture encourages the development of teams and teamwork when collaboration is appropriate to execute work. In organisations with this value, people examine the tasks that need to be done. They then look at the inter-dependencies among people involved and organised teams around these tasks. The commitment and inclination to teamwork in a culture with this value will indeed be naturally extended to suppliers and customers. Ultimately, the team-building exercise will help remove barriers and class differences among people and work towards implementing total quality across the organisation.