Failing to plan is planning to fail, it is often said; but planning is a core part of human behaviour, whether consciously or unconsciously. The challenge, however, has got to do with going about planning in a more formal setting. The right time to put up the quality plan for your organisation is early in the year, usually the same time the quality management review is taking place.
Since quality cuts across the organisation and heads of the various departments will be present during the management review, the quality plan as presented will generate a lot of rich discussions refining it to best-fit status. Quality plans are based on facts and not emotions. A chunk of the KPIs will dwell on quality improvement and projects envisaged to bring additional quality benefits to the organisation through its products and services.
A quality plan by broad definition is a document, or several documents, that together specify quality standards, practices, resources, specifications and the sequence of activities relevant to a particular product, service, project or contract.
A quality plan, according to ISO 9001, establishes the objectives of the system and its processes, and the resources needed to deliver results in accordance with customers’ requirements and the organisation’s policies, and identify and address risks and opportunities.
It is important to have it at the back of your mind that satisfying customer requirements is at the centre of every quality programme. Since the most widely-used quality management system is ISO 9001, it is imperative to conform to all the clauses outlined in that standard. The standard specifies that an organisation needs to plan and implement actions to address risks and opportunities. There is a reason behind this; addressing both risks and opportunities establishes a basis for increasing effectiveness of the quality management system, achieving improved results and preventing negative effects. All this can be encapsulated in the words of Joseph M. Juran, the management consultant and strong advocate of quality: “Quality planning consists of developing the products and processes required to meet customer requirements”.
Components of a Quality Plan
There are similarities among various quality plans because they are customer-centric, and all organisations in following the basic principles of quality will eventually end up at the customer’s doorstep. The examples to be shared in the lines below are not exhaustive – in fact, depending on the type of organisation, there could be several quality objectives. Several KPIs can be drawn from each quality objective.
The quality objectives are set to be realistic and related to achievable outcomes: such as meeting agreed customer requirements for delivery or other product characteristics within a certain percentage of time; meeting regulatory and other requirements for products and services; identifying opportunities for improvement and reducing consumer and customer complaints; and minimising the cost of poor quality and scrap etc.
The above examples cut across the quality, R&D, production, procurement and customer departments. Opportunities for improvement are total in reach, and will encompass almost every department in the organisation – including supplier quality. To achieve success, an organisation should ensure that quality objectives are set for every department. These objectives must necessarily be linked to achieving customer requirements.
Top management has the responsibility to ensure that quality objectives as outlined in the quality plan are pursued and achieved. The provision of enablers in the form of training, motivation, acquisition of the right equipment, spare-parts and others lies on the shoulders of top management. It is the responsibility of the Management Representative (MR) to keep an eye on all activities specified under the quality objectives.
Implementation of the Plan
Implementation is as important as planning. In fact, the quality plan is useless if it finds its way onto a shelf or computer system and is only used as evidence during audits. A plan is as good as its implementation. Each objective should have some Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). For instance, using the previous year’s base with regard to consumer complaints, you may set a KPI like “reduce consumer complaints by 50% by end Q4 2018, using the 2017 figure as the base”.
Remember that your KPI should have about 4 basic qualities: Verb, Quantity, Timeframe and Quality (although, in some instances, the quality and quantity are intertwined). In the KPI above, ‘reduce’ is the verb; 50% -which would equate to a certain figure – becomes the quantity and probably the quality; and then end-Q4 2018 represents the timeframe. In the quality plan also, each KPI must have a person responsible. Do not put responsibility at the doorstep of teams and groups of people. Even if a team is responsible, there should be a team-leader who would be the direct point of accountability.
Monitoring and Reviews
In order to ensure progress, there should be regular monitoring of activities that go to support the achievement of all the KPIs set. The quality objectives are monitored from the input information received from internal and external audits, customer feedback, process performance reports, product conformity reports among others. As monitoring, analysis of results and reviews continue, actions should be taken to improve performance as necessary.
The courage to pursue quality – in the face of challenges in the organisation which could otherwise topple pertinent components of the quality plan – stems from the passion for satisfying customers and their requirements. Quality should not just be a passing statement, but must be engrained in the fabric of the organisation – such that it is visible to employees and ultimately customers. If you have still not put a quality plan together for 2018, this is the time to ensure it is done!
Johnson Opoku-Boateng is the Chief Executive & 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].
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