It can be very frustrating as a Quality Manager, or even a member of a Quality Department in a company that has recently decided to, loosely put “take quality seriously”, it can often be very frustrating. This is especially the case if you personally have already been sold on the quality culture and its importance, but those around you aren’t nearly as enthusiastic. What can be done to get everyone on board? What are some of the do’s and don’ts when it comes to championing a culture change? Today I will discuss a few to topics to consider when it comes to convincing and educating those around you to the benefits of a quality culture.
If you are a part of a company then you are a part of a company culture, good or bad. Whether or not you adhere to that culture or recognize that culture is irrelevant. It does exist, and it is important. It may seem a bit tricky to recognize what your company culture is, but all you have to do is look around. How do employees treat one another? What has resulted from recent executive decisions? What are the characteristics of the employees that other employees look up to? There are many other indicators, but these are a good place to start.
Some of you may know where I’m going with this and may have already realized that you are not going to facilitate any lasting change in how a company views and embraces quality unless you understand its culture. People are very resistant to change and your initial goal, as one who believes in a Quality Culture, should not be to entirely flip the existing culture on its head.
Here’s a bit of back story. As described above I was that “champion of quality” who was really starting to get very excited about the ideas of Demming, Crosby, and Juran and the importance of Quality to the overall health of a company. I would often print off sections of thought provoking articles and books relating to the different department heads and try to start conversations in which I could inject a little bit of this newly discovered knowledge. I was trying to share what I learned and found to be irrefutable. My efforts did not result in the change that I predicted at the speed that I wanted.
My company had recently become API certified because we had to, but most employees were just going through the motions and filling out the required forms and creating the required procedures. Our quality was subpar and the same mistakes were being made over and over, and you guessed it..over again. No one really believed our mission statement, or even knew it for that matter.
As I saw it, we had this new system in place. Why not let it make us a better company in every aspect, not just the Quality Department? I’m sorry to say this story doesn’t have a happy ending. The company that this took place at, although moving darned closer to a Quality culture by the end of its lifecycle, did so too late and fell with many others in that period of the economy. I want to share what I and others have learned and experienced for those of you who may be in the beginnings of a transformation.
Laying the Groundwork
So, let us began shall we? To facilitate conversion from purely a production and traditional business culture to one of quality and customer satisfaction driven decision making, you’ve got to have Upper Management in agreement and sincerely involved. Getting Upper Management sold on and actively participating in a culture change, I guarantee you, will be no easy task. After all, they are likely the people that laid the foundation for the current culture. People are naturally resistant to change and this change, in particular, could potentially be perceived as an attack on Upper Management’s abilities.
Let’s assume that you are dealing with members of Upper Management who recognize the need for change because if not, good luck. When presenting this new culture to an Upper Management who has accepted that change must occur, you will have to speak their language. How is quality, or lack there of, affecting the profits of your organization. Knowing this information will help your cause. If your pitch to Upper Management is successful and you get their cooperation, involvement, and backing, then you are well on your way to being able to facilitate a culture change.
Things to Consider
Also imperative in championing a change to a quality culture is understanding and empathizing with the resistors. This resistance, as Joseph Juran puts it, is a “clash of cultures”. The resistors view change as a threat and fail to acknowledge the potential benefits of change. This can and probably will get ugly. Sides may be chosen and in the end, there may be some who flat out refuse to change. Again we will consult with Juran. Listed below are are some of the aspects to overcoming resistance to change in no particular order:
- Avoid Surprises
- Provide a Quid Pro Quo
- Work with Established Leaders
- Involve Potential Resistors
- Respond Quickly and Positively
- Create a Positive Environment
- Start Small and be Flexible
- Treat People with Dignity and Respect
- Be Constructive
Most importantly and not mentioned above is PATIENCE. Things are not going to change overnight and not everyone will be an instant supporter. You must understand that many in the company do not have the mindset or knowledge of how beneficial a Quality Culture will be. They have most likely been doing things the “traditional way” for as long as they’ve worked there. Once the system is in place and once the beneficial results become apparent they’ll come around. There will be many stages of the transition that will take place and they will take time. Keep supporting and encouraging the progress and your organization will eventually overcome. You will soon be maintaining a Quality Culture rather than convincing you coworkers to switch to one.
I hope this has been helpful. Everyone experiencing this journey will have different stories and different scenarios. I strongly advise any who are serious about implementing a culture change to become educated about what you are moving towards. There are plenty of resources out there including books, articles, blogs, you name it. Of course, I recommend Juran, Demming, and Crosby’s writings.
Here at Texas Quality Assurance we have all been through this journey and will be glad to have a sit down and discuss how you as a company can achieve these goals and how we can help with our experience and resources. Whether it be through training, certification, auditing, or consulting, we can help you.
Until next time,