Management
Speaking of Quality

Culture of Quality and Common Language

Culture is the common language and values put into action

July 1, 2014
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When we talk about a culture, we refer to the values that are shared through stories told throughout the country, state or neighborhood. For a successful organization, a culture has been built around common language used to talk about how it meets—and exceeds—customer needs. A culture of quality.

ASQ and Forbes Insights explored a culture of quality in part because the 2013 Global State of Quality Research (ASQ and APQC) clearly stated that a culture of quality was viewed differently throughout the world.

More Insights

The data shared in this article came from the initial Forbes Insights study announced at the ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement, May 2014. This month a free, in-depth whitepaper will be released. The whitepaper will be located at http://www.forbes.com/insights/

Also of interest to the quality community, ASQ and Forbes Insights is in the process of developing a self-assessment tool for organizations to measure and benchmark their culture of quality. The assessment will offer opportunities for organizations to improve their culture of quality and compare themselves to high-performing organizations worldwide. The tool will be introduced during World Quality Month, November 2014.

It is impossible to look through the business news without coming across a headline about a quality issue. ASQ runs a “Quality News Today” service and it rarely lists less than two poor quality stories in a four story feed. With social media use growing, customer complaints and brand attacks are instantaneously shared with thousands—even millions—of followers. Poor quality can destroy brand reputation and public trust. A culture of quality can help alleviate these issues for your organizations. Best of all, a culture of quality can help prevent these issues from occurring in the first place.

The ASQ and Forbes Insights study analyzed the data of more than 1,700 respondents, which included executives and quality professionals. Two-thirds of executives interviewed stated that their organizations exhibit a culture of quality. However, culture isn’t a statement of intent or perception. Culture is the common language and values put into action. Examining the key elements of a culture of quality (vision, values, leadership) reveals cracks in the foundation.

For instance, only 61% of respondents believe their organization’s quality vision is clearly stated; only 33% view their quality statement as compelling. Concerning company values, 61% say their quality values are clearly stated, while only 51% believe the values are clearly understood throughout the organization. To have a culture of quality—that is, to share that common language and the stories it inspires—it is essential to have clarity and be compelling. If the organization doesn’t find its quality vision clear and compelling, how can it possibly be successfully conveyed to staff, suppliers and customers?

Ninety percent of respondents state customer demands drive quality. However, only 30% of executives and 18% of quality professionals surveyed state customers are actively involved in formal quality discussion. Once again, the disconnect between the idea and the action is made very clear.

This is the current state of the culture of quality. Few will disagree with the idea that a culture of quality is needed and beneficial. But, creating and sustaining the culture the organization wants isn’t that easy. Respondents suggested that technology and training are two of the main challenges for adopting a culture of quality. The study does hint that many executive are already planning on investing in technology and training to instill the culture of quality they want. Time will tell if these changes occur. Anyone reading this magazine does know, without doubt, that there are plenty of quality success stories. Where stories are told and retold, cultures arise and flourish.

 

 

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