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A Culture of Quality: The Strongest Foundation for QMS Investments

The benefits of a quality management system (QMS) to an organization are generally well understood among quality professionals today. Using QMS frameworks and enabling technologies over the years has proven to help close compliance gaps, drive efficiencies within quality teams, and more recently position the modern quality organization as a valuable asset to corporate innovation.

However, often overlooked are the foundational elements of culture, specifically the quality culture, that can compromise even the best QMS implementation. A full understanding of your organization’s culture of quality will ensure your company’s core values are communicated, understood, and lived out through every quality process touching your products and services.

While important, an assessment of your quality system (for which there are numerous ISO benchmarks) is not sufficient to ensure the success of QMS within your organization. Assessing the quality culture requires the identification and quantification of several key dimensions to gauge readiness for QMS.

The Components:

At the very least, it’s important to ensure your employees:

  1. Fully understand their product or service
  2. Intimately understand their customer and associated needs
  3. Fully understand their customer’s quality expectations
  4. Have KPIs in place to measure that quality

At Clarkston, our seasoned quality professionals guide readiness assessments along dimensions specifically tailored to a given organization. There are, however, universally applicable dimensions worth considering as planning for QMS begins. It’s important to assess two key areas: the decision-making process and how change is perceived.

When it comes to decision-making, it is beneficial to outline with whom decision-rights sit, on what information these decision-makers place value, and from where this decision authority is derived. In terms of how change is perceived, measuring how others perceive the pace of change needed and the appropriate magnitude of change will help assess how the quality culture is communicated by leadership and understood by front-line quality team members. We find quite often there exist opportunities to refine messaging from leadership to better define the desired end-state for the quality culture.

What Does A Strong Culture of Quality Look Like for Your Organization?

The desired end-state is generally one in which all employees feel empowered (and accountable) to make a positive impact to their customer’s experience. It is an environment in which everyone understands that the organization itself does not set quality standards, but rather these standards are ultimately dictated by the customer. Exceeding customer expectations should not be uncommon. A strong culture of quality should manifest itself as a common quality “language” that is globally shared across the organization. This culture should enable a systematic approach to proactive problem-solving. The best cultures of quality typically deliver on two key outcomes: exceptional experiences for external customers and maximized efficiencies for internal teams. Once a pervasive culture of quality is backed by the right digital QMS technologies, the “Quality Dollar” begins to go a lot further for the organization.

If your answer to one or more of the following questions is yes, consider utilizing the quality professionals at Clarkston to help.

  • Are feedback loops for continuous process improvement scarce?
  • Are formal mechanisms for collecting, analyzing, and acting upon customer feedback insufficient or altogether absent?
  • Do performance evaluations include little-to-no mention of quality goals for front-line workers?
  • Do employees consistently view the company’s quality values as merely a slogan?
  • At the end of onboarding, are new hires insufficiently briefed on the company’s quality vision and values?

It seems the rate of change continues to accelerate. However, it’s rarely too late to develop a roadmap to address opportunities to your organization’s quality culture. Doing so will not only better position your organization for continuous improvement and innovation but will also optimize speed-to-market and overall risk-taking throughout the organization.

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Tags: Quality and Compliance Technology, Quality Operations