Without employee contributions, we might as well hang a sign in the window and close up shop. We need to make sure that employees are always contributing to their maximum extent — we need to keep them energized on Quality.
We all know that great Quality programs are initiated and molded by great leaders, but are executed by great employees. Employees contribute on the teams that produce the ideas to solve the problems that are felt by customers and save the business piles of money. Without employee contributions, we might as well hang a sign in the window and close up shop. So we need to make sure that employees are always contributing to their maximum extent — we need to keep them energized on Quality.
So how do we do that? We’re all Quality leaders and we have deliverables to meet. I know I personally have to complete 3 Quality improvement projects by year-end to meet our department goals and ensure my bonus payout. Working the projects, keeping employees energized, and maintaining project momentum is paramount. Consider the following strategies when you run up against these obstacles:
- Break the ties to what has been done in the past. Often times employees feel that current processes must be the most productive way to accomplish a task. What they don’t realize is that the current process was probably created without a focus on customer deliverables or the technology solutions available today. They may have been instituted under a completely different regulatory landscape that has since changed! Revisit requirements and accomplishment paths to discover superior ways to provide products and services.
- Teams are stronger than individuals. I’d rather have a high performance team over a group of high performing individuals any day, and I bet you would too. If you’re trying to create a team and benefit from the team’s results, make sure you reward the team, not individuals, for contributions and superior service to Quality.
- Take appropriate project breaks. If the team has been working hard for two hours during a meeting or weeks on end, don’t forget to provide decompression time. Too much attention to detail can cause an unsolicited case of energy burnout. Make sure you provide ample time to take care of personal needs during regular breaks.
- Don’t forget to laugh. Quality is serious work — improving products, saving the company hard earned dollars, delighting customers — but there’s no rule to say you can’t have fun while doing so! Encourage joking and laughter with the team whenever possible.
- Educate your team on Quality. Don’t rely on your team learning everything they need to know about tools and Quality on the job. It just won’t happen and may cause team frustration. Training time needs to be implemented and projects need to display how to effectively use the tools. Allow them to increase their knowledge base and the company will reap the benefits.
- Keep the juices flowing through exercise. Sometimes day-long meetings can become unbearable. I often find it necessary to take a stretch break every two hours with a team. Encourage members to stretch at their own leisure also. Maybe even take the team for a short walk!
- Don’t lose sight of the forest through the trees. Many employees become so entwined in the details of improving one small aspect that they forget the larger picture. It’s your job as the Quality leader to bring a team’s thinking back to the bottom line and reconcile a project’s deliverables with the long-term goals of the company.