Use your strength and leadership to remain economically healthy.

Organizations should focus on some key quality process areas to meet the demands of the competitive environment and maintain their quality competitiveness.

1. Develop a new strategic and operational leadership model of quality. It has become increasingly clear that organizations that survive and do well in the markets approach quality as a key part of their strategy. Senior management, in these organizations, has become more hands-on in quality-related activities just as they do in other areas such as finance. This attention provides leadership and a clearly defined role for the quality professional, as well as sending a powerful message across the organization.

A key concept that organizations need to adopt is that there is no such thing as a quality problem. When thinking of quality problems, organizations look to the quality manager or the quality department for solutions or where to place the blame. In truth, the problems that exist include: design problems; manufacturing problems; and manufacturing engineering problems.

2. Develop and launch new products which will provide consistent customer value. Faster launches of high quality products rely on strong management leadership, technology and focused quality systems. This integration leads to shorter cycle times with complete quality disciplines to ensure successful product launches delivering consistent customer value performance.

For some, this is quite different from the past. While well intentioned and well constructed, some processes were separate islands without bridges to integrate activities with other processes across the organization.

In today’s environment, it is imperative that we shift toward more carefully structured, quality-driven activities that pay close attention to customer value practices designed to meet the needs and expectations of the market. Measurement practices need to be in place to ensure the organization is on target and to avoid the backward creep of product quality.

3. Foster a more consistent motivation of human resources to support quality initiatives. This is a departure from the earlier management practice of putting on well-packaged motivational sessions or speeches. While often entertaining, these were mostly shallow because when employees went back to work, feeling euphoric, they typically faced ambiguous quality practices and a business as usual atmosphere. Departmental walls remained up which ensured quality improvement remained slow and mostly ineffective in making real change.

Today’s environment demands a workplace beyond the worker empowerment of the past. The emphasis needs to be on creating an environment of openness and integrity, of which respect, trust and honesty are cornerstones. This encourages the development of individual quality improvement entrepreneurs. Those best qualified to establish a better way are the ones closest to the actual work. When they are given the ability, tools and support, they also are the ones who can implement the changes.

4. Effective management of suppliers and purchasing activities. In quality-focused organizations this activity is governed by strong, systematic management and emphasis on the quality of suppliers. These organizations focus heavily on better communications within their organizations and strive for a more productive, long-term partnership with its suppliers. This is different than in the past where a “negotiate them down” and combative approach drew battle lines between the entities.

5. Understand the economics of quality. Organizations can do well by fully understanding their total cost of nonquality as it relates to the failure to achieve what Dr. A.V. Feigenbaum called “customer value satisfaction.”

I had the opportunity to visit a small company that had a strong quality improvement program focused only on driving down their cost of poor quality. They had everyone involved and accomplished wonderful results through understanding their true cost of failure and their quest to do it right the first time.

Organizations have continued to improve, but the lessons have been hard. It’s not only the organizational leadership who needs to change, but the quality professionals and other members of the organization. It is up to us, but remember, you don’t have to do any of these things-survival is not compulsory.