5 Key Elements in Building an Effective Quality Strategy

Posted by Dan Jacob on Wed, Jan 25, 2017 @ 12:30 PM

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In the Supplier Quality Management (SQM) research, LNS has characterized the current quality maturity of the market, identified the journey to maturity, and quantified the operational and financial value of both maturity and specific best practices. Quality leaders have leveraged this research to gain executive sponsorship, which develops a culture of quality and drives cross-functional engagement.

Gaining top management sponsorship isn’t the end of the road, it’s the start of another journey because when you’ve sold top management on the value of quality management, they want that value – now. The only constant is change (true for Heraclitus, true today), and it’s likely that even the most carefully prepared plans must be changed substantially after receiving executive sponsorship. Expect to carefully build your quality strategy to gain sponsorship, then re-build it when you learn what the sponsor wants.

Here are some tips to construct and communicate a winning quality strategy:

1. Manage expectations

Companies do not go from laggards to industry leaders in 6 months – it takes years of persistent effort to make that turnaround for a small company, and big companies are a much harder boat to turn. Executive expectation management is a tightrope walk. On the one hand, avoid over-committing by agreeing to a schedule with no margin-of-error or insufficient resources. On the other, avoid frustrating your sponsor by being over conservative or insensitive to the sponsor’s timeline needs. Too slow, and they may find something else that drives results more quickly, but over-committing can doom the project.

Get a fresh set of eyes to look at the plan and make sure that it has the necessary elements. Then identify what can’t be changed, where additional resources could accelerate the plan, and where the sponsor can help by removing roadblocks.

Nurture your sponsor by building a successful strategy that demonstrates impact quickly, adjusts to their needs, and is low risk.

2. Align to Objectives

Digital Transformation framework.jpgLNS’s Digital Transformation Framework (click to see image in full-size) is a valuable framework to help construct this strategy, and LNS has been encouraging companies to use this framework to build the strategy to gain executive sponsorship. LNS put objectives at the top of the framework because improvements should accomplish objectives.

Understand the company’s strategic objectives, your sponsor’s objectives, and the objectives of the business leaders and others with which you’ll interface. They likely have plans for how to achieve these objectives. Did these already include quality, and were they underway? If so, build on this momentum by unifying these fragmented plans with the corporate strategy, and provide a win for all. If they didn’t include quality, consider the effort/timeline/risk/reward to including quality. If there was no plan in place, maybe your strategy provides it.

Think nimbly, and build a plan that prioritizes strategic objectives and those of your sponsor.

3. Long Term Goals

Quality leaders should also use this framework to capture both the current state (As Is) and to set both short term (To Be) and long term targets (Ultimate End Goal). It is critical to set a credible, long-term goal that will competitively differentiate the organization, particularly in areas such as SQM. The long-term vision is critical because all short-term plans should make progress towards the long-term vision. Use people, process, technology and Operational Architecture to paint a long-term vision that clearly addresses financial and operational objectives, and quantify the operational and financial impact of the proposed transformation through value assessment or data such as that provided by LNS Research.

4. Short Term Nurture

The initial projects selected upon gaining executive sponsorship are crucial. They should nurture the sponsor by demonstrating quick ROI and providing proof points to claims about the long-term plan. Early successes help build momentum and trust, secure additional resources, and accelerate progress.

It can be difficult to select initial projects. Within a given company, maturity and requirements can vary depending on site, business unit, region, brand, etc. Are people, process, and technology proof of concepts needed? Should we select from the more mature silos, or the less mature? How can we demonstrate that we’ve succeeded?

There are many factors in project selection, but ensure that the project’s success will be visible to the sponsor, and collect metrics before and after deployment.

5. Metrics

Ineffective metric measurement is one of the top three challenges for quality, so expect to have trouble measuring current performance. However, this problem must be overcome, because a lack of metrics prevents clearly communicating success, therefore, putting the initiative at risk. Prioritize initial cases that either have metrics or where data exists that allows metrics to be computed.

Tiger by the tail

Are you looking to build a strategy to gain sponsorship, or to ensure success after attaining it? Fortunately, others have successfully overcome these hurdles. Take the opportunity to exchange lessons learned with quality leaders of world-class organizations.

Supplier Quality Management Roundtable 2017

Tags: Quality Management, Supplier Quality Management, Digital Transformation