Magazine article Communication World

Restarting a Quality Program in Your Organization

Magazine article Communication World

Restarting a Quality Program in Your Organization

Article excerpt

Even the most well-planned quality efforts will get off track from time to time. When that happens, you'll need two things:

* A strong quality communication strategy.

Focused management behavior.

One of the most powerful communication tools you can use in initiating quality, or jump starting" it if it gets off track, is management behavior as part of a comprehensive quality communication strategy. That's why Quality Myth #1 is so important. The best media campaign for quality will self-destruct if managers don't model corresponding behavior as part of their responsibility for helping to make quality happen.

Many of the management recommendations suggested here can be built into your quality communication strategy as behavior-driven management communication-that is, communication that reaches employees in the form of policies, decisions, daily activities and other "walk-like-you-talk" indicators from the leadership.

You can start building your strategy by showing the Quality Myths and Realities to your leadership team. Some members may say they are already familiar with them. Chances are good that this familiarity doesn't extend to the use of the quality basics to drive the vital communication function.

That should get a discussion started on management's role in the quality effort, with the emphasis on communication. Communication and quality are virtually the same activities. But managers don't always see this without coaching. Your goal here is to help them make that connection, and profit by what you, and they, can do with it.

Your next challenge is to assure that you provide management with the right messages to communicate in support of quality.

To do this, you'll need data.

A sound first step is to identify the symptoms of a stalled drive for quality. The following are some of the most common symptoms my colleagues and I have seen over the years in companies that need a quality "jump-start."

Symptom #1: Quality has been around for a while but performance hasn't taken off.

Symptom #2: Managers aren't seeing the hard, bottom-line gains they expected from the quality effort.

Symptom #3: Managers are complaining increasingly about Symptoms #1 and #2.

Symptom #4: Employees say they don't understand what they are supposed to do differently now that they are part of a quality effort.

Symptom #5: Employees complain that management behavior isn't reinforcing management statements about quality and customer service.

Symptom #6: Employees don't see how "all this quality stuff' is really going to help them or the organization.

Symptom 7: Quality is blamed for getting in the way of work around here," as something extra added m to the regular work routine.

Symptom #8: Supervisors, department heads and other middle managers seem detached from the quality effort, often complaining: What does this have to do with me? The employees are handling everything without my help."

Such symptoms are evidence of gaps between employee (and management) expectations of quality and subsequent realities. Your objective is to influence behavior, through communication, that closes those gaps, and aligns management behavior with the quality messages and with employee perceptions.

Here are some approaches:

First, analyze the original management statements that you deployed about quality, asking such diagnostic questions as:

What behavior changes did management ask of the work force in support of quality?

What behavior changes did management itself promise it would make in support of quality?

What outcomes of quality were promised or anticipated?

What basic business problems was quality positioned to solve?

What rationale did management provide for mandating the significant shift to quality?

In your best judgment, what expectations about quality do you think might have been raised in employee minds? …

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