Part 3: Leadership
(Click here for Part 2)
The second Quality Management System (QMS) principle is leadership.
Running a Quality Management System (QMS) can feel like an uphill battle. Winning the hearts and minds of busy CEOs, Directors and General Managers can be really tough – they’ve all got their eyes firmly on strategy, budgets, sales, and shareholders. If a QMS isn’t legislated or regulated it’s even more difficult to get any traction. Unfortunately it’s the view of many senior managers that a QMS can always be put on hold for another day…that never seems to come.
The most important task for you, therefore, is to display leadership. Not spreadsheet skills. Not policies and procedures by the pound. Not having perfectly formatted policies and procedures. But leadership.
As a Quality leader you will have to display an impressive array of skills.
Top leaders think and act strategically. Nailing down a clearly defined strategy that top management believes in will give you a) momentum and b) credibility. Sit down with the SMT and thrash out a Quality strategy that everyone believes in. Make sure that it clearly and strongly links to the company strategy, and get the whole team sign off on it. Keep top management involved by having them take part in the management review process. The SMT must not only buy-in to the QMS, but they must be seen to buy-in.
All of this looks easy on paper, but how on earth do you actually get buy-in in the first place? This is where you need to display another leadership skill; that of a top sales person. It’s up to you to constantly sell the benefits of QMS to managers and staff alike. Become a collector of anecdotes, case studies and stories about times that QMS turned organisations around. Think back over your work history for some examples. Use your networks to find evidence of success - LinkedIn is full of good stories. Another excellent place to look is the ISO.org website which has articles on the benefits of standards. If you have a great store of examples and stories it will be much easier for your team to follow your path, because they will know that other teams have already successfully followed that very same path. Back up your examples with reliable numbers relating to waste, complaints received and so forth – solid numbers are crucial for setting targets and measuring progress and for keeping those with an eye on the bottom line happy. Success stories + hard data = QMS gold.
On the flipside, you will also need to make your team aware of the costs of letting a QMS slide into atrophy. It’s the less positive way to get traction with the SMT, but sometimes, a horror story of a missed contract or stuffed-up order can work wonders for getting buy-in. Used wisely, cautionary tales can help jump-start action.
The third leadership skill that you’ll need is the courage to take action if people don’t follow the system. You want to be tough, fair, and consistent, demonstrating total commitment to the processes. You have to walk the talk. If the procedures say that each article must be signed off by the Quality Manager, then each article must be signed off by the Quality Manager, no questions asked. If the procedures say monthly audits must be done, then monthly audits must be done, no exceptions. If you let things slide or apply procedure haphazardly, then your colleagues will infer that these tasks are unimportant, and that – by extension – the whole system is irrelevant. And if that becomes the prevailing culture in your organisation, then you’ve got an expensive, difficult mess to put right.
Running a QMS can be tough, but we wouldn’t be in this profession if we didn’t believe that the rewards of a well-oiled system can be enormous. Be enthusiastic, be informed, and be strategic. Make sure that you are a success story worth telling.
- Sit down with the SMT and thrash out a Quality strategy that everyone believes in and have them take part in the management review process.
- Constantly sell the benefits of QMS to managers and staff.
- Make your team aware of the costs of letting a QMS slide into atrophy.
- Take action if people don’t follow the system.
To view previous blogs in this series: