Quality Management isn’t a one (wo)man show. Most of you Quality Managers know this is true, but within a significant number of companies, this is still the default. Phrases like “John is the Quality Manager, he takes care of Quality” is what exemplifies this. Quality is really an organization-wide effort—every level has either a direct or indirect impact on how the customer experiences the goods or services.
We have been saying this a lot, and most of you know it by heart: Quality is a team effort. But let’s rephrase this, Quality Management is a team effort. Everybody in the organization does something that has a direct effect on the Quality the company delivers. This can be the office manager that picks up the phone with a friendly voice or the service engineer that performs services when required, and every step in between. However, the people that don’t work directly with the customer also have a direct effect on Quality, although there isn’t a direct impact by the job they do. This could be the warehouse manager or the financial admin. That is why we make a separation between direct impact roles and indirect impact processes.
The moment the customer interacts with the organization, there is a direct impact by the employee on the perceived Quality of the company. This can be a person or the product the company provides. It is essential to meet the expectations of the customer at that moment. Of course, things can go wrong and customers will accept that if it is solved in the best way possible. Those with a key role are the service and support people that are in contact with the customer when things go wrong. These are the people that can have a great impact on the relationship with the customer and therefore on the Quality perception of the customer.
The indirect impact gets a lot less attention. These are all the processes that don’t have a direct connection with the customer but have a severe impact on the quality perception. Great examples are logistic processes, when delays pile up in the warehouse or when things get messed up in finance. These processes can have a serious negative effect on the Quality perception. The support and service team are then loaded with the burden of fixing this, which can lead to a significant workload. For an organization, it is important to always keep an eye on these processes and not only focus on the processes with direct customer connection.
When we look at the direct and indirect impact of the processes, we clearly see that everybody has an important role in the consistent Quality of the products and services. It also makes it pretty clear that Quality Management is a team effort. Your role as the Quality Manager is to guide people into adding value to the management system and give them the right tools to do this. When Quality checks and Quality-related activities become part of their day-to-day routine, it becomes seamless for them. This way, you will get much more input to improve difficulties in processes. This way the organization gets better aligned and there will be less friction.