World Class Quality Demands the Best-Fit Quality Management Org Structure


Quality management is a pervasive set of business processes that can be difficult for the most progressive, mature, and even market-leading organizations to manage effectively. It is no surprise that like quality (product and process), quality management in and of itself demands planning, execution, and continuous improvement. High profile quality breaches have dominated the manufacturing press at times over the last 12 months, and when the CEO of a world-class OEM is ‘let go’ specifically because of quality-related issues, minds are focused and organizations are shaken up.

Adjusting one’s organization to be better positioned to manage end-to-end quality and foster a quality-focused quality culture is its own challenge, primarily because no single blueprint for success exists. There are simply too many variables involved, and what works for one organization may prove inappropriate or ineffective for another. We have experience and data that represents the entire spectrum of approaches from our Global Executive Council (GEC) members. Some of these GEC members produce thousands of different products with tens of thousands of suppliers and manufacturing operations across the globe.

Quality Org Structure Has Direct Effect

One thing is for certain, how we structure our quality organization has a direct impact on key elements of the quality engine. This includes product reliability, understanding and proactively managing the impact of manufacturing assets, and their performance through harmonizing processes by embracing appropriate technologies and driving quality culture. This way all stakeholders engage and understand their role. 

The structure an organization adopts should, among other things, address complex challenges. Such challenges include expanding global supplier networks, dynamic customer preferences, the need for short and effective new product introduction (NPI) cycles, providing a framework that embeds continuous improvement, and visibility and connectedness across the value chain. The structure should be looking ahead to the impact of Smart Connected Products, and how industry will transform as intelligent manufacturing pervades.

From Rigid to Autonomous and Disparate

If the approach is too hierarchic and rigid, inherent bureaucracy can stifle innovation and agility in improvement based on good intelligence. A centralized corporate quality entity alone, for example, runs the risk of becoming disengaged from the everyday challenges faced on the shop floor. Performance is viewed as a metric (or metrics) in isolation, and these are interrogated out of context. In the worst cases this corporate entity is perceived as a policing function out to catch and punish perpetrators. Potential improvements, best practices, and collaborative initiatives slip through the net without a mechanism to broadcast, discuss, challenge, and retain/implement.

The alternative and other extreme is fraught with duplication and blind spots. A myriad of plant and departmental entities autonomously strive to manage and improve quality, often in a vacuum and relying on a patchwork of tools and individual expertise. The potential to share, collaborate, and harmonize is vacant. Pockets of excellence exist, but organizational learning and long-term sustainability are difficult to harness. Yet harnessing these and other facets that exist locally, elevating to an organizational level and harmonizing within a closed loop approach, is a source of competitive advantage.

In the real world, very few organizations fit into either of the categories outlined neatly; most companies adopt a hybrid approach with a matrixed structure. For large global organizations, these matrix organizations can become complex and confusing without a clear mandate for change. The cross-functional, interdisciplinary team, council or forum may harness the intellectual and practical innovation to address issues but often lacks authority to execute.

You Can Help

LNS Research is on a quest to help organizations learn from one another in research that specifically addresses the challenges outlined above. The research effort includes a short survey that explores an organization’s current approach followed by an in depth exploration by virtue of an executive round table in late September that will be attended by quality executives from companies such as Whirlpool, Alcoa, Harley-Davidson, Kimberly-Clark, Remy International, Eaton, and Plexus. The round table is by invitation only and will address the following topics to be discussed in detail:

  • Structure of Corporate Quality Groups
  • Quality Organization Structure
  • Integration of quality with functional groups
  • Ownership of core quality process
  • New Product Introduction process

If you would like to attend the event, benefit from insight shared by senior figures in quality leadership roles and contribute to helping others excel in quality management, please complete the 5-minute survey below and indicate your interest to attend.

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