Interim Head of Quality, London Underground – Redefining Quality

by John Oakland

Background

Last year provided an Interim Head of Quality for London Underground’s Captital Programmes Directorate (LU CPD).  The introduction to that project started when LU CPD engaged us to investigate the potential development of a ‘formal quality system.’ The purpose of the work was to improve project and programme delivery performance, specifically reviewing processes, systems and behaviours of the delivery element in LU CPD.

An in-depth 12-week study delivered a scalable picture of ‘what quality could look like’ and the steps required to achieve these objectives. That picture used Oakland’s Quality framework [Performance, Leadership, People, Processes, and Quality & Culture/Values]. One of the Leadership actions was to provide a single visible leader of quality.

Supporting the client

Consequently, we were asked to provide an experienced quality professional to provide interim cover for the new role, Head of Quality.  The interim cover was for about 10 months and focused on:

  • Developing a Quality Target Operating Model (qTOM) and a Quality Policy Statement;
  • Conducting an end-to-end review of systems and processes to identify where quality should be better integrated with project delivery;
  • Creating a quality implementation plan in readiness for the appointment of a Head of Quality;
  • Supporting the recruitment of the new Head of Quality.

The learning

The outcomes for London Underground are covered in our Interim Head of Quality case study available here. We are delighted that London Underground is serious about improving quality across its capital programme operation.  This project has reinforced our views of the benefits of redefining the role of the quality profession.

Quality really is at the heart of any good business. It still remains the most important competitive weapon – putting the customer at the centre of everything we do – to meet those customer needs time and time again in a consistent manner.  It is a simple concept. Meeting the customer requirements, both externally and internally – but now, more than ever, this can go wrong!

Key challenges for quality

Quality can be hard to attain, hard to maintain and, in any large complex organisation, easy to lose.   The reputations and financial returns of many organisations are quickly being damaged by the failure to manage quality in this fast-moving world. So, following the LU project, we spoke with 25 senior Quality Professionals to discuss the challenges for quality. They all talked about CHANGE & UNCERTAINTY.  In particular – 6 key challenges for quality emerged:

  • The Consumer Challenge – consumers have more choice than ever before which is creating immense pressure on the time to market
  • The Reputation Challenge – performance data is readily available and accessed quickly by all
  • The Confidence Challenge – product recalls have increased by almost 4.5 times in the last 25 years – this concerns consumers and lowers confidence
  • The Supply Chain Challenge – research indicates that a supplier’s ability to deliver in terms of quality, timeliness and cost is one of the most important risks to manage (75% put it in their top 3)
  • The Transformation Challenge – failure is not just restricted to delivery of products and services. The way that major change is mismanaged is damaging the reputations of high-quality brands
  • The Improvement Challenge – there are big opportunities to improve the value to society of better products and services that are not being sufficiently exploited