The Principles Behind Quality Management
Sound, good quality principles in business make a fine point to customers. A business based on clear principles brings quality services or products – consistently. Quality Management is all about using those simple principles. Together, they ensure an efficient organisation with effective management.
There are, of course, many different interpretations as to what makes the grade as “Good Management”. The best companies endure for many, many years. Also, they exhibit a strong focus on organisational principles and well-defined systems. More than anything, successful companies bring delight their customers. So, for these great companies, is there some secret formula?
No secret formula
Once, maybe there was a secret formula. Or at least, back in that time some principles were known only to a few. Today, things are different. Business analysis and the history of great company’s shows there are some simple, good quality principles behind effective management and business success. In fact, these principles are embodied within the International Standard for Quality management (ISO 9001:2015). Furthermore, there are a range of other standards that incorporate these Quality Management Principles. These include the following…
- API Q1, Q2 & ISO 29001 – Oil & Gas
- ISO 14001 – Environmental
- AS 9100 & AS 9120 – Aerospace
- ISO 45001 – Health & Safety
- EN 1090 – Steel, Construction Prod Regs. & CE Mark
- ISO 20000 – IT Service Management
- BRC & Food Storage & Logistics
- ISO 27001 – Information Security
- ISO 13485 – Medical Devices
This range of Standards recognises important facets of different business areas. It also shows how the Principles of Quality Management have progressed. The ideas encompass important concerns of governments, who legislate to implement high standards, and of companies who respond responsibly. Remember, working to the appropriate standards provides a sound basis on which to build a company. Standards help a company to meet the needs of the customer, the staff, the environment and wider society.
Where does profit fit in?
“Hold on you say! What about profits?” Well of course, profits are important. They are the lifeblood of the company. They are not, however, the prime directive of the company. Companies that focus solely on profit, quickly find themselves minimising other important aspects of the life of the company. Customer care, health and safety, production and service quality all suffer in profit maximising organisations. Ultimately, corner-cutting attitudes eat away at good will and customer satisfaction. Staff soon realise they have become marginalised and leave. Inevitably, Managers find they have an uphill battle against cost cutting. Profit alone is rarely fulfilling for staff. Further, a profit focus soon turns customer relations sour.
Profit is important, yes. However, profit is rarely sustaining for the organisation if it is the single focus.
What should be the focus?
Effective, enduring and successful companies tend to focus on seven simple principles. Within the field of Quality Management (QM) these are identified as…
- Customer focus;
- Involvement of people;
- Process approach;
- System approach to management;
- Continuous improvement;
- Factual approach to decision making;
- Mutually beneficial supplier relationships.
These quality principles act to work throughout the organisation to help everyone pull together. They not only focus the organisation, they also help to consolidate strategy and commitment at all levels.
The single most important resource a company has is its customers. Without customers, there are no profits and a short future ahead. Alternatively, you can make customers happy, make them delight in your product or service. Then, the profits will follow. If everything in your business aims to meet the customer’s needs, you will have one defining principle that is central to your success. Focus management efforts on customer requirements, and exceed their expectations. That principle should constitute the foundation of your organisation.
Of course, customers are not the only stakeholders in your business. Suppliers, banks, shareholders, staff and owners, as well as others, all have expectations for your company. In a way, they too are your customers. Working closely with these groups, and others like community organisations, will help your business to satisfy their needs. So, once you meet their needs, they become customers in a way.
On-going business success is only achieved when you attract and hold the confidence of your customers. That confidence builds the company’s value. Consequently, developing a feel for what customers, and other stakeholders want, helps you foresee the future market needs. Therefore, that sensitivity leads to sustained business success.
Achieving customer focus
Customer focus is an organisational goal, a purpose. It requires planning, direction, coordination, determination and sustained engagement. It is important that this focus is clear and motivational. Everyone in the organisation should celebrate the customer. They are the most important focus of the “Quality Principles” (Download the ISO “Quality Principles” document). Customer focus should not be the sole preserve of the sales department. Instead, it should be a fanatical part of the motivation for all the staff, at all levels. What you do for the customer will return profits through increased business and good will.
Only one group within the organisation has the overview and the authority to ensure that focus on the customer. The organisations leaders hold that authority. Consequently, the leaders set the direction, coordinate the actions, provide the determination and sustain the drive of the organisation.
Leaders coordinate and direct the focus and efforts around customer satisfaction, as well as, the operations that achieve it. Leaders actively make changes, invest in developments, provide training, seek improvements and take corrective actions. Furthermore, leaders inspire their people with the power and clarity of the principles that support the quality of service or product. Those quality principles sustain or invigorate customer interest and delight. So, what is leader’s ultimate aim? To create greater value for the customer.
Organisations succeed through their people. By retaining competent employees, the company can grow upon the strong foundations of a committed workforce. The leadership have an invested interest in their people. After all, they want to succeed. And that only happens if they have a good staff. So, managers should find ways to engage the staff in their work and the organisation. Some things that the organisation can do under this quality principle are …
- Develop and train staff in their jobs.
- Ensure the work is fulfilling and meets the needs of the staff as well as the organisation.
- Find ways to engage the staff in ways that increase commitment.
- Empower staff. Help them to take effective action. Ensure you recognise their achievements and encourage them to do more.
- Provide opportunities for the staff to engage with and improve the organisation at all levels.
Inspiring staff to improve and develop the organisation is important for everyone involved. However, it is also effective. Top organisations recognise this because they have become the best through investing in their people.
Another quality principle – the process approach
Producing consistent results is essential for a stable organisation. If you cannot predict the future outcome of your work processes, you will quickly lose customers. Properly documented and effective processes are essential. They help to train staff, maintain calibrated equipment (or well managed services) and ensure organised processes. Once established, your work processes become the foundation for organisational stability and success.
Full knowledge and control of work processes enables an organisation to quantify its results. That, in turn, means effective operation to meet specific and known goals. Also, it means the organisation can understand its own systems and replicate successes over and over. From a point of consistency and predictability management can also examine and improve organisational performance.
Continuous improvement rests upon the standards you set for your work processes. Of course, the consistency that comes with well-organised processes will also delight your customers.
System approach to management
When chaos reigns, business risks multiply. An organised work environment is more effective and resistant to risk. Businesses that successfully continue for years thrive on organisation and rely on great systems. The most successful systems are those that are well planned, executed and open for continuous improvement. In other words, successful systems tend toward becoming Quality Management Systems.
The systems approach to in management does not have to go through the trial and evolution of previous work eras. It is possible to implement a Quality Management System (QMS) through a series of well-structured exercises to bring together all the documented (process) systems. Such systems easily consolidate into an integrated QMS using the principles in this article. Make your systems one of the central principles of your organisation. As a result, your successful systems will highlight the strengths that support the other quality principles.
Continuous improvement – an embedded quality principle
The history of economic development shows us that successful organisations focus a significant effort on improvement.
To merely maintain current performance will eventually mean the organisation will decline. Organisations must prove responsive and agile when meeting challenges. The modern socio-economic environment is often a wild ride. Changes are rapid. New conditions will prove challenging. Consequently, you must fight complacency. Instead, look for new opportunities, better products or services and better ways of doing things. Above all, the modern business must find ways to seek continuous improvement while also finding cost-effective ways of meeting goals.
To thrive, an organisation needs to meet change head on. The important phrase is, “improve and move on”. Working according to the ‘Quality Principle of Continuous Improvement’ will ensure your organisation can achieve and exceed the goals you set.
The Quality Principle of ‘Evidence Based Management’
Making decisions is a complex task. Some of that complexity becomes clearer with clear goals. So, working toward them becomes a structured function of management. However, decision making must govern good management. The making of decisions is most effective when based on quality data and evidence.
Good decisions rest on reliable, well organised and appropriate data. That data is only useful with good analysis and evaluation. Facts, evidence and data analysis lead to greater objectivity. As a result, a solid foundation of data provides the management with confidence in their decision-making.
So, effective managers collect data. They measure their systems, processes, materials, successes and failures. They will collect accurate data consistently to enable trend analysis. Established and reliable data streams from processes and market success lead to sound, planned improvements. Therefore, you will reduce risk and can more easily define your goals. Evidence is a powerful platform for your Quality System approach.
Working with suppliers
Successful organisations manage their contact with, and relationship to, their suppliers and partners. As a result, they enjoy a special place in the market. A two-way flow of information about the products/services and processes of a supplier is invaluable. Suppliers can provide verified data about their standard of products or services. Also, they can advise on the best way of using those products or services.
Of course, it goes deeper. Good relationships with suppliers and partners leads to many other positives. For example, mutual developments, effective research programmes, better specifications, joint ventures and other useful outcomes. The quality principle of good relationships with your suppliers is all about productive cooperation and feedback with them. It makes sense for a quality organisation to work with other organisations. Mutual benefit is a win-win situation.
Putting Quality principles into practice
Each of the Quality Principles set out above apply in different measure to every organisation. That is the unique potential of Quality Management Systems. These systems customise your approach to your market niche and give your organisation the best chance of meeting the customer’s needs. However, the effective QMS is a balanced, and evidence-based, approach to the operation of your business. The quality principles set out here provide the tools to develop a great business. So, your QMS tools will ensure effective management and long-term stability for your organisation.
At CHARTER 4 we have considerable experience in helping organisations to implement ISO 9001 projects. Our specific emphasis is on making your project provide real value for your business. We obviously want your certification process to be successful. However, we also want you to, “Improve your business, rather than just comply”. So, along with certification success, we also help you to get a return on your investment in ISO Standards.
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Cultivate principles, not rules.
~ Niels Pflaeging
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