“If you’re going to do something, do it well.” These are words I’ve always lived by. Maybe it’s the competitiveness I grew up with or my insatiable need to be “the best,” but I’ve always concerned myself with how well I’ve done things, (not just the fact that I’m doing them). When we received our recent Job Fair survey results (and they were overwhelmingly positive), I couldn’t help but think “quality counts.” It wasn’t enough that we had pulled it off – 40 employers, 625 job seekers and 6 resource providers – but, we thought about the experience of everyone who walked through those Abbeville High doors. We followed a quality process, evaluated our strengths and gaps, and remained clear about what our goals were.
Now, when I say “quality” I don’t necessarily mean how good or bad something is. I mean it in the sense of quality assurance. When you purchase a car seat, for example, it’s very reassuring to see that quality seal of approval. This tells you as the buyer that this piece of equipment is measured to a set of standards. It also tells you that every car seat manufactured is the same, that consistency is something valued. And fortunately, it also means that if something is wrong, it can be tracked, fixed, replaced, and the end user can be notified. Can you imagine a world without these assurances? One where “quality” didn’t count?
But, maybe you don’t manufacture car seats, or think quality affects your business. I’m here to tell you that it can, and it should. Even businesses that offer services and no products can employ some basic quality management principles and see positive results. In my former role in Lafayette, I was the quality manager. It was my job to help set the standards, monitor them, and report on my findings. We were always on the hunt for ways to make things better and used the “quality circle” (a tried and tested method) to assure success. Plan, do, check and adjust. So simple, but so effective.
You can incorporate quality management into your business or organization no matter what size or industry! Here are some ways:
Customer Focus – I mentioned it before, but let’s be clear – THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART. If you don’t know what your customer’s expectations are, you can’t meet them. So always start with what they want and be clear about whether or not you can accommodate them. Tell them their opinions are important and mean it.
Leadership – In most businesses, you’re only as good as the person on top. Make sure you communicate your philosophy and values to your staff and live them! If you value punctuality, be on time. If you expect neatness, be pristine. Show your customers and employees that you practice what you preach. You’re a lot more likely to get good results with a good leader.
Build the Process – Most businesses have a finite amount of things they must do to be “successful.” It can be anything from on-boarding new clients to hosting an event. The only problem is maintaining those expectations and consistency that we talked about. That’s where procedures come in handy! Take your core functions and figure out which necessary steps make the process infallible. That way, no matter who does them, or how infrequently they’re done, they’ll be the same. No more wasting time trying to remember how to do even the simplest of tasks.
Continuous Improvement – It’s one thing to do what you say you’re going to do, and it’s another to incrementally improve those actions. What do I mean? Well, it’s simple. Maybe your business is known for its burgers, but your new menu item keeps getting sent back for being “too spicy.” Well, you can keep on burning your patron’s mouths or adjust. This doesn’t mean you have to abandon all your great ideas, just be prepared to adapt. Maybe those burgers should be served with a glass of milk, or your server should know the difference between a ghost pepper and a jalapeño. The point here is you plan, execute and evaluate. Then simply use what you found out to make the process (or product) better.
Simple enough right? Let’s recap. Focus on your customers and communicate with them about their needs and your solutions. Spread your values as an organization from the top down. Once you figured out how to do something well, write it down. Use these new processes to train future employees, (and your customers on what to expect). Never stop learning. What sets businesses apart from their competitors is rarely price, location, or other typical factors, it’s usually their ability to adapt to their customers’ needs.
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