Overheard earlier this year while on holidays:
“TQM, ISO, KPIs, I tried all that. They’re all shit.”
After I had a little chuckle to myself for the coincidence that I would overhear something like this while on holidays after just starting my own business, I really wanted to go over and speak to this person and find out how I could help. Unfortunately, I didn’t, but here is what I would have like to have said.
Firstly, all of those are totally different things. TQM (Total Quality Management) I consider a ‘style’, if you like, for quality management. I believe by saying ‘ISO’ this person was referring to the 9001:2008 standards. And KPIs are indicators, of course, used for measuring how well we’re doing something.
I see this an awful lot—businesses jumping from quality management hot topic to another, usually so rapidly that they never really embed anything and therefore don’t allow any system to be successful. If you do this, I’m not surprised you would think they’re all shit! It would feel like a lot of time and effort spent on nothing but the same results you were getting before. So, is there any way we can make quality management less crap? Here are my top three tips! But, before that, a little secret:
There is no magic formula for quality management, and no catch-phrase system that will make your organisation immediately and suddenly perform better. Quality management is really simple—identify your processes, assess their risk, measure them, control them, evaluate them. This does take time, but if you start small and begin with the end in mind, it is achievable without exhausting your resources.
1. Take the time to design your system well—this includes all elements, but especially if you are using software or the intranet. Begin with the end in mind is a phrase I cannot use often enough! Mind mapping is great for this exercise, start off with your idea of the perfect system and work your way back to how you can achieve it. This is still possible if you already have a system in place but you want to improve it. Your system isn’t stone—it might take a bit longer to change, but you can still do it.
2. Don’t overload your system with documents—by this I mean if you have one line policies or four-point procedures, you really need to ask yourself if this is useful or merely in place because you want to say you have one. Ask yourself if you really need separate policies and procedures or could you combine them into one document? Remember—if you don’t use it, lose it. And a smaller number of documents makes reviewing them much quicker.
3. Prioritise—take the top three things you want to improve. Through whatever exercise you choose, identify what you’ll do to improve them. Now, this is the really important bit, what will they look like after you make these changes? Will you go from being able to do client reviews in three hours to 30
minutes? Will your wait list times reduce? Give the change some breathing space, then go and see what happened. Okay, if it worked, great, you can move onto something else. If it didn’t, that’s cool too—now you know, and you can try something else.
Sometimes issues are complex and require complex thinking, longer timeframes, and more work to solve. But I believe every issue can be handled by sticking to a ‘simple is bliss’ philosophy.
Are you finding something in your Quality Management System really challenging? Please feel free to comment or drop me an email.
Thanks for reading,
The Quality Nerd loves all things Quality Management and Internal Audit...too much is never enough!