Quality is back on the agenda big time!

by John Oakland

My colleagues and I are in the privileged position of being able to spend time in a variety of organisations, mainly large complex ones, and an overriding message that has emanated from all of them this year is the need to spend time ‘getting back to quality.’

This takes the form of addressing specific quality failures with ‘customers,’ embracing the need to improve quality performance, because it has slipped or full-scale preventive strategies arising from the application of targeted approaches to remove ‘waste’ or reduce costs. The latter often having stripped out capabilities essential to the successful delivery of quality products or services.

What is fascinating, even frustrating, is the pendulum swing approach to so-called improvement. It seems like a 3-year cycle in which the focus goes from –> customer –> cash –> costs –> back to customer. Such imbalances lead to quality problems that in turn lead to cost overruns and delays, exacerbating the pendulum effect.

The sensible approach, of course, is to keep the ‘Quality – Time – Cost’ triangle in balance. This would simultaneously reduce variation, which typically causes quality problems, and reduce non-value added time, that typically causes on-time delivery problems. Addressing these two together always reduces costs, thus avoiding the need for potentially damaging cost reduction programmes.

So quality is back on the agenda, big time – from aerospace to utilities, including automotive, criminal justice, education, health, infrastructure and transport, public and private sector. What an opportunity for the quality profession to demonstrate the value it can add -BUT you need to step up to the plate!

Quality professionals can help senior managers change the way they think, so they give quality the same priority as cost and delivery. They can help promote best practices across all organisational processes, by reducing complexity, simplifying things and supporting the move needed from correction to preventive activities across the business landscape.

The CQI is providing the lead – the Professional Policy Panel has set the agenda for change and you will be able to read in Quality World and a series of major publications coming out over the next few months what is involved and how you can make a difference.

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