“The worth of a civilisation or a culture is not valued in the terms of its material wealth or military power, but by the quality and achievements of its representative individuals – its philosophers, its poets and its artists.” Herbert Read. If there’s any word that is used multiple times in a day, it would undoubtedly be the word Quality: Quality of life, quality of products, quality of vision, quality of taste, etc. In very clear instances where a business is said to produce quality products, that business determines to climb even higher the ladder of quality. The reason is simple: when quality is defined through the lenses of customer satisfaction, a business cannot help but keep working at quality lest the slightest change in customer perception becomes a challenge!
Quality has been defined in several ways: fit for purpose, customer satisfaction, meeting standards or specification, delighting the consumer etc. In the world of an entrepreneur, quality is number-one even before cost. Products that do not measure up to their functional promise hardly make it on the market, irrespective of a so-called magical price point.
Historically, companies that survived through hard economic downturns are those that produced high quality goods and sustained the standard. Good quality has a way of imprinting itself in the minds of consumers just like a good song will do.
Without sounding too philosophical, putting smiles on the face of your customers is the same as embossing quality as tiny droplets in your product – such that what they see, feel or taste is quality. Quality is not a jargon or a catchphrase, it is the result of deliberate actions to produce to specifications that will meet expectations of the customer or consumer. Bringing every employee in the company along in this regard is the right thing to do to ensure alignment, consistency and brand excellence. Every organisation must have a quality culture, based on which it can stand the test of time.
Culture can be defined as the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society. One Sohel Khatri reflects that Culture is manifested in collective behaviour and is the set of shared beliefs, attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterise an institution or organisation. Just like vehicles and general equipment, a manual comes in handy. It is odd to purchase a car that comes without a manual, irrespective of how popular that car is.
Similarly, every organisation must have a culture of quality; and every employee must be exposed to that culture to ensure consistency in the nature of manufactured products. A deviant in that society is a liability and cannot be a partner in the shared goals of the organisation. One way of ensuring new employees fit into this culture is to have a comprehensive induction programme that encompasses the aims and objectives of the business, as well as policies and practices which establish its unique identity.
Living the quality culture
A great quality culture begins with embedding quality in the ways of work in an organisation. In this environment every employee dreams quality, eats quality and lives quality. Every product is the result of several interlinked processes starting from raw materials – and in the case of service industries, ideas. Each individual process in the chain is manned by employees who pass on their outputs as input materials to the next person in the process. In an organisation that has effectively embedded quality, no defects are passed from one person to another within the value chain.
A Quality Culture is the organisational capabilities, its habits and beliefs which enable it to design and deliver products and services that can meet customer needs and be successful in the marketplace over the long-term. If an organisation is to be successful in living quality, its members will have to be immersed in quality – as its sustenance is key to the survival of that organisation. I have worked with a multinational that took quality so seriously production volumes only mattered if they were of good quality as contained in their product specification sheets.
There are several approaches to embedding quality into the culture of an organisation. Every organisation has to make its aims and objectives very clear to all employees. While this is being done, the quality policy has to be communicated as well – and in detail. A company without a quality policy has already failed in its quest to keep quality top of mind. The quality policy is a statement of intent on how quality will be implemented to meet customer expectations – pillars of which give a summary of what the organisation is going to do to meet the policy statement.
Beyond this communication, the tools to make quality a reality must be made available; and, of course, employees trained in quality and processes within the value chain. One activity that I find very beneficial is to have a ‘quality hour’ every week. Every employee in the organisation discusses the same topic on quality – and this includes non-technical staff. In my next article, further light will be thrown on different approaches.
Let me conclude by quoting Herbert Read again: “But the further step by means of which a civilisation is given its quality or culture is only attained by a process of cellular division, in the course of which the individual is differentiated, made distinct from and independent of the parent group”. Organisations must realise the importance of individual employees in maintaining the culture so established. They are the ones who make quality happen, and everything must be done to keep them informed, trained and rewarded when quality is consistent.
Johnson Opoku-Boateng is the Founder & Lead Consultant, QA CONSULT (Consultants and Trainers in Quality Assurance, Health & Safety, Environmental Management systems, Manufacturing Excellence and Food Safety). He is also a consumer safety advocate and helps businesses with regulatory affairs. He can be reached on +233209996002, email: [email protected]; [email protected]