Engaging executives in enterprise-wide quality
Not all executives understand the need for enterprise-wide quality systems
Despite their best intentions, only a small number of leaders across multiple industries followed through with plans to improve corporate quality and risk management practices.
A survey by LNS Research queried the leadership of global small, medium, and large enterprises about both their existing and planned Enterprise Quality Management Systems practices in compliance, risk management, quality-focused automation and supply quality management. All respondents stated that they had some corporate-wide EQMS practices in place at the time of the survey (between 2012 and 2015). All of them also indicated that they were planning to implement additional practices within one year of the study’s completion.
The average actual increase across survey participants at the end of that year, however, was a mere eight percent. Many of the executives cited other corporate projects as reasons they failed to follow through on their EQMS enhancement plan.
What they didn’t understand was that improving EQMS practices helps the entire enterprise and that pursuing other priorities may have actually cost their company in the long run.
Enhanced education reverses historical trend
The survey strongly suggests that in most cases corporate leadership is unaware of the benefits gained by enhancing EQMS. Often, executives see the company as a landscape of distinct silos and, in their professional capacity, they only track the trajectory of each silo independently from the others.
Your job as a quality management professional is to empower leadership to change this narrow perspective by looking beyond the silos and seeing the entity as a single, connected whole. Your challenge is to gain both their attention and their agreement.
These best practice tips provide a guide for your next steps when engaging executives:
Tip #1: Ensure effective communications with your executives
Most executives focus primarily on the bottom line, so get their attention by discussing how EQMS improves profitability. There is data demonstrating how properly implemented data quality systems reduce costs (of materials, supplies and risks) while enhancing production values (supply chain inputs, distribution channels and even employee retention). Be sure to include any company-specific metrics that are relevant to reducing costs and increasing revenues.
Tip #2: Address important trends
Competitiveness in today’s market means keeping up with trends, especially those in quality management. The International Standards Organization recently revised its standard, #9000 et seq, to more clearly define how upper management is the “owner” of quality management systems when complying with ISO standards.
Section 5.1.1 identifies ways in which leadership can demonstrate compliance with ISO standards, including the development of a strategic plan, improving entity education processes around quality systems, and conducting reviews of existing quality assurance processes. Make sure your leadership understands its role according to the revised ISO expectations.
Other trends to consider, in further support of your cause, might be related to supply chain challenges, operational best practices or even market volatility.
Tip #3: Enlist partners
You are not alone in your quest to improve your company’s capacity. While they may share your concern, in many cases, mid-level management is also unaware of how their department’s operations impact the entity as a whole.
Use your data to construct case studies demonstrating how performance improves with the implementation of improved quality management systems. By engaging your colleagues as partners in this project, you escalate your opportunity for success.
Tip #4: Support your argument
By now, your data should include information on industry-wide best practices, expectations set by current standards organizations, and clearly developed use cases that demonstrate how your organization will benefit from improved EQMS. With this portfolio, you can state your case for increased investments in EQMS technology knowing that the evidence is on your side. Further, by providing this clear and convincing evidence that the company will thrive because of the improvements, you reduce the likelihood that other priorities will knock your quality improvement planning aside.
During your conversation, remember that you are the quality expert for your enterprise and, as such, your opinion carries high value for the company as a whole. Note also that your business does not operate in a vacuum, and industry realities impact its operations.
The competition has never been higher so achieving and maintaining exceptional quality are now essential to corporate success. Emphasize that every department is responsible for maintaining quality, but that leadership is the ultimate authority on quality matters. And then watch the data and metrics prove your case.