You never hear anyone say “I don’t have time for integrity – I have too many other priorities to take care of right now.” So why, as quality leaders, do we consistently hear how some of our business leaders and process improvement teams don’t have time for quality? Is personal integrity more important than the quality of work we produce? And since when did quality become a to-do list item, to be prioritized on our daily Post-It notes?

Conformance to Customer Requirements

The point is that quality is conformance to your customer requirements every time you perform a business activity, with the end result (ideally) being a “delighted” customer – whether you are manufacturing a product, writing a report for your manager or executing an internal business process. It is not an extra step after you complete the task, but rather a part of the requirements. Priority should be given to quality every time the business performs a task. So how can we get people thinking quality in everything?

The key is to make personal integrity the driver. When we tie quality to someone’s integrity, it becomes personal. Not many people would be content knowing that others don’t think they have complete integrity. Would you?

Making the Connection

Making the connection to integrity from the start of your quality initiative or, if already underway, from an employee’s first day will help create a culture of integrity and quality. Promotion of this concept can also occur through a company-wide organized meeting or from a personal one-on-one conversation with you.

A corporate culture doesn’t change overnight. Just as with the quality initiative itself, top manager buy-in and support is mandatory for a successful culture evolution. Begin with a clear vision, requirements and mindset that are actionable by employees. Go over real life example situations, ask employees for their thoughts and clarify what the business expects in each case. There should be no room for misunderstanding expectations. Line managers, not the quality managers, should be responsible for day-to-day reinforcement of employee integrity.

Your quality culture will soon be more about conducting daily activities according to what employees believe is their fundamental responsibility, and less about you or the quality department influencing or helping prioritize employees’ to-do list items.

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