In the past, Quality has become synonymous with control, compliance and cost. Excessive focus on the internal organisational capability to meet standards of product and service quality to customers, consumers and regulators has generated overly-bureaucratic approaches that have attracted a negative perception, particularly in boardrooms. As a consequence, Quality has been seen as an operational tool for control and improvement in the materials and information supply chains.
But if we are to meet these challenges of the 21st century, then quality must play a wider role in businesses. The demand in overseas markets and the opportunities that outsourcing presents, requires control over a more complex value network. Furthermore, the transfer of responsibility for processing up and down the supply chain is creating the need for quality to manage operations “at arm’s length” where partners, suppliers and even our customers or consumers play a key role in successfully achieving desired outcomes. You only have to look at initiatives such as NHS Direct, Smart Metering and Mass Customisation to see examples of this shift in responsibility.
The extent to which management can adapt and adopt these opportunities will depend upon the extent to which they build a “learning organisation” during their quality and operations journey – one that is quick to change, avoiding excessive costs and reputational impacts of getting it wrong. Quality can play a part in this challenge, shifting its contribution to that of a “strategic guide”, helping to de-risk the agenda and speed up the time to realisation of benefits. To do this, we must change the role and perception of Quality in our organisations; we must start “Redefining Quality”.