Common mistakes in quality management (and how to avoid them)

The first mistake: “I have a manual and procedures so I am doing well in quality management”. A book full of printed paper does not make quality, people make quality. Of course, a system is the basis, the pillar to start from and eventually to fall back on. However, the foundation is laid much earlier.

Start with a strong foundation

The foundation starts with the vision, mission and core values of the organisation. Is everything focused on maximum quality of your product? Something the staff really believes in? If this is not the case, a very important building block is missing when it comes to quality management.

Different perspectives

When we talk about quality management, we use two different perspectives. The systems perspective: quality systems, measuring, analysing, evaluating, procedures, processes, models and planning. Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) in a systematic process.

In addition, essential in good quality management, is the socio-dynamic perspective. This is about culture, characters, team compositions, team behaviour, team performance, motivation, communication. It is about the relationship and cooperation between people, that is crucial and must be in good balance with the systematic process.

Miscalculation

A common miscalculation in the design of ISO 9001 systems is the 100% focus on the production process. After all, this is where the product is made, so quality is essential. However, do not overlook the fact that the people who do the work there are selected at a much earlier stage, for example by an HR department or an external HR partner. How well do they know the company culture? The interests? The missing skills within a team? Do they look for the same kind of employees as the ones already on the job ‘because he does his job so well’? Or do you look for the right balance and put a completely different personality in return? There is a reason why friction makes shine is a very common metaphor. There is a very large grain of truth in this!

Who writes, remains. Or not?

Another common mistake in the systems engineering perspective is the sometimes impenetrable urge to write everything down, because: ‘It has to be done by ISO, doesn’t it? If, when setting up a system, you reason on the basis of ‘it has to be written down by ISO’, or any other kind of standard, the system is doomed to fail. People will experience it as a burden, an imposition, and thus the social-dynamic perspective will be out of balance again. You reason from your base or foundation:

– What mission and vision do we have?

– What are our spearheads or core values?

– How to integrate this properly into our system documentation?

Do as you say

To remain in the metaphorical realm, the statement ‘do what you say and say what you do’ can be enormously helpful in the thinking phase when drawing up documentation. Don’t write something down because you think someone else should, write down what you think is important and what you do to achieve maximum quality. The usefulness and necessity of documentation have an enormous influence on the motivation of employees. Is there a visible result of what they are doing and not just ‘because it says here that I have to do that’? From a social perspective, the tip is: keep challenging staff to keep thinking about the usefulness and necessity of process steps: ‘Why am I doing this?’ ‘What does this contribute to?’ ‘Why is that result important for the organisation? Feel free to irritate yourself during the process, by asking the ‘why’ question to colleagues.

Way of life

A quality management system can only be of added value when it is truly embedded in the processes. It must be a way of life and not an auxiliary line that you run alongside your ‘normal’ business in order to obtain ISO certification every year. This is a common phenomenon. Companies have a primary process and they have ISO 9001. Totally pointless, inefficient and it contributes nothing to the organisation, apart from hefty invoices from expensive consultants and certification bodies.

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