Who is responsible for quality?
For the past two weeks, I’ve been writing about topics related to quality. This is the last topic of the series, and it’s focus is on the role of the quality organization.
There is always a tension between the quality organization, regardless of its title, and the rest of the organization: who is responsible for quality?
The quality organization wants the control, but knows that they can’t possibly deliver the results that are needed. The operations and product development groups want the quality group to stay out of their way, but complain when quality seems to pass the buck on quality issues.
It doesn’t seem to be so confusing in regards to safety. Everyone understands that the safety department, or person, cannot control safety. It’s in the hands of everyone – their decisions, their behaviors, their work. The safety person can coach, problem solve, and develop and monitor systems that help everyone with safety. Why is there so much consternation about quality?
Quality is the result of every single persons decisions, behaviors, and work. A quality group cannot control quality. They can build systems to help people get the quality right. They can give people tools to help prevent problems, detect problems, and solve problems. They can give people information that helps them understand the voice of the customer.
In the end, the output of quality is primarily the result of all the people in the organization. The systems put in place by the quality organization only contributes to quality.
So who owns quality? Everyone owns quality outcomes. The quality group owns quality systems.
So quality organizations can’t blame the rest of the organization for bad quality and take credit for quality improvements. And the rest of the organization can’t pass the buck.
The same problem happens with continuous improvement organizations. The existence of a continuous improvement organization doesn’t mean that everyone else doesn’t own continuous improvement. The CI groups do not make a great CI journey. But they are the enabler. They build the systems. They coach and train people. They facilitate. But in the end, they are only a portion of the continuous improvement journey.
After all, there is only one team, and we’re all on it.
How does ownership of quality and continuous improvement work in your organization?