When Quality Issues Aren’t Quality Issues

by Carole Crane

Most companies, once they find a problem, are fantastic at drilling down quickly and deeply to solve it. Yet how often do those companies find themselves drilling over and over again without lasting results?

Doing the same thing time and again

I worked with a company who had customers calling the President complaining of problems – saying quality used to be good and now has dropped off. The President thought to himself: “What's going on here? Things are too competitive out there for us to lose customers." He knew if production quality did not compare to the competition, customers would take their business elsewhere.  So what did the company do?  Since it was a quality problem, they gave the problems to the Quality Assurance Specialist – who dug right into the production processes and systems.   

Indeed the reject rate was higher than normal and the root cause appeared to be a glitch in some equipment. It was fixed and the reject rate significantly improved – everyone breathed a sigh of relief.  Quality should improve and the customers would be happy.  It worked – for a while!  Soon the customers started calling again with complaints.  So the process of handing it off to QA started again, yet nothing significant was found.  I convinced the President it was time to look in a different direction.

Look beyond the obvious

More often than not, the issue is not in the measurements – it’s with your management team and their team members.  How engaged are they?  Are they passionate about their work?  Are they committed to the vision?  If not, that is when quality issues are not quality issues. 

In the situation above, the President discovered management teams were not in sync with each other with each department “siloing” to protect its own turf.  This was causing far more quality issues than any machinery malfunction.  When he communicated his vision for the company and reengaged management, both quality and the customer satisfaction rating shot up. Everyone, including the President, was happy again.

Actions you can take today

  1. Take a walk around your organization. Take 10 minutes to get a sense of the atmosphere.  Are your employees happy in their work?  Do they feel valued?  Are they in sync with your vision?   Bonus points if you are already a “walk around” leader.
  2. Check the engagement of your management team.  Employees can do a good job when they know the company’s direction and when they know how they are contributing to the growth of the company.  Once you know the reasons for the disengagement, you will know where to focus.

Getting deep engagement is never easy.  That’s why it’s beneficial to be able to learn how before you take action.  Contact The Trebuchet Group regarding what to do next.

© 2011 Trebuchet Group

Chris Hutchinson