Quality objectives are measurable goals and the base of long-term quality improvement planning. After setting a target, simply hoping that changes occur to achieve the goal is not an effective way to improve a QMS. You need to work towards that goal.
Make it SMART
Once you’ve determined which products or processes you want to monitor, measure, and improve, you need to make sure that your quality objectives are achieved effectively. To have the best chance of achieving these goals, I would recommend you to use the SMART method. This method states that all quality objectives need to be Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, and Time-based. Here’s how you do this:
Specific: Describe the quality objective as specific as possible so that everyone in the organization understands it. Rather than striving “to reduce production defects,” a better description should be “to reduce production defects by 10% in the engine assembly line”. To test whether it’s specific enough, you can try to see if your goal could be interpreted differently. If so, your goal is not yet well formulated.
Measurable: Without measuring your goals, how can you determine if an objective is achieved? To show visible improvement, it’s important to express this in percentages or numbers. For instance:
- Reduce production defects by 10%
- Obtain 90% customer on-time-delivery
Agreed: Objectives can’t be achieved if they’re created inside a vacuum. Top management buy-in is crucial in setting quality objectives and making sure they’re communicated throughout your organization so relevant parties are made aware. All employees of the organization need to agree that the goals are achievable.
Realistic: Setting unrealistic goals is never a good idea. You aren’t going to motivate your employees by telling them you want to go from 20% production defects to zero. Especially when you don’t have the resources to support this level of improvement. To keep everybody satisfied, set realistic goals—this will motivate them to put in a little bit of extra effort next time.
Time-based: Finally, to be truly effective, objectives must have a specific deadline for results. Without a timeline, goals might be easily forgotten when overshadowed by day-to-day activities. For example, “reduce production defects in the engine assembly line by 10% in the next year”.
Quality objectives can be established for any process and can be specific to a department, team, or project, as long as they are relevant to your QMS. Always make sure that quality objectives are properly communicated throughout your entire organization so relevant parties are made aware.