Quality management, for me, exists to help organisations consistently deliver their product / service, and to provide a framework for improvement. And the best way it works is through the process approach. For service organisations, we need to know that we are meeting our clients’ needs. We also need to be sure that we are meeting those needs in a time-efficient and organisationally effective way (that is, right number of
staff, resources and support).
In human services, as we move towards client-directed service models (such as the NDIS and Consumer Directed Care for Home Care Packages), knowing that we are delivering a high-quality service is vital. So what do you do if you notice that things aren’t going so well? Maybe an increase in complaints, a budget going in the wrong direction, or, worst of all, your clients start leaving. You need to be able to clearly identify where things have gone wrong, and improve on it—and quality management can help you with that.
So, if you have already set up your system, hopefully you will have done so using a process approach. It should be fairly simple to identify where things are going wrong—take a look at your complaints / incident data, budget, and staff and client improvement suggestions. Once you’ve got your process:
1. Map or flowchart it. Use a whiteboard, post-its, Visio…it doesn't matter what you use, just take the time to get it down thoroughly. Always get the help of a team who actually ‘do’ the process.
2. From your process map, and from asking staff, can you see where the pressure points are? What parts are messy, duplicated, onerous? Highlight these.
3. Look for linkages with other processes—are there other factors influencing how well the process is working?
4. Suggest improvements! Now that you can see the process in front of you, and those pressure points, what can you do about it?
And now here’s the most important step:
5. Make sure that you articulate what change you want / expect to see, develop a way to
measure it, and come back to the process later to evaluate whether or not your change worked.
Now that bit above in bold is probably the step that doesn’t happen the most, yet it’s the most important. Do not change for change sake. If you don’t know what improvement you want to see, and then you don’t go back and check that you’ve actually improved, you are missing a huge part of the puzzle. Check if it works! That’s the bottom line.
If you have any questions about process mapping or improvement, please don’t hesitate to ask! Suggest a blog topic or send me an email with your question.
Thanks for reading,
The Quality Nerd loves all things Quality Management and Internal Audit...too much is never enough!