Four lessons for quality managers and directors in 2016

by John Oakland

Earlier this year we did our usual review of activities and plans for the coming year.  As part of this we analysed which blogs have been the most popular in recent times and discussed what they are telling us about the issues facing the quality profession for the year ahead.  Here I share these insights and add some of my own thoughts to why these topics are proving so interesting.


1.Driving innovation through the organisation

Paul Slater’s blog on 7 ways you can encourage innovation was the one people have clicked through to most.

Paul referred to Dr Bettina von Stamm’s talk at the British Quality Foundation where she covered the essentials of how to drive innovation.  To recap, the principles are

  • Be clear what you are aiming for
  • Don’t over-use the word innovation
  • Have a good plan
  • Don’t ask for more innovation
  • Create space for innovation
  • Leverage diversity
  • Nurture absurdity

Innovation is one of those evergreen business challenges. It doesn’t matter what project we have helped our clients with – from cost-cutting to improving customer service or beating competitors – innovation is key to all these.  And in particular, creating an innovative mind-set and culture across the business.­­­­

Clearly this is an issue that organisations of all shapes and sizes constantly have to get their heads around – we always welcome hearing how others are achieving this and sharing our own ideas.


 2. Who should control quality data?

Andy Crossley looked at issues around data in his blog on Data Quality – Let the Battle Commence!  He began by saying “The battle for the control of data has begun and as organisations figure out what to do with all the data moving around inside and outside the company boundaries, is it quality or quantity that you should care about?”

He compares organisations that set out explicitly to capture data against those where data is “a by-product of just doing business” and then looked at Google which strategically set up “Google Flu Trends” in 2008, capturing the search terms that people put in when they have flu to predict epidemics.  In fact, Google then pulled this at the end of last year as , according to David Lazer and Ryan Kennedy writing in Wired, “GFT failed—and failed spectacularly—missing at the peak of the 2013 flu season by 140 percent”.

As David and Ryan argue in their article, this is not to say that Big Data is failing, more that we are still learning how to use and analyse it; in the case of Google one of the suggestions is that Google failed to spot how search terms were changing.

I think everyone would agree that Big Data will only grow in importance, we need to be strategic in setting out to use it – but we are all still learning how to manage and get the most from it.


3. The challenges of strategic planning and bringing a team with you

Mike Turner’s blog was popular on How to meet the challenge of Strategic Planning (and take your team with you!)

His tips for this were:

  • Don’t delegate this important task – take responsibility for the task and lead from the front
  • Take time to scope the task up-front – identify the key questions that you need to answer and structure the work to answer them
  • Involve your people in developing the plan – they will own it and deliver it
  • Have a structured plan or approach – and make it visible and understood
  • Don’t try and “boil the ocean”; take manageable steps
  • Don’t try and do it all yourself; bring in expert help where needed to meet your agenda

Strategic planning diagram

4. Infrastructure is one of the biggest government challenges for 2016

Richard Corderoy looked at one of the biggest challenges facing the UK’s government – that of getting infrastructure moving.  He asked Does Lord Adonis have a wide enough brief to speed up infrastructure?

Whether it is Crossrail 2, High Speed 3 or Hinckley nuclear build, Richard looked at the role for Lord Adonis’ new team and highlighted what he sees as the three key areas for infrastructure success:  commissioning; funding and clarity about decision-making – asking who is in charge?

There is no doubt that the economy generally is feeling far more buoyant than even a year ago.  The start of this year has seen great volatility in stock markets, with the FTSE closing at a three year low.

Whatever is about to happen to the economy, my own view is that the topics covered above on innovation, communications, Big Data and strategy will all continue to be priorities in business, regardless of which way the economy is heading.  And successful commission of infrastructure could be critical to our economic growth.   But do you agree?


4 lessons for quality managers and directors in 2016