Leadership under scrutiny.

Superb Quality Control is Expected

Dave Kinnear1-On Leadership

Some companies, perhaps many, have decreed that there be NO quality control department. Their reasoning is that if there is some department that is responsible for quality control, then people might just “leave things up to them,” believing that quality control is not their issue.

Instead, those companies impress upon workers, managers, and executives that quality control of products or services is everyone’s responsibility. Then the company sees to it that information concerning the quality of the products (statistics on production re-works, field failures, customer complaints, request for refunds, etc.) is given to everyone who is involved so that they can see trends and address problems.

Elsewhere on this blog, we saw how Edwards Lifesciences insured that everyone got the message on quality control by bringing in customers who have received the heart valve products from Edwards and having them meet the folks in production. Certainly this drives home the high value that Edwards puts on the quality of their products. And certainly quality control of the production process is not abdicated to some other department. Instead, each person on the production line takes full responsibility for the product they make.

The organization must let it be known that quality control is considered to be a very important part of providing a service to a client or customer. It is important to make sure our employees understand that this process has been highly regarded by the organization so that when decisions are made between cutting corners to save costs or improving the quality of a product the right decision gets made. This is brought about by making sure that the moral values of the corporation are highly visible to all the people and that the ethics processes is used throughout the organization and is clearly documented in all policies and procedures.

Forward thinking companies make sure that there is a direct line of sight path from the customer to inside their own organization. This focus on customer service tends to ensure that issues of quality are never short-circuited to achieve internal corporate measurements and goals. If, through leadership measurements, we force employees focus on internal metrics, they will inevitably respond and do things in their day-to-day duties that are not responsive to the customer. Therefore; it is incumbent on our leadership teams to design metrics, compensation plans, and award systems so that our customer’s best interests are always first in employees’ minds.

Even as we work to improve our internal processes, the improvements ought to be designed with the end customer in mind. Cost saving initiatives need to focus on adding value for the customer, not just our own organizations. If leadership teams can firmly implant throughout the corporation that our sole purpose of existence is to delight customers, then we will in fact have a few conflicts or incorrect decisions when choosing between competing moral and/or economic values. Cost reduction will therefore not come at the expense of quality or other customer focused metrics.

These are not easy concepts to build into our corporate culture. But that is what we mean by “shaping the corporate culture.” No one promised when we took a leadership position in our organization that life would suddenly be easy and we would not have to face hard questions or difficult tasks. Shaping the corporate culture is, in my estimate, one of the more difficult but most rewarding of our leadership challenges.