During a recent visit to a new prospect, the company’s CEO openly told me “I keep our quality department costs as low as I possibly can – but spend just enough to keep the certificate on the wall.”
It was a typical (and clearly very honest) assessment of the perceived value of quality management within the industry.
In fact, if you ask most organisations to truthfully tell you why they’ve got a quality department, they’ll tell you it’s so they can point to a certificate on the wall when key clients are waiting in reception.
Clearly most organisations still view their quality department as an overhead.
After the meeting on the drive back home, I thought more about the CEO’s comments. I guess I was a bit annoyed – but not with the CEO. I was actually more annoyed with the folks in the quality department whom I’d met afterwards.
It wasn’t that they were at all unpleasant or bad at what they did - it was because they had done such a poor job ‘selling’ and communicating their value to the company.
Unfortunately I’ve been around long enough to know that this situation is very typical – especially in small & midsize organisations. But being a big believer in the tangible value that quality management can generate, it still annoys me.
Time and again, I come across the following issues with quality personnel:
- They keep their heads down and just get on with doing their job - but forget to promote their achievements.
- They don’t know how to communicate the importance of quality within the organisation.
- They can’t explain or show senior management how the value of their activities adds to the company and its bottom line.
Is it any wonder they’re viewed as an overhead?
From Cost Centre to Profit Centre
If the quality department is going to get the recognition it deserves, it’s going to have to learn to promote its own successes better. It needs to start talking the language of senior management and communicate that it’s doing a lot more than just documenting procedures.
Most importantly, it needs to be able to monetize its improvement activities.
Remember, it’s the quality department that identifies, measures and monitors improvement actions. And it’s the quality department that discusses their findings and drives the change management process to remove the issues and inefficiencies.
That’s powerful stuff – as long as it’s communicated properly!
The Bottom Line
Just as the sales department lets everyone know when they make a big sale, the quality department needs to sing it from the rooftops when they make a big improvement.
They really need to grow some cojones.