Quality Systems and Environmental Management

By Wenmouth, Bryan A. | Journal of Environmental Health, November 1994 | Go to article overview
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Quality Systems and Environmental Management

Wenmouth, Bryan A., Journal of Environmental Health


The Principles of Modern Quality Management

I will begin by identifying the main themes behind modern quality management. The topic itself is very large, and a huge array of techniques and methods have been developed that support these basic ideas. In this short overview, I will of necessity be able to provide only a very superficial overview, but it will hopefully help you extract some common themes that you might find useful in your own discipline.

Quality is an Ethic

The decision to offer quality goods or services is in essence a value-based decision. At its heart is a decision to provide the customer with what he/she perceives as suitable to his/her needs rather than what we think they should purchase. It is an ethic that values the customer and places the satisfaction of his/her needs above our own opinions and preferences. There is an obvious parallel here with the public health and environmental management which are at heart based on ethical decisions about public good.

Quality as a Strategic Plank

To succeed with quality is to make it a central plank in our strategy for enterprise success. Quality cannot be fully effective if it is regarded as a bolt-on extra, a necessary but costly overhead, or some extra burden we have to carry to meet customer or regulatory demands. The really successful quality programs are those that are integrated into the enterprise's strategic planning. Quality organizations see quality and consequential customer satisfaction as essential strategies for generating and maintaining income, profits, and growth.

Again for health, safety, and environmental management programs to be successful, they must be built into the organization's core strategies.

Quality is: Customer Focused-customer Defined

Quality defined by the producer organization is nonsense. Quality is about how well goods and services meet customer expectations. Therefore, quality is defined by customers. A high quality product or service is one that satisfies customer needs. A poor quality product or service is one that does not meet customer's needs and expectations. As the customer's needs and expectations can only be defined by the customer, then quality is also defined by the customer. A high quality product need not be a high priced one, but it will give better value for money than competing products.

The customers of public safety and environmental management programs are, of course, not particular individuals but society at large. However, the principle that the customer's expectations shape the organization's approach to public safety and environmental management is at the center of most organization's approaches to safety and environmental issues. As society has become more aware and demanding of the need for public safety and environmental safeguards, organizations have responded by becoming more responsible.

Quality Requires Leadership from the Top

For any activity within an organization to flourish, it must be seen to have both approval and positive leadership from senior management. Employees know what top management really believe in and what they only pay lip service to. They adjust their own behavior accordingly. To do otherwise is to jeopardize their career prospects. Hence, organizations with successful and sustainable quality management are also organizations with strong leadership commitment to quality from the very top.

Like quality, an organization's public safety and environmental management program is most effective when employees see strong leadership and encouragement from senior management.

Quality is a Journey not a Destination

Most enterprises exist in a competitive environment where their performance can always be compared with that of their competitors. As an organization's competitors improve, the organization's performance appears by comparison to deteriorate even if in an absolute sense it has not changed.

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