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Beyond the quality standards

Progress indicator

Published: 29 Mar 2018

Bob Goodwin, MSc (TQM), CQP, MCQI, takes a look at what businesses need in order to develop a quality culture, and how quality professionals can drive this improvement beyond what is required by ISO standards.

ISO standards cover only a subset of what makes a business operate. Another way to further develop the Integrated Management System (IMS) concept is to include all aspects of a business into the standards.

However, simply adding further requirements might only deter a business to adopt a standard and have little impact on quality. For instance: is a business likely to try and implement a standard that is hundreds of pages long?  Achieving business buy-in is difficult enough without presenting even more clauses to adopt. For example, MSS 1000:2014 Management System Standard is around 300 pages in length. I’m sure the intent and content are laudable, but the document size alone would prove a challenge to many businesses.

Quality is a way of thinking and acting – a culture. If a significant part of the organisation’s quality team activity is directly or indirectly based on the deployment, management and validation of a standard, then there is a disconnect between what we are trying to deliver and what the business needs.

However, there is a gap between the toolset we have been using and the culture we are moving towards.

What does the quality profession need to do to meet this challenge?  What does a business need to help it develop a true quality culture? And what can the quality professional do to facilitate that development?

First, we need a method to explain our meaning of quality. By sharing and discussing this meaning, we can help the business understand what we have been trying to achieve through ‘traditional’ methods such as standards, audit, certification, and improvement. It’s a way to achieve credibility.

If we consider the ‘old’ quality foundation of standards, tools and methods (that make up the basic set of tools most quality professionals would call upon use), we could list several good contributors. For example:

  • The Balanced Score Card (BSC) provides a framework for monitoring KPIs (key performance indicators).
  • ISO 9001 provides a model for a Quality Management System.
  • ISO 26000 provides guidance for corporate social responsibility (CSR).
  • MSS 1000 tries to cover even wider elements.
  • Lean helps eliminate waste and streamline processes.
  • The Six Sigma methodology is the implementation of a measurement-based strategy that focuses on process improvement and variation reduction.
  • Total Quality Management (TQM) drives ownership of quality to all actors in a business.  

But how effectively do these different approaches fit together?  Wouldn’t it be great to have one tool to help ensure the components of our management system are working together to optimise performance?

EFQM Business Excellence Model

Consider the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) Business Excellence Model. The model’s simple premise is: “Good results (people, customer, society and business) will be delivered if the company has good leadership, policy and strategy, and effective people operating sound processes.” Think of it as a cause and effect model.

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The EFQM model is a useful tool, which expresses the elements we wish to address:

  • Monitoring KPIs (results)
  • Quality Management System (strategy and processes)
  • Corporate social responsibility (society)
  • Waste elimination and improvement (results and the feedback depicted by the back arrow)
  • People (people results).

To achieve sustained success, an organisation needs strong leadership and clear strategic direction. They need to develop and improve their people, partnerships and processes to deliver value-adding products and services to their customers. In the EFQM Business Excellence Model, these are called the enablers. If the right enablers are effectively implemented, an organisation will achieve the results they, and their stakeholders, expect.

These results are then used to assess and refine the enablers via the feedback of ‘learning, creativity and innovation.’

Secondly, we have to elaborate our new role, define the quality ‘offering’, determine the path from the known quality role to something new, and then go out and sell it. It’s no mean task, so where do you start?

Some time ago when a company I worked for was given the challenge to become ‘agile,’ the quality team realised that the ‘usual’ quality tasks would not fit the business needs and so we changed. As a significant part of the business focus was software, the company adopted the Agile Alliance Manifesto. This gave guidance to the engineering teams and provided values and principles for their operation. From a quality perspective it made sense to use this approach, to share a common language, and so we created our own manifesto for quality – to explain our thinking to the business.  The manifesto below is my development of the original thinking and quality manifesto we had in that business.

A manifesto for quality

We are uncovering better ways of securing quality in a world where the traditional quality model of deploying evermore comprehensive standards and conducting independent audits is increasingly inappropriate to business need.

Through this work we have come to value:

“quality driven by culture” over “quality defined in standards”,

“quality owned by all” over “quality as an independent function”,

“collaboration” over “independence”,

“designed and built-in quality” over “inspected-out defects”,

“process design and validation” over “audit and corrective action”,

“monitoring and reporting” over “accidental discovery and escalation”,

“management of risk” over “management of incidents”.

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

What does the quality professional’s role become?  

We aim to become trusted advisers, championing a culture of quality, leading the discussions and facilitating the cultural change.

Based on the manifesto, tactically we need to:

Do more of:

Do less of:

Understanding leaders

Checking and audit

Becoming part of teams


Listening and guiding

Being an infrequent visitor

Talking in terms of risk and mitigation

Facilitating discussion on good and not so good

Promoting the use of customer voice

Post-event reviews

We need to change our own culture first, and then help others to do the same.

A more holistic view, maybe through a model such as EFQM, may allow the business to pause and see that quality is actually about culture, and a key to business success. Standards have their place but they are only one part of the picture. They will not drive quality.

About the author: Bob Goodwin, MSc(TQM), CQP, MCQI, was Head of Quality for Thales E-Security Limited and is now retired.

Learn it

Learn more about the EFQM model

Read it

Check The Agile Alliance Manifesto for quality 

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