I know I’ve said it hundreds of times, but I’m going to repeat it. The continuous improvement goal is to deliver the customer the highest quality, at the shortest lead time, at the lowest possible cost. For that reason, the focus of your CI activities is quality, cost, and delivery. We also know that continuous improvement is a people’s system. For that reason, the most influential job of a leader is to develop himself and develop the team. With those things in mind, your business should have strategies for each of those areas. A quality strategy is a must.
You need a quality strategy
Without customers, businesses would not exist, and yet, many do not have a quality strategy. Unfortunately, business owners or leaders wait until they have a customer crisis on their hands to create a quality strategy. While practicing continuous improvement, the customer defines value. There is no way to have a CI culture without a quality strategy. This strategy will provide a clear path to create products or services with the highest quality possible.
Given how important quality is, it deserves to be considered a key business strategy. The first step to create a strategy is to assess the current state and establish a vision. Part of this assessment is to understand the customers’ specific needs and desires. What do they value? What is important? Use the concept of “Go and See” to answer these questions. Visit your customer, or at least have a conversation about this. Nobody can answer what does the customer needs better than the customer itself.
Changes in mindset, be clear about your quality strategy and goals
If currently, the organization emphasizes cost over quality, leadership needs to highlight the change in mindset as part of the culture change from traditional to continuous improvement. During the period leadership seeks to understand how the current culture would affect the CI implementation, they will have to look for understanding how the company views and understands quality. Do people outside the quality department feel any responsibility for the product or service quality? Do the team members understand how their work affects quality? How their actions affect customer satisfaction? Be crystal clear about this while creating or improving standard work.
Customer needs and quality
Translate the customer needs into your business language to establish the performance indicators and to create breakthrough objectives. Your quality strategic plan will tell people how to close the gap between the actual and goals. While this plan cascades throughout the organization, make sure to use the appropriate KPIs and internal language for the tactical level. PDCA is a tool that helps to create, deploy, and implement the plan as well as reviewing its effectiveness and adjust it when necessary.
Leadership needs to learn and teach how to shift their mindset from production planning and cost decision-making to a quality driven decision-making process. The success of this new way to frame decisions rides on leadership modeling of the new behavior, just like with continuous improvement and lean Thinking. To answer the initial question, yes, you do need a quality strategy. Quality does not happen by magic; it needs to be part of your business strategy.