Aligning Operations and Quality Drives Down Costs While Improving Efficiency
By Mike Hughes, EAS Independent Consultant
Have you ever felt like your co-workers are at a different company? Maybe, even a competitor who is trying to run you out of business? Yup – I have.
I am an Operations guy and the co-workers in this scenario worked in Quality Assurance. Funny thing is, they probably felt the same way about me.
The heart of the problem was different goals leading to different ways of approaching the business. Those differences made it seem like we were diametrically opposed. I was hard-wired to make as much stuff as efficiently and profitably as possible. My QA friends were trying to assure all our products met quality requirements. This seemed to often result in conflict.
Why does this happen? Many regulated businesses are required to have separate Operations and QA departments as a way of having checks and balances. Over time, without some kind of an agreement or discussion on how the two sides can work together they begin to work independently and sometimes in opposition.
What can be done about it? The heart of the solution involves creating something bigger – a shared goal. Without a shared goal, Operations and QA will optimize selfishly. It won’t take long for each organization to feel like the other is on a different team.
Aligning a shared goal across an organization sounds simple. Simple does not mean easy. It is more than creating a vision; it is creating a culture that is lived from the top down. It is enabling departments to see their roles not as a microcosm but as a holistic part of the whole. It is determining how departments support one another, and how they stymie, so that weaknesses can be strengthened for the greater good of all. Operations moves forward with efficiency and without sacrificing Quality. Each side understands each other’s pressures and works together to optimize the solution. Some call it a Total Quality Approach.
Changing culture requires a thoughtful and partnered approach to ensure everyone understands that consistently and efficiently producing a quality product is everyone’s job.
Here are 12-steps that have worked for me and my QA friends:
COMMIT TO BETTER
The leadership of Operations and QA commit to partner with each other for better alignment across the organizational needs to meet the needs of consumers as well as regulatory authorities.
The Operations Leader and QA Leader each drafts expectations of their organization and each other. The two leaders meet to exchange and clarify expectations. Each agrees to the role they will play.
Together, they draft a vision statement that describes what overall success for this partnership looks like.
Articulate the guiding principles that will be used to get there.
Agree on a place to start. Pick a small department to use to get started. Define the boundaries.
Meet with the key thought leaders in the pilot department to share expectations, principles, and vision. Gather additional input and support.
Meet with upper management. Gather additional input and support. Regular communication with upper management will be important to maintain support when issues arise.
WALK THE TALK
Pick a roll-out date and go. Work together for 90 days. Know that things will not be perfect but stay committed to making things better. Keep talking.
Have formal review of things to “stop/start/continue.” Be open and honest without being judgmental and personal.
Formally update expectations, goals, vision, and principles to make them better.
Take time to recognize the progress.
Make it better. Expand to other areas.
This kind of tough collaboration will likely create some challenges in the short term but yields a much better organization in the long run. Both Operation and Quality roles are vital. Being partners is the best approach.
Mike Hughes – EAS Consultant with over 30 years of Operations experience in regulated operations for P&G.
EAS works with companies to align collaboration across departments for best outcomes. For more information on how to work with our experts contact us.