How to Improve Your Quality

“If you want to achieve excellence, you can get there today. As of this second, quit doing less-than-excellent work.”

- Thomas J. Watson

Improving your quality is simple, find a problem or process and fix it. Have regular team building meetings and empower you Teamers to find things to fix or improve. Help your Teamers adopt the “do it right the first time” attitude in all that they do to help improve the quality of the products and services provided by you and your Teamers.

Start with having a staff meeting to announce the start of your new quality improvement system. Send out your announcement with the single agenda item of having each Teamer bring their idea(s) on a “potential problem to fix” that the team should tackle in the meeting. My guess is that some “old problems” will come up, things that you’ve heard before. “Purchasing always takes too long to approve printing bids and puts us behind schedule” or “the designers never check the proofs quickly enough!” Be prepared! Some of the problems that your Teamers will bring to the meeting may have been stewing for them for some time. 

If you can afford it, get a copy of Quality Is Free by Philip B. Crosby for all of your Teamers, sort of like a “handbook” for their new quest to improve their quality.

Some of your Teamers will complain that they “don’t have time for this” so you should reassure them that all of the quality improvement stuff can be recorded as “administrative time” on your time recording system. Simply, I would encourage you and your Teamers to find the time to address quality improvement. If one of your Teamers simply does not want to participate in any of the “quality BS” don’t force them to participate. Give them the option to leave the meeting now.

Here’s the agenda that I suggest for your first quality improvement meeting:

  • Collect The Problems - Collect all of the problems from your Teamers on a flip chart or a blackboard. Have a scribe if you need one to create an electronic list of the problems. Ask each Teamer to explain and describe the problem briefly and why they think it should be considered. Also consider using a recording device. The key is to collect all of the problems so everybody’s got “skin in the game.”
  • Vote On The Problems To Work On - Have your Teamers vote on which problems to attack. I suggest that you give them more than just one vote with these options and of course make the voting anonymous. The top three things to work on, the top five or the top seven things (that may be too many to start out with!).
  • Choose Up Sides For Teams - Once you have the “winners” of the problems to work on, you will need to have Quality Improvement teams formed for each problem selected. My suggestion is that you don’t want to take on too many quality improvement projects since you will most likely be the facilitator for all of these meetings to start out with. Depending on the size of your staff, I would start with three to five quality improvement projects and teams.
  • Volunteers Anyone? - Once you have the projects selected, ask for volunteers to work on each project. Try to get a cross section of your team to work on the project to give you a variety of views and opinions. You need to have at least three Teamers for a team, but don’t have too many Teamers assigned to any single problem. Try to spread them out and a Teamer can serve on more than one team if they like. Work to get as many of your staff involved in a quality improvement team as possible. If Teamers don’t want to participate don’t force them.
  • Collect Results and Problems – Each team needs to take minutes of each meeting highlighting their results, plans and any problems or concerns that they face. As each team finds solutions to address the problem implement them and monitor the results to make sure that the solution actually fixes the problem. Make your successes public to draw attention to your quality improvement efforts. Then move on to the next problem to fix!

“For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.”

  – Steve Jobs