Organic Growth of Quality Management Systems
Most companies we have seen throughout our projects grew their quality management systems organically. Organic inception and growth of a quality system typically happen when a company starts to map the ISO structures to its internal processes. Since the ISO quality system standards have been developed around operating and improving business processes, mapping your existing processes is typically not challenging. The specific implementation of your quality system at the end will still vary depending on a more or less conservative approach.
After a quality system is implemented, operations within the company start to see the benefits of having documented procedures, better clarity of responsibilities, and better record keeping. The quality system has done its first job in helping move the company forward.
As we step back and compare the improvement achieved to good or even great companies in the industry, we realize there is still much ground to cover. So the question arises, “Why did implementing a quality system not make us a great company?” Some companies might have discovered or stumbled on it as they sought opportunities to improve their operations. What things in a quality system keep you stuck in the status quo and do not let you rise to a new level of maturity?
Through the Eyes of an Engineer – The Engineering Approach
As with many of these more significant questions, the answers most often do not come from within but rather from looking at similar problems. For a moment, let’s focus on the ‘system’ in “quality system.” When we ask how to improve ‘systems,’ the answer might come easier. Many of us would most likely take an engineering approach to fix or improve a system, especially regarding technical systems like machinery or production automation.
What is so special about engineering that it can create staggering improvements and elevate systems to new dimensions? According to the literature, engineering is defined as the application of mathematics and scientific, economic, social, and practical knowledge to invent, innovate, design, build, maintain, research, and improve structures, machines, tools, systems, components, materials, processes, solutions and organizations.
After looking at this definition, many will ask, ‘Why didn’t we look at the engineered quality system earlier’? we think the ‘Quality’ in ‘Quality Systems’ kept our focus, and we overlooked the “system” side.
How should we get to work now and use our discovery? As every sound engineer would tell you, start with the specification and ask, ‘What do you expect from your quality system?’ and ‘What should it deliver?’
Align Your Quality System with Your Organization’s Goals
When starting your quality system improvement journey, you need to know where you want to go. Since the endpoint or goal might not be clear to start with, determine at least the direction you need to go and then evolve the goal over time. Finding the right goal is not easy. Should the plan be product or service focused, how can it help to differentiate your company from the competition, and how can it become a viable motivator for the team? These are just some of the questions you need to ask yourself.
Goals must align with the company culture and its values to be authentic
Rather than looking to the outside for help, it is sometimes beneficial to look on the inside: your culture and company values. Goals must align with the company culture and its values to be authentic. It isn’t easy to have goals like the best quality product.