Strategic Planning and The Quality Imperative
In the first blog of this series, we introduced the notion that viewing strategic planning as an organizational learning model is key to improving implementation. In this post we explore the quality management imperative through the same “learning lens”.
Quality management processes provide critical learning, and therefore provide a pivotal role to the formation and implementation of appropriate strategy.
The Strategic Side of Quality
A brief survey of firms identifies a few themes affecting business risk:
- Consumer preferences are increasingly driving quality and risk considerations. For example, the British Retail Council through the adoption of ISO and GSFI standards are driving the real change that is taking place on the shop floor of food manufacturers.
- Globalization is dramatic in scope and pace e.g., European standards are driving the agendas well beyond their borders.
- Manufacturers are increasingly concerned with customer satisfaction.
And from these themes, there are critical questions that should develop for managers as they cope with these new realities:
- Are you on Offense or Defense? Another way to ask this—do you welcome regulators and inspectors? Do your QA processes provide you with a competitive advantage?
- Can you articulate your QA system? Are you in control? Can everyone in your organization articulate your QA system (you can't watch everyone all the time)?
- Do you have the organizational maturity to capitalize on the opportunities that the new environment is providing?
What’s Your Quality Management Maturity Profile?
Firms who already have a robust Quality Management System (QMS) in place may seek to take the issue of product safety and traceability to the next level—seeking to derive competitive advantage through their brand promise by placing themselves in the best-in-class. This goes beyond meeting typical certification requirements; rather it recognizes quality as the hallmark of a great brand. These two approaches—an awareness of the need for meeting regulatory requirements, plus an overt desire to improve—are taking product quality and traceability to new heights in corporate performance.
Understanding your firm’s maturity profile is a logical starting point to how you can form a strategic agenda to enhance your competiveness, develop your brand promise, and build market share.
Understand Where You Are
While most firms want to immediately aim for the most advantageous outcome, building a plan requires a realistic assessment of your capabilities:
Stage 1: Compliant Defense
Firms at this stage typically need to build capacity to meet regulatory compliance or an ISO standard that falls short of the broader “license to operate”. Such firms frequently have their executives responsible for quality report to the legal department rather than the C-level executive responsible for marketing.
Stage 2: Selective Offense
These firms meet regulatory requirements, but primarily adopt a “defensive posture” with an added component of “quality first” in limited product areas.
Stage 3: Strategic Value
Companies at this stage are competing proactively on quality, and recognize the imperative of sustainability and corporate social responsibility. These firms build the foundation to compete on product quality as a strategic pathway to increase brand equity, profitability, and returns to shareholders. Stage 3 firms typically have a C-level officer responsible for quality.
Stage 4: Strategic Growth
Companies at this stage embrace the quality culture as a key contribution to bottom line results. This goes beyond meeting certification requirements; these firms embrace fully the spirit of the license to operate recognizing quality as the hallmark of a great brand, with customer satisfaction and competitive advantage as logical outcomes. In essence, firms at this level are focused on increasing brand equity, profitability and return to shareholders. At stage four, the quality/excellence culture is a key contributor to bottom line results.
Interestingly, Stage 3 and 4 firms typically have a C-level officer responsible for quality who is a member of the executive team.
While most firms want to immediately aim for the more advanced stages, building a plan requires a realistic assessment of your organizational maturity and capabilities.
Typical Challenges Identified Using the Maturity Model
A maturity-model benchmarking evaluation can provide insight into various systemic operating challenges that need to be addressed for the firm to progress to an advanced level of organizational effectiveness.
Some questions that come to mind:
- Can you achieve your planned growth strategy without a comprehensive quality management system that has full acceptance of all stakeholders: PD, Technicians, and Quality Managers of facilities, C-suite?
- Do you have reliability systems to track (trace) supplier product quality, allowing you to assure clients of superior quality of your final product?
- Will current quality management deficiencies impact your global expansion plans if assessing global restrictions on products is slow and labour intensive?
- Is it important that “access to suppliers” is managed so that your supply chain sees one unified “requesting” system?
At a more granular level, aligning your quality capabilities with strategic objectives can further clarify whether you are on Offense or Defense:
- Do your standard operating processes provide you with a due diligence defense to ward off liabilities in the event of product adverse events?
- Do your customers, regulators, and inspectors recognize your accomplishments in Managing Supplier Quality?
- Can stakeholders and members of your organization articulate your standard operating processes to answer client questions?
- Are your internal processes — and those of your supply chain partners — sufficiently robust to provide you with the competitive advantage necessary to support your growth objectives?
Are You Mature Enough?
Do you have the organizational maturity to capitalize on the opportunities that the new environment is providing?
Try our Quality Maturity Questionnaire to see how you compare.