The brutal economic climate that has prevailed in recent years has caused organizations to reassess their processes and operations in order to eliminate waste and reduce production/operations cost to its bare minimum. There are a number of approaches that organizations have taken to accomplish this, including development of a streamlined value chain, establishment of key performance indicators, and other stringent cost controlling measures. Other firms have sought a more proactive approach to reducing waste and minimizing costs, which is a concept known as quality improvement (Harmon, 2007). Quality improvement refers to an organization’s pursuit of increased quality throughout the firm’s processes and procedures. By implementing strong quality improvement ideals into the firm, it is expected that the organization will be rewarded by a number of lucrative benefits, including reductions in waste and minimization of production/operation costs (Garner, 2012). The purpose of this paper is to explore the concept of quality improvement in greater detail with particular emphasis on the role that this activity plays within organizational operations, as well as the potential benefits that are likely to arise as a result. As such, the following sections will provide a brief overview of organizational configurations that promote and support quality improvement activities, and the specific behaviors that should be exhibited by organizational leadership to effectively promote an organizational culture that emphasizes quality improvement.
Organizational configuration may seem like a complicated concept that requires a significant amount of business skill and expertise to manage successfully. Importantly, this is not entirely the case, and as such, organizational configuration represents one of the most valuable tools in the strategic leader toolkit to affect positive change and improvements in the organization. Thusly, modifications of organizational configuration could be conducted in a manner that promotes an organizations strategic goals regarding quality improvement throughout the firm’s entire operations. Based on traditional businesses, including manufacturing firms, retailers, and telecommunications firms, one of the most popular and widely utilized organizational configuration has been one that is diversified with a number of different divisions tasked with handling a specific aspect of the organization’s operation. Certainly, the organizational hierarchy should reflect a top tier of leaders that will represent the firm’s C-suite leadership. Importantly, when using a diversified divisional organizational structure, an organization that is seeking to focus on quality improvement can easily incorporate quality improvement programs into the organization with minimal disruption and cost (Blue, 2011). As such, implementing a quality improvement program into an organization can be a particularly effective way to facilitate achievement of quality improvement objectives, as well as organization cost savings goals to strengthen competitive positioning. One of the most prominent quality improvement programs to emerge in recent years is known as Six Sigma. In particular, Six Sigma refers to a quality improvement program that seeks to reduce defects to a level of no more than 3.4 defects per million units (Rouse, 2006). This indicates that when an organization has adopted Six Sigma as a quality improvement mechanism, their production operations are not allowed to produce more than 3.4 defects for every million units that are produced.
Although Six Sigma level quality is not the easiest thing in the world to accomplish, it does provide an excellent standard in which an organization can actively pursue and improve operations to achieve. In the end, implementation of Six Sigma into the organization will help the firm to realize a host of benefits, which will includes far less production waste as fewer units must be discarded or reworked due to defects. In addition, the cost savings associated with this reduction in defects would generate will likely be quite substantial as the amount of raw materials and labor hours needed to support the production activity would be virtually devoid of wasted resources, ensuring the maximum level of operational efficiency throughout the organization’s value chain (Hoon Kwak & Anbari, 2006).
Promoting Quality Improvement
It is important to remember that although an organization can implement a variety of different process and quality improvement programs within its operations, these efforts will only be successful of the organizational leadership is able to effectively incorporate the principle of quality improvement throughout the organizational culture. What this means is that it is critical and paramount to the success of these quality improvement initiatives that organizational leaders effectively promote and exhibit the necessary behaviors to inspire the entire organization and all its employees to embrace the quality improvement concept. Many field experts contend that the most critical and influential step in achieving this is through complete leadership buy-in of the quality improvement program (Chapman, 2011). Such behavior reflects the popular ideal of lead by example, which is in actuality, a highly effective tool for promoting a specific concept throughout an organization (Micheletti, 2011). In particular, if the organizational leadership pays little attention to a specific program or initiative, it is safe to say that the rest of the organization’s employees will pay little attention to it as well. As a result, in order to inspire the organization to embrace quality improvement initiatives, organizational leadership must become the most outspoken and enthusiastic advocates for the initiatives.
As organizational leadership emphasized the initiative, the concept of quality improvement will become deeply engrained within the organizational culture as the firm’s employees begin to recognize the importance of quality improvement in achieving organizational success. In addition to being outspoken supporters, organizational leaders should ensure that promotion of quality improvement is also reflected throughout the firm’s processes, procedures, and organizational governance. This will help to cement the concept of quality improvement as a fundamental component of the organization’s philosophy, and ensure that the organization’s operations remain in line with the firm’s established strategic goals and objectives. As a result, the organization will find itself in a better position to engage in the fierce competition of today’s marketplace.
- Blue, F. (2011, May 29). Main differences between six sigma & ISO 9000. Retrieved from eHow Web site: http://www.ehow.com/list_6165778_main-six-sigma-iso-9000.html
- Chapman, A. (2011). Six Sigma training, history, definitions – Six Sigma quality management glossary. Retrieved from Business Balls Web site: http://www.businessballs.com/sixsigma.htm
- Garner, J. (2012). The best method for developing a business process plan. Retrieved July 1, 2013, from http://smallbusiness.chron.com/method-developing-business-process-plan-17073.html
- Harmon, P. (2007). Business process change: A guide for business managers and BPM and six sigma professionals 2nd ed. New York, NY: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers.
- Hoon Kwak, Y., & Anbari, F. T. (2006). Benefits, obstacles, and future of six sigma approach. Technovation, 26, pp. 708-715.
- Micheletti, M. (2011, March 31). Why GE’s six sigma success story is still relevant. Retrieved from World Press Web site: http://trianzblog.com/wordpress/?p=217
- Rouse, M. (2006, May). Six Sigma. Retrieved from Tech Target Web site: http://searchcio.techtarget.com/definition/Six-Sigma