In ASQ President, Paul Borawski’s blog post this month he asks how do you sell quality. My first thought is why must we sell quality. If you define quality as satisfying your customer and taking pride in what you do can we not expect this as a given. What does this say about the culture of an organization where this is not expected nor encouraged?
For me there are two uncompromising principles we must engrain into everything we do:
1) Safety first – Nothing is so important that we can’t take the time to do it safely.
2) Build in Quality – Quality cannot be inspected into a product therefore we must build quality activities into our processes.
Selling implies we must persuade the value of quality. The benefits of which are well known:
- Poor quality increases defects found by customers therefore increasing labor costs on identifying and correcting these defects. Defects are expensive to fix, and the later in the process they are detected, the more costly they are to fix.
- Poor quality increases your baseline costs. If an organization releases poor quality, it will likely need a large number of support representatives to help with customer issues. These dedicated expenses cut into time and money spent on new development.
- Releasing poor quality causes delays with customers and lost revenue. Once doubt creeps into the minds of customers, they may delay purchasing new releases, allowing others to gain the business.
- Poor quality diminishes your reputation and market share. Your brand and its reputation is your most valuable asset. In today’s highly connected environment, it is easy for a few dissatisfied customers to spread negative reviews.
Philip Crosby coined the phrase "quality is free", meaning that the absence or lack of quality is costly to an organization, e.g., in money spent on doing things wrong, over, or inefficiently. Conversely, spending money to improve quality, e.g., to reduce waste or improve efficiency, saves money in the long run.
I am not naïve enough to think this a given. Leaders must make a long-term commitment to quality improvement. It is the managers' policies and actions that indicate their commitment to quality. Individual leaders must set an example by providing consistent, focused leadership in this area.
Quality is obviously extremely important, or you inevitably create all sorts of waste further down the line. We must build quality in. Build it in as early as possible in the process to avoid quality issues materializing. And build it in throughout the entire development process, not just at the end.
In my opinion successful businesses are those that not only sell quality to their employees but make it part of the culture or what they do daily. The organization must make quality a top priority for everyone in the company, from top managers to the workers building product. The final product and goal of the organization is creating value for consumers.
I’m part of the ASQ Influential Voices program. While I receive an honorarium from ASQ for my commitment, the thoughts and opinions expressed on my blog are my own.