I believe that a quality strategy is a vital element to the success of a business. Quality of product and operations is key to satisfying customer needs and expectations and also to a company’s success and profitability.
What is quality?
Quality means meeting requirements. It isn’t about providing more features, or complexity, or performance that increases cost or takes longer to deliver. A good quality product or service or business process, in the legendary words of Ronseal, “does exactly what it says on the tin”.
The business leader and academic Peter Drucker explains that
“Quality in a product or service is not what the supplier puts in. It is what the customer gets out and is willing to pay for. A product is not quality because it is hard to make and costs a lot of money, as manufacturers typically believe. This is incompetence. Customers pay only for what is of use to them and gives them value. Nothing else constitutes quality.“
The quality guru W. Edwards Deming tells us “quality is everyone’s responsibility” but, of course, it needs leadership and example-setting from the top as nothing will undermine a quality improvement initiative more than management paying lip-service to the initiative while not following it themselves.
Quality needs to become part of the organisational culture and part of the product lifecycle; it needs to be built into the product from the start, it isn’t something that can be ‘sprayed on’ later. It has to be automatic and implicit; as Henry Ford said, “quality means doing it right when no one is looking.”
A huge benefit of improving quality is that you can save both time and money by producing quality products in a quality way – keeping things consistent and simple, doing the work correctly once rather than badly several times, and not wasting money or development time.
Crosby’s Quality Management Grid
What should you include in your Quality Strategy?
Here are some suggestions, in no particular order:
- What are your customers’ quality requirements and expectations? How can you work together with your customers to improve quality rather than rely on the traditional supplier/buyer relationship?
- What recognised industry quality standards do you need to have? What do your competitors offer? How can you ‘punch above your weight’ and gain strategic advantage in a crowded marketplace through improved quality?
- And consider how the strategy will change – and how your quality will be continuously improved – over time.
Quality is Free
Improved quality does not need to be a cash-drain on the company. It should not slow things down or make things more difficult. In fact, the opposite is true. As business management expert Tom Peters tells us “almost all quality improvement comes via simplification of design, manufacturing… layout, processes, and procedures.“
Philip Crosby’s book ‘Quality is Free’ is based on the premise that, by improving quality, you can save far more than you spend doing it; it can directly lead to increased profits. He explains that, if you don’t yet analyse and understand it, your Cost of Quality is probably around 20% of your turnover; possibly more than your margin. Even if you do analyse it, you are very possibly under-valuing it by several percentage points.
In many companies there is, therefore, a huge opportunity for improvement. The most quality-mature organisations know what quality really costs and can drive it down to below 5%.
With all this in mind, can you really afford not to have a quality strategy?