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Thomas R. Cutler

Quality Insider

No Buy-In? No Change.

Perceptions of quality

Published: Wednesday, December 31, 2008 - 16:00

Respecting a quality manager’s opinion is meaningless unless there’s enterprisewide buy-in to ideas and quality initiatives. Rarely do the individuals serving on a lean initiative, continued process-improvement team learn the scientifically proven communication techniques that will persuade others to change their perceptions about quality.

Often a lead quality control professional is perceived as a police officer rather than a trusted advisor within the team or an established guru in the field. Reminiscent of Rodney Dangerfield, more than 72 percent of quality professionals surveyed by my company recently reported they receive too little respect from others within their organization. The same survey revealed that all 392 North American quality managers surveyed wished to be seen by other managers as having a proactive and valuable opinion on how to make the company successful, and wanted to break down the walls that separate quality from other departments.

Driving buy-in from the organization for valuable quality initiatives—such as failure mode and effects analysis, good manufacturing practices, continuous improvement, ISO 9001, ISO 14001, the Baldrige Criteria, and governmental compliance or regulatory requirements—is much easier when quality professionals function effectively.

The missing ingredient that keeps quality professionals from significantly affecting the manufacturing organization is the inability to communicate with, influence, and persuade others within the enterprise.

Quality is often perceived as the part of the organization that is focused on discovering mistakes and problems. This attitude causes fellow employees to resist change—passively or actively—and common sense improvements. Every day, many operational and production people think their quality leaders cannot communicate effectively, are inflexible, and are unwilling to work as a team.

The costs to repair the destruction caused by miscommunication between customers, suppliers, and departments are extraordinary. One method to quantify the efficacy of buy-in is to measure the initiatives that have been successful because of buy-in and commitment.

Shifting the perception of quality professionals
Evan Garber, president of Escape Velocity Systems, has found that many clients’ quality departments were actually seen to increase customer satisfaction and protect the company from potentially disastrous losses. They are thought to work as a valuable support to solve and prevent problems. “With technology to support this persuasive communication, quality professionals can be a source of creative solutions to improve the efficiency and productivity of the workplace, as well as a source of pride... that provides a distinct competitive advantage,” Garber suggests.

Strategic improvements drive quality
One underused and important value of an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is the use of data to generate actions that lead to a mission accomplished. Many ERP systems are great at collecting data, but only recently have usable quality analytics become an integrated part of mid-market ERP systems. Savvy quality executives know what they need and in a lean environment can measure added value by gathering and using data from their ERP system for strategic decision making. Problem resolution is speeded up because the decision lead time is based on the time between an event and a decision being made based upon correct interpretation of data, not the time between an event and being able to run a report. A report is passive and requires a user to think about it, find it, and run it. Information quality affects action, and action is the goal. A lean-oriented ERP system must digest data, present findings, and decrease the time between an event occurring and the ability to make an informed decision based upon the data that the event generated.

Tactical improvements eliminate waste
According to Garber, “Tactical improvements eliminate waste similar to strategic decision making; the goal of making a tactical change is to eliminate waste and improve profit and loss. Improvements are maximized when efficiency is realized by implementing the ‘suggestions’ revealed by the data.” Using this methodology, industrial organizations collect data to help select projects and schedule kaizen events. The only purpose in collecting information is to convert it into value.

Metrics are quantified measurements; the perceptions of metrics are subjective. These attitudes and beliefs about data are best measured by enterprisewide buy-in and commitment to quality initiatives, as well as technology-based strategic and tactical initiatives.


About The Author

Thomas R. Cutler’s picture

Thomas R. Cutler

Thomas R. Cutler is the President and CEO of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based, TR Cutler Inc., celebrating its 21st year. Cutler is the founder of the Manufacturing Media Consortium including more than 8000 journalists, editors, and economists writing about trends in manufacturing, industry, material handling, and process improvement. Cutler authors more than 1,000 feature articles annually regarding the manufacturing sector. More than 4,500 industry leaders follow Cutler on Twitter daily at @ThomasRCutler. Contact Cutler at trcutler@trcutlerinc.com.