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A business has to deliver quality – but what does this mean? Part 2

03 May

Organisations are in the business of delivering quality and in this post we aim to look at what this means in practical terms.

In Part 1 we looked at we looked at how your business can deliver quality through things like preparation, encouraging a customer focus and considering competitors. Here in Part 2 we begin by looking at…

Assessing current performance 

You need specific data. This will help you decide what to concentrate on, and estimate the work involved. You may be able to get it from an existing management information system, or you might need to do some fresh analysis.

For example, you might want to reflect on the things you think you are especially good at (or not), and the effect of external influences on how you might address those characteristics. A useful technique for doing this is SWOT analysis, although there are others, such as the RADAR® self-assessment tool, which is used within the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) Business Excellence Model.

This process should give you valuable insights, but it will be an internal perspective. Surveying customers, suppliers and employees will all add fresh dimensions to your view – provided you ask questions that matter to the organisation and prepare the ground so people believe you really want to know the answers.

If you intend to use corporate statistics, look under them to check they tell you what you think they do, and that what they measure matters. 

Decide which aspects of your business to improve

What you tackle first will depend on your business priorities, your position in the company, and the time and resources available.

Find some areas for improvement that people will notice. Some that will capture the imagination of people in different levels and functions of the organisation. Some that will signal change to customers and/or suppliers.

People sometimes say the first thing to tackle is those few processes at which you really must excel. This is as true of a small team as it is of the whole company. You may know them as Critical (or Key) Success Factors (or even Mission Critical Factors). The idea is that these are vital to achieving your business aims and objectives, so tackling them will make the greatest difference to your business results. That’s true, but you might like buy in some expertise you can trust, or to get some practice first.

Tackling a cross-section of issues with high, medium and low priority, including some easy targets, will develop and maintain vital motivation while enabling you to attend to the issues that matter to the company’s results.

Plan your action

You might be working within your own area. You might have been offered responsibility for some or all aspects of quality improvement across part or the whole organisation. It doesn’t matter. Planning and (if you can) delegating the work will make life a lot easier. It’s much like any project.

If there are several projects going on, someone should coordinate work. Whether it should be you or someone else depends on circumstances. Only you can decide that.

If you’re in charge of a programme or project of any size, you’ll need to allocate resources. Even if you’re going to do it all yourself, you’ll need to know what resources are available and what you are responsible for. It is normal to make sure people are clear about their responsibilities, what they have to deliver by when and that they have the skills and motivation to do so. Check out how things are going at sensible intervals, and offer your encouragement and support or get help, or whatever is needed, when appropriate.

It makes sense to include project tasks in job descriptions, particularly if people are working on the tasks part-time. You should also incorporate work on the project into the normal performance management appraisal and accountability system.

It makes sense to identify (and take steps to minimise) the risks, and make contingency plans in case things do not go as expected. This basically involves imagining what could go wrong with each task, assessing which are the most likely or potentially calamitous setbacks, and thinking up alternative ways of reducing the risk or dealing with the fall-out if it happens. The advantage is having time to propose sane solutions when you are not under pressure because it has all gone horribly wrong.

All interested parties should regularly be told what’s happening. It is important to establish at the outset what the key stages are at which to check in with the team, and when and how to report progress and obstacles to senior management.

Remember it should be a two-way conversation though, not a broadcast. If you don’t attend to this, rumour will take over. Unless you control any tendency to broadcast, you might find conflicting or negative messages circulating, instead of positive ones. Then you will get bogged down in dealing with whinges, instead of getting on with the job.

Training may be needed, for you or your colleagues. It’s helpful to consider the cost of external trainers and the time ‘off-job’ of trainees. For example, it may suit your circumstances to pay for external training for a small core of employees, who would then be expected to train/coach their colleagues.

Some will just need to understand the concept. Others may need technical skills, if they are likely to use ‘quality techniques’ in their work. Some say that everyone should know about the techniques. It can send helpful messages about openness and common purpose if delegates on a course come from various levels in the company.

Post courtesy of People Alchemy

Catalyst Business Dynamics deliver have a reputation for delivering courses that develop many of soft skills mentioned here. For information on what we offer or to book a place on one of our FREE interactive workshops check out our website: http://www.cbduk.biz/Seminars.asp

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