High Quality: Going Beyond the Rules


A recent study found that many of the traditional strategies used to improve quality (e.g. incentives, training, sharing best practice) DON’T REALLY work. Quality is all about going beyond rules: “developing a grassroots, peer-driven approach to develop a culture of quality.”

A culture of quality is about everybody living and breathing a quality drive – only the best is good enough. It is this intrinsic drive that can’t be beaten and – more importantly – can’t be achieved by simply following any program or strategy. It is about who you are and about what you want to be. How do you manage that?

This study provides some predictors of a culture of quality:

  1. Leadership Emphasis;
  2. Message Credibility;
  3. Peer Involvement; and
  4. Employee Ownership.

The issue with these predictors is that correlation of these predictors and having a culture of quality does not guarantee causation. In a recent business case I came across a team of ten people. Leadership emphasised quality and communicated that only the best is good enough for our customers. All team members were involved with this process and the team was the decision unit for quality improvement. However, nine of the team were of the relative hardworking, ‘stay-within-the-legal-parameters’ kind and  one was of the only-the-best-is-good-enough-professional kind. What do you think is happening here? The odds are the latter person will find a new and better team.

However, how do we keep this person and change the team to reach this much better quality?

We have found that really hands-on team development workshops can help to determining what is keeping most from top quality, but in the end nothing can replace an intrinsically professional attitude. A real professional is always inquiring for insight and understanding of their ‘practice’.  A professional always identifies what works and what does not and then improves… constant learning. It’s like Mike Hammer says in Beyond Reengineering: The worker is trained; the professional learns…


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