Management has an obligation to create an effective and sustainable quality culture. Quality professionals, however, have a significant responsibility to help the organization accomplish this goal. Achieving this goal is challenging but not extremely difficult. It requires a sound philosophy supported by some basic beliefs.

In thinking about a committed quality culture, my mind goes to The Boy Scouts of America. Looking back on my days as a scout we learned many valuable lessons which are still applicable in today’s environment. As a member of the Scouts I still recall the promise that was recited at each meeting: “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law: to help other people at all times: to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”

An understandable list of requirements makes up the Scout Law: Scouts must be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.

The tactical plans, or actions items, for the Scouts are called merit badges. Scouts are expected to learn the skills contained within the badge requirements. When they can demonstrate these skills and knowledge, Scouts achieve recognition through the awarding of merit badges.

Organizations and professionals can learn from this approach, especially when it comes to quality. Most organizations concentrate on the “merit badge” subjects (certificates, awards, trophies) of quality before they build a culture. This impatient approach doesn’t lay the proper foundation so it tends to produce a “flavor of the month” cycle, which accomplishes little but keeps everyone extremely busy with non-essential tasks. Few people seem to be concerned that very little gets accomplished as long as they are getting “badges.”

Everyone in the organization but especially the quality professionals should give this thought some consideration. In today’s global economy, only those organizations considered useful and reliable will survive. When everyone is certified or qualified to some standard (ISO9000, ISO/TS16949, etc.), managers and quality professionals need to ask: what will differentiate them? The answer is PERFORMANCE as seen from the customer’s perspective.

The philosophy of a quality culture which produces reliable results comes from four continuing considerations: policy, education, requirements and insistence.  After achieving these, organizations can use the “merit badge” components which are valuable when implemented in an organization that has a sound philosophical base. The essentials to building organizational quality include:

The policy for quality is “We will deliver defect-free products and services to our customers and co-workers on time.” This eliminates any misconceptions that it is acceptable to do otherwise.

The education provides the common language that Philip B. Crosby called the “Absolutes of Quality Management”:

Quality is defined as conformance to requirements.Many think of this as “goodness,” which is a matter of opinion and comparison. “Goodness” is impossible to communicate to employees and suppliers in a meaningful manner.

Quality is accomplished through a culture of prevention.Quality has to be “pushed upstream” to make quality processes more robust and to limit the process of ongoing appraisal.

Quality has a performance standard of zero defects.Scout’s Law permits zero non-conformances. Allowing 3.4 scouts per million to be untrustworthy would undermine the organization’s integrity and creditability. Acceptable quality levels condemn a company to delivering shoddy products and services. However, it is the philosophical approach to zero defects that is as much the challenge as attaining that level of performance.

Quality is measured by the price of nonconformance (PONC).Most organizations have no idea their level of PONC. Organizations need to determine their PONC and work toward a prevention-oriented culture.

The requirements describe the work of the organization from needs down to the actual work transactions. Management needs to ensure that customer needs are being described by acts that produce useful and reliable outputs.

The insistence comes from management showing by example that the policy, education and requirements are taken seriously. They need to keep their word, treat others with respect, and be consistent.

 Quality is a serious part of the success of any organization, and if it’s not integrated in the day-to-day work life, it won’t happen. Management and quality professionals have to work together to build quality into the culture of the organization—then constantly nurture it!