The organizational culture involves the norms of behavior and shared values of individuals working for the same company or environment. There are companies known for a culture focus on providing excellent customer service, there are other companies that excel at retaining the talent within the company and therefore, are known as companies with a culture that values and develops its employees.
Companies should include quality as one of the main core values within the organization. The leadership team is instrumental in engaging all the employees when it comes to creating a quality culture. There are instances however, where the leadership team within the organization talks about the importance of a quality culture, but the business decisions they make contradicts this approach therefore, sending a message of confusion to the members of the organization.
A good example of this is telling the employees how important quality is but not willing to develop the technical skills of these employees with training and education programs, due to company’s budget constraints.
Another example, is having three employees doing the work and later letting two of them go to save money, while expecting the one person still left, to do the work that was done by three.
Ideas provided by employees on how to do things better should always be heard and welcomed. The same rule should apply to the ideas brought by project team members. The project manager needs to encourage empowerment from all team members.
A friend told me a story about a member within a project team who always carried a very negative attitude. During project meetings, all he did was say negative things about the work being done. As a result, team members used to ignore him completely and so did the project manager.
One day the project manager left the project and a new project manager was hired to complete the project. He quickly learned about the team member’s negative attitude. Instead of ignoring him or giving him the cold shoulder, he decided to talk to this team member in private.
The new project manager asked the team member why he thought that the work being done was not being done correctly.
The team member was in shock, since for the first time somebody was actually asking him openly about his opinion. The team member opened up to the project manager and explained to him the reasons why he thought the project was going to fail. The project manager listened carefully to his reasons and became more curious and asked more questions.
The project manager realized that the team member was an expert in his field and had valid concerns about the way the work was being done. He engaged the team member in more project activities. Moreover, the project manager empowered the team member to actively participate in making important decisions and encouraged him to share his insights and knowledge with the rest of the project team.
As a result, the team member changed his negative attitude completely; he earned the respect of the project manager and the project team. The end result was a win-win situation as the project would have failed, if it was not for the knowledge and active participation of this team member.
There are different ways an organization and the leadership team can encourage and motivate its collaborators to bring new ideas and innovation to improve quality.
Some examples include a quality award for the best quality innovating idea. Designate a “quality week” to discuss the different aspects of quality and quality improvement. Recognize and post a quality improvement process that has been successfully implemented on the bulletin board, etc.
Achieving quality should be everyone’s priority. Having catch words that sound nice as part of an organization’s quality policy is not enough. If inside that organization quality is not valued, at some point in time that organization will be negatively impacted.
Once customers start complaining and sharing negative experiences about an organization’s product or service, it becomes really hard for that organization to defend its reputation.
By Sophia Crawford, MAP, PMP, ITILv3
Professor of the Quality Management course in the Master in Project Management Program at the University for International Cooperation.