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Integrated Systems to deal with multiple approvals - Quality, Environmental, Security, H&S

We can offer integrated solution where there is one system dealing with all subjects and/or improvements in a specific area:-

Developing Quality, Environmental, Security and Business Management Systems
Obtaining Approvals such as ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 27001
Sector schemes - e.g. software systems such as TickIT, TickitPlus, construction systems such as Achilles Link-up and Achilles Building Confidence

We can help:-

Produce all the documentation, introduce the systems, deal with the assessment and maintain the approval - everything to make things happen
Help you change the culture, not just the documentation.
Guaranteed success with a 100% pass rate over 20 years
Provide fixed price solutions with no hidden costs

Specialised help includes:-

Total Quality Management (TQM)
Improvement Schemes

We offer part time staff to deal with all the approvals under our Shared Quality Manager Scheme to deal with all aspects of the work

About our IT Security Services
Shared Quality Manager Scheme
Quality Services ISO 9001
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PEOPLE v QUALITY
  Introduction
  Understanding the Organisation
  Barriers to Improvement
  Getting to know the Individuals
  Fire Fighting
  Administration
  Maintenance
  Improvement
  Changing People
  Communication
  Customers
  Conclusion

PEOPLE v QUALITY

Introduction

National Quality and Reliability year sounds like part of the DTI's Quality Initiative for the Y2000, in reality it was part of a mid 1960's quality promotion. So what went wrong, why, over thirty years later are we still trying to hammer home the message of quality?
One of the major problems is that we have not paid sufficient attention to the real source of the quality, people. Rarely in my experience is the solution to a product-based fault, either hardware or software, outside the realms or the skills of the people employed by the company. My main job in problem solving has been to provide the means of communication, getting the right people together or at times acting as a messenger boy where communication has completely broken down. If quality is to retain the level of attention and importance it is currently receiving we need to be realistic about the environment we work in and how we can bring about change within that organisation.

Understanding the Organisation


Firstly there is a need to understand the organisation within which you work and where the company stands in its development. Most organisations will start by being led by a strong forceful character who expects and gets his own way, who is always right even when he is wrong and has an uncanny instinct for survival. If he or she is no longer around, the culture created will still be remembered and form part of the folk law and affect attitudes within the company. Without this sort of character the company would not have grown but there comes a time when this type of control is no longer possible or appropriate. The size of the company may have outgrown the ability of the person to control or he may have left or retired or just pressures from within the organisation may have forced him to change. One company I recently worked with had just this problem where many of the managers were still seeking the autocratic approach they had grown up with.
The second stage of development is where the organisation has become bureaucratic and built rules and procedures to control departments and individuals. Here the demarcation lines between departments are more clearly defined and people are more accountable for their actions. This is often the time when Quality Systems such as ISO 9000 are built and thrive. These procedures which have helped the company to survive may ultimately be the cause of its failure, the bureaucracy and red tape stifling innovation and preventing change and improvement.
The third stage is a democratic stage where people feel secure and confident and the company structure and procedures provide a basic framework within which individuals can work and impose their own personal style. Managers are less protective of their empire and barriers between departments are more easily crossed. This is the stage that correlates best with the teaching of the Gurus and Total Quality Management.

Barriers to Improvement

I would be surprised if any of the readers of this article had not hit barriers to improvement. The manager who sends you on a course and now is not interested in you implementing anything you have learnt, the proposal you write which every one agrees with but does not do anything about, the thousand and one reasons why things are not as you see them. If you haven't failed you haven't tried. These barriers are not just within the management but within all the people you come in contact with and yourself. It may be that the person has tried and failed, they perceive a threat to themselves or their empire, lack confidence, experience or knowledge or possess a basic distrust of the system or your motives.
This is the background against which any person involved in quality who wants to make improvements has to survive and succeed. Some of the important tools to the Quality Manager such as audits, conformance checks, statistics and quality costs are often used without consideration as to whether it is the right way or the time for the people involved. Within each of these subjects there is a temptation to overlook the people and their ability to cause mayhem in a theoretically perfect system. I remember well an occasion when an internal audit prior to a customer assessment found over one hundred deficiencies. It was obvious the division had problems before the audit, the audit just consumed time and tied up people whose time could be better spent. The only department that did well in the customer assessment was the Internal Audit section but they won few friends and no lasting improvements. In recent months I have read several articles on Total Quality, which have developed the idea of internal customers, describing it as a process of controlling inputs and outputs as if the people involved once programmed would turn out a quality product each time, it is not that simple and will result in failure.

Getting to know the Individuals

As a Quality Manager or a manager involved in change, sitting in an office and waiting for people to involve you or burying yourself in paperwork will help no-one. Draw up a pie chart on how you spend your time, if a significant proportion is not an involvement with other departments you are unlikely to be effectively involved in improvement. You need to get out of your office and meet people. Who do you talk to? No one, you listen to everyone. You will need to start at the top, and understand the management's intended culture, strategy and direction, then work down through the organisation and see how well it is understood and works. It may be impossible to meet and know everyone and at the lower levels you may need to create opportunities for people to talk. Coffee machines are great places to find out what is happening. Equipment about to be delivered, software acceptance tests and demonstrations are occasions when you can show pleasure at the results achieved and in return be told the problems and frustrations which needed to be overcome. Remember it is normally the people at the bottom of the family tree who produce the product the customer receives and upon whom quality will ultimately depend, all the rest of the company provides support services to make the job "easier".
Getting to know and understand the organisation will take time but from the first meeting you will need to be making judgements as to who is important to you. You will need people at all levels who are at the extremes, those who are in favour of change and are seeking a "Knight in shining armour" to lead them forward, they provide a testing ground for your thoughts and ideas and a safe haven when the going gets tough, but beware of ideas too readily accepted. You also need the opposite extreme the people you expect to fight the change you seek, you need to understand their view, they may be right. The moaners and groaners, the silent people who never seem to hold a view, these are likely to remain misfits but they often provide gems, although the right course may be in the opposite direction. You will need people at all levels from the boardroom to the most junior employee. Revolution starts with belief and a small group of people.
The academics talk of the seven steps to Total Quality, I prefer to think of them as the thousand and one steps towards quality. Not all steps will be forward, for example you may increase inspection in an area, when your long-term objective is to eliminate all inspection, or agree to a new standard which has only minor improvements. Lots of small changes soon add up and are easier to achieve. It is essential that people who make improvements no matter how small are encouraged and not buried in a plethora of new suggestions. Do not expect the changes introduced to follow a nice smooth curve, constant change is something you see from the top of an ivory tower. At the bottom the catastrophe theorem applies where an event will cause sudden and a significant amount of change in a short period. For example a new manager, the start of a new project or when something goes wrong. Learn to spot these opportunities to get the maximum possible improvement.
You will need to be seen to do something, not just talk about it, so what do you do and when. That will depend a lot on the organisation and what it perceives to be its quality problems. Doodle with the pie chart, how much time do you spend in the four categories, fire fighting, administration, maintenance and improvement.
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Fire Fighting

At first you must give priority to fire fighting. The problems will have put management under pressure and you will need to demonstrate you are, in the short term, useful to the organisation. You also need to gain some respect and help create time for people to look at the long-term solution.
In my younger days I would have analysed the problem and made a judgement on its importance to the company. Trivial or complete misunderstandings of the situation would have been quickly discarded. This alienated people from me, I had failed to do anything about something they considered important, I had belittled them. Solving lots of these minor problems and considering each important will help to get people marketing quality for you by telling others of the improvements that are happening. Lead by example but beware of becoming the chief fire fighter. Your job is to get as many members of the company believing in their ability to solve problems and make improvements as possible. You will find a few major problems, probably of a technical nature, it is essential that on these occasions leadership comes from the top through the direct lines of management. You may be a part of the team, you certainly need to know what is happening but make sure ownership is in the right place. Support, help, be ready to pick up the pieces and get corrective action into the system but don't take over.

Administration

Administration activities are the tasks associated with the day to day management of your department and the staff and any other work of a non-quality nature. I understand that traditionally having a large budget brings power and status but for a Quality Manager it will ultimately work against you. Time spent improving your department's performance is time you are not available to improve the company's quality.

Maintenance

Maintenance is the time you spend checking that the areas, which have made improvements, are not sliding backwards. For example, attend design reviews, acceptance tests or look at deliverable equipment and undertake audits. Do not expect every change to stick first time, sometimes you will go back and find things just as they were before you started. Then you need to try again or find another way of solving the problem. Check by talking and listening to people again.
Writing procedures is one of the main maintenance activities. The procedures for the company must have quality built into them, not a separate chapter or volume. Ownership for all aspects of quality must be with the department managers. Realistically, despite all the documentation, Quality is still dependent on the skill and expertise of the people. Procedure writing is often seen as an improvement not a maintenance activity, but it is not, it can only retain the status quo. People discussing new ways of working or working in accordance with the procedures or training based on the procedures should prevent problems but rarely will the documenting of the procedure prevent anything. People will still ask or tell others how to do something and if you send them off to read the procedure they will still come back and ask "but what if this" or "do I really need to, if I am just", they want and need the personal involvement in what they are doing. The procedures are essential to a developing organisation or one that has to demonstrate to a third party that they have a system, but so often the documents produced just become dust collectors and door stops. Hopefully Information Technology systems will make it easier to demonstrate that quality is inherent in the system and reduce some of the bureaucracy.

Improvement

Improvement is the last part of your pie chart and your aim will always be to increase the proportion of your time spent on this subject. Priority must be given to obtaining commitment to change from the top, but do not expect your ideas to be seen as the best thing since sliced bread. You will need to persevere, they are people and will need to be convinced. They will also want the change to be at their rate and under their control.
The right tools and equipment for the job must be a prime consideration and it is important that the people who will use the equipment are involved in the selection. In one manufacturing area I was helping improve, the operators were using soldering iron bits that were worn out. The company culture was concerned with saving money and the soldering bits were locked in the charge-hands drawers and the issue carefully controlled. This was soon changed but the real point of the story is that in the corner was a wave soldering machine, two years old and never used. The management and engineering team had worked hard to obtain approval for the purchase, carefully studying the market but totally forgetting to involve or seek the views of the people who were going to use the equipment. The machine stood as a permanent example of the "management's" wastefulness. The machine was sold for peanuts and the loss far exceeded the saving being made on soldering bits, even without considering printed circuit board reliability.

Changing People

"If you can't change the people, change the people" is one of those fashionable phrases with which I disagree. For anyone but a psychologist to try and change a person is arrogant and wrong. The objective is to bring out the best in people, get them to see things from a different perspective. People are the most important resource the company has, the investment in recruitment and the time taken to become an effective member of the team is high, it should not be squandered. You will need to make sure the management have the skills to know when to give clear directions, when to explain why they are doing something, the times when people need support and when they are able to delegate. Sometimes people will be in the wrong job and then you need to be honest and make sure that help is provided to find new work. It is worth noting that Ian McGregor brought about the change from loss to profit in the steel industry using the management he inherited. What he provided was the leadership and direction. This must be a lesson we can all learn from.

Communication

We have talked about classical tools for the worker but this is not the key issue, the area where most companies need to improve is communication. People need to be trained to communicate and to learn how to work together as a team. I have already talked about the person returning from a training course to find himself out of phase, this is a real danger and one of the reasons I favour internal training. For the small company who does not have a large budget there are now a number of good training videos and in an hour over lunch or late in the afternoon you can make significant advances in building teams. To avoid boredom swap around and include some presentations, product based, department, hobbies anything that gets people talking. Arrange visits to other departments and involve key suppliers by demonstrating the equipment to their workers.
Working with suppliers, Just-In-Time, Simultaneous Engineering what ever you do to prevent quality problems remember to encourage and reward suggestions and you may be surprised at the clever innovations presented. Marketing quality as a subject I keep to a minimum and only do for a specific purpose, avoid the oversell and staleness that can result. When you first join the company you will need to let people know how you see quality, what the plan is and the aims. Everyone in the organisation needs to know and this is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the advantages of good communication.

Customers

It would be wrong to conclude any article on people and quality without discussing the customer, the most enigmatic being on earth, a person. Be careful when you seek to change an external customer interface, sometimes things will go wrong. If you make a mistake within the company there will be an opportunity to recover the situation, with a customer there may not. Make sure you have talked to all parties involved and do not take risks. The customer will have similar personal barriers to those described earlier and preconceived ideas on how a customer should be treated. He may also have pressures from his own management. Have you ever been sent back to get another half percent off an order or with another question you do not feel comfortable asking. Think how you feel as a customer.
The requirement specification for my latest car was that it must be red (the wife's input) and for me that it must be a popular British make, so all the faults have been found by others. We chose one that had an extra two inches in the back for the children. In retrospect I should have undertaken a product audit on the plastic mouldings as they all broke. For the service industry such as hotels the requirement may be just stated as the duration of the stay, number of beds and meals. In the examples the quality of the product is implied not stated, this applies equally to technical products. Your company is the experts and to expect the customer to have the knowledge to fully define the requirements is wrong. There may be a stage of discussion with the customer where the requirement is clarified and documented but this will only cover the major points otherwise the profit would disappear in the writing of the requirement. For mass production products you will need to do customer research. Whichever way you choose to identify the implied requirements remember to listen, the customer normally starts off on your side. Finally do not forget to make the product look good, first impressions count.

Conclusion

I find that if you keep seeking to improve every aspect of the business through the people you rarely end up pricing yourself out of the market, common sense normally prevails and the implied requirement is obtained. You then have the greatest chance of satisfying the customer as the people within the organisation will have become confident in their ability to succeed, the product will improve and the relationship with the customer.
Quality versus People? I do not believe it is, people want to do things right, if there is a conflict it is people v people. In conclusion if you seek quality then people are the key to success or failure. The owner, the manager, the worker, the customer, everyone contributes, listen and react to them and success will follow. Remember People First.

 

 

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