The roundtable 21st Century Top Management Challenges in Quality and the Implications for Implementation and Culture Change was an exclusive event for CQI Corporate Partners that took place on 5 March at the CQI offices in London, held in collaboration with The Oakland Institute for Business Research and Education

21st Century Top Management Challenges in Quality and the Implications for Implementation and Culture Change was a presentation followed by roundtable discussions attended by CQI corporate members from a range of industries. The event gave participants the opportunity to debate and discuss quality culture in their organisations. 

Participants heard about recent research from The Oakland Institute for Business Research and Education, in collaboration with Leeds University Business School and Valueneer, an expert procurement company in Germany. They are currently studying how failure to manage quality in today’s fast-moving world may be damaging the reputation and financial returns of organisations around the globe. 

We often hear about companies facing serious issues concerning quality, but we don’t often talk about good examples of quality culture, suggested John Oakland, Professor Emeritus at Leeds University Business School, and Director and Founder of The Oakland Institute for Business Research and Education. This is a reason why the team wanted to focus on those exemplar companies and identify good practices in quality. With this goal in mind, the research used an online survey to assess how top management is performing regarding quality, procurement and supply chain management, and to also help identify companies demonstrating good practice to interview in a second stage of the research.

Oakland welcomed the opportunity to share the study’s initial results with the CQI Corporate Partners and enable them to take an active part in the research: “When you do this type of research, there is no point in keeping the results to yourself. This was the perfect opportunity to show CQI Corporate Partners what the initial results are and get their participation in the research itself, by asking them the research questions,” he said.

Commitment and implementation

Oakland shared with the audience the key findings from the 21st Century Top Management Challenges in Quality, Procurement and Supply Chains research.

A key conclusion from the work is that CEOs and executive teams are better at stating commitment and setting strategy than ensuring implementation of quality management, he said. Although most CEOs demonstrate a clear commitment to quality, many are not, in practice, ensuring that quality policies are aligned with the company strategy, promoting continuous improvement throughout the company and supply chain, or ensuring there is a well-developed knowledge of quality tools and techniques throughout the company.

The research also found that companies whose CEOs and executive teams demonstrate leadership, commitment and set strategy and are good at implementing quality management, have a lower rate of major failures or recalls.

After hearing about the research findings, participants took part in discussions on topics such as: how to identify and eliminate risks in the operations and supply chains; how to balance critical product quality and supply chain risks against shareholder pressure for profit and how to keep up with the pace of innovation while reducing quality and supply chain risks. 

After hearing about the research findings, participants took part in discussions on topics such as: how to identify and eliminate risks in the operations and supply chains; how to balance critical product quality and supply chain risks against shareholder pressure for profit and how to keep up with the pace of innovation while reducing quality and supply chain risks. Developing and sustaining a quality culture throughout an organisation was a central theme in all discussions.

In the closing remarks for the event, Mike Turner, Partner at The Oakland Group, reminded attendants that “the door to senior management is open” to improve organisations’ quality maturity and culture. Based on this research, it is clear that Quality Professionals must not assume that quality is always properly understood by senior management, so it is our job to correct these misconceptions. He stressed that Quality Professionals must continue the journey to improved understanding of and practice of quality management, seeing ‘small wins’ as important. Such events as this are crucial for us to share small actions and collaborate. This is how we will advance good practice in  quality.”

Here to help

Those attending were encouraged to share the research conclusions with their managers. “I would like the audience today to recognise that top management is not walking the talk,” said John Oakland. “They are saying the right things about quality, but they are not necessarily following through on the implementation. They probably need help with what to do. Quality professionals need to head to the executive offices and tell them they are not alone, and that the quality profession is here to help them implement the right quality strategies – which they seem to know about, but they don’t know how to implement.”

Attending the event was Paul Cook, Senior Business Analyst, at Lloyd’s Register, who said he found the session a good opportunity to network with people from other organisations and to share knowledge. “It’s an opportunity to learn something that somebody else is doing in another organisation. Networking is a brilliant way to look at your own organisation through the eyes of other companies.”