There are many approaches to quality improvement. Essentially, there are two main strategies:
01. Continuous Improvement (The Kaizen Approach)
02. Major transformations (Revamp of the System, Business Process Re-engineering, Product redesign)
In Continuous Improvement small steps are taken to improve quality at a gradual but persistent rate. It is often referred to as the “Kaizen” method made popular by Masaaki Imai.
However, from time to time major alterations or revamp of product features or of the delivery system may be necessary.
CONTINUOUS QUALITY IMPROVEMENT
The success of continuous Improvement depends on two main drivers:
- A belief system where all involved tries to continually improve
- Planned organized efforts based on sound methodology
THE CULTURE OF IMPROVEMENT
The Kaizen philosophy provides the framework for achieving and sustaining desired quality standards besides increasing standards. The basic tenet of this approach is the belief that gradual small alterations done continuously and involving people from all parts of the organization makes a difference to the final product or service. The Kaizen philosophy assumes that members of the organization individually or in groups, have the desire and the ability to improve the way things are done. These improvements can be specific to the product but can also be generic in nature, pertaining to improvement of the workplace, work culture, safety, storage, delivery, marketing nd almost everything else.
Awareness, Commitment and Quest for Higher Standards
Leaders in the organization e.g. directors, managers and other executives need to show their commitment to the quality objectives and quality policies that they formulated. This commitment must be translated into actions that promote, support and facilitate quality improvement efforts.
One of the duties of leaders of organizations is to influence and inspire people within it to strive for higher standards of quality. This desire to continually improve must then be manifested in the outlook, attitude and work habits of everyone in the organization.
Staff at every level must be aware the objectives and standards of its products or services. This awareness and the desire to conform to these standards need to be inherent in every individual. More than that there must also be an interest in looking for better service/product features and better ways of delivering them.
Organizations produce products or provide services for the customer. Within the business of service delivery, the way services are provided ought to be fashioned on the basis of his/her implicit and explicit needs. Quality is not only improved by a desire to achieve set quality standards but also by being flexible and responsive to customer needs. The culture of putting focus on the customer must be translated in the right behaviour and attitude besides continually making processes more customer friendly, ensuring that amenities are well-maintained and surroundings are always conducive. Customer suggestions are sought for actively and complaints are taken seriously and dealt with in a systematic way.
Teamwork is an integral component of quality culture. Each individual in the organisation is either a supplier or a customer of the base material for a certain process with the roles reversed in certain instances. A good end product is only possible if people work in harmony towards a common objective using mutually agreed methods. Teams also allow contributions of ideas and expertise by people from all categories and encourage the feeling of ownership of the design, production or improvement of products.
The culture of teamwork is difficult to be realized. Therefore a work culture conducive to interaction among workers and between workers and various levels of management need to be inculcated through concerted effort.
Teamwork should be complemented by the presence of an environment and reward system conducive for encouraging individual excellence. Each member of the organization need to embrace a belief that his/her contribution matters. He/she is imbued with pride of workmanship and a desire to play his/her part in attaining higher levels of achievement. The management must be quick to recognize unique individual talent and must be receptive to suggestions by individual workers. Empowerment refers to the provision of greater privileges and responsibilities to workers at every level to make decisions through the relaxation of control by top management.
The Learning Organization
The organization must continually learn from its own experiences. At the same time both management and staff must be willing to acquire and accept new knowledge and ideas from outside of the organization. There must be a spirit of experimentation and research besides willingness to try out new ideas or technology.
The need for standardization should not stifle innovation. Today’s innovation may be the standard practice of tomorrow.
CONTINUOUS QUALITY IMPROVEMENT METHODOLOGY
Continuous quality improvement consists of various methods, the main ones being:
- Quality Improvement through Problem Solving
- Proactive Small Changes through:
- Response to Employee suggestion.
- Response to Customer suggestion.
- Fine tuning (Tweaking)
The methodology proposed below incorporates problem solving techniques and other quality improvement approaches.
The steps are outlined below:
Further discussion on the various methods of quality improvement are discussed in separate articles.