All organizations have a culture, what noted anthropologist E. Adamson Hoebel defined as “the integrated system of learned behavior patterns which are characteristic of the members of a society and which are not the result of biological inheritance” (Hoebel, E. A. 1972. “Anthropology: The study of man.” 4th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill).

A culture will be different from organization to organization but it should be safe to say that everyone reading this article is (or would like to be) working in an organization with a culture of quality.

However, just because your organization practices quality principles and has implemented continuous improvement methodologies doesn’t necessarily mean there is a culture of quality.

Why is it important to have and/or improve your culture of quality? Simply put, because of the rewards. But more of that later. First, let’s discuss forming and fostering a culture of quality.

According to culture expert Jennifer Callaway, having a clear definition of the desired culture of quality is the first step in improving it. Callaway spoke with ASQ TV and stated that a “clear definition of culture of quality is one where employees see, hear, and feel quality all around them. And it’s really enabled by a fourth element—the transfer element—and this is what happens when employees transfer their quality values to others.”

As with everything that should be practiced throughout the organization, culture of quality must be embraced at the top. Make sure that quality—and how your organization defines it—is stated clearly in your mission statement and core values. One of ASQ’s core values speaks to innovation and quality directly. Of course, you would expect an organization dedicated to assisting the quality community would espouse quality methodology, but ASQ cannot take this for granted. It isn’t good enough to say we have a culture of quality; we need the action behind the words.

“Employees should remember,” says Callaway, “that they themselves are models of good quality behavior. So if they prioritize quality and they practice quality, that’s going to rub off on their peers.” Callaway continues, stating that research has shown that employee ownership drives a culture of quality. “If an employee isn’t sure of the behaviors that management wants them to emulate to drive a culture of quality, they should ask their managers what that looks like. And they can use a simple conversation starter like: Culture of quality is important to me. Quality is a priority for me. What else can I be doing to help us achieve our quality goals?”

And this is how the executive suite progresses and maintains a culture of quality: Foster an environment where employees can take self-directed action about quality.

Research shows the benefits of a strong culture of quality can be impressive—especially when it comes to the bottom line.

Now we return to the reward. CEB, a member-based advisory company, has found for every 5,000 employees a company has, you can recapture as much as $67 million dollars of employee productivity by improving your culture of quality. This is quite the reward. Even if you work in a smaller organization—which many readers do—it is a substantial payback for the investment.

An organization lives and dies by its culture. Make sure your organization embraces the power of a culture of quality.



An engaged workforce is crucial to the success of any quality-focused organization. The Service Quality Body of Knowledge finds that engagement surveys are a valuable tool to manage culture, helping to understand how committed and satisfied employees are, and the issues affecting them. Keep these tips in mind when developing your own survey.

Step 1: Make it meaningful. Figure out what you want to learn about the workforce. Well thought-out objectives for the survey can help ensure that the questions will yield useful responses.

Step 2: Plan its launch. Determine who will receive the survey, how long you will give them to respond, and how data will be collected and compiled.

Step 3: Ask and wait. Conduct the survey and then …

Step 4: Crunch the numbers. Analyze the responses and report the results. If open-ended questions or comments were allowed, be sure to report the responses in large enough groupings so respondent anonymity is protected.

 Find more expert advice on employee engagement surveys by visiting the ASQ Knowledge Center (