‘Culture of quality’ key to sustaining quality levels during disruption

A single disruption in an organisation causes an average culture of quality to drop 9%, according to a survey by Gartner. The research, conducted among more than 1,200 respondents, found that the primary tools quality leaders use to maintain a culture of quality during a disruption – reinforcing the importance of quality and ensuring access to quality tools such as trainings and knowledge hubs – have little to no impact.

With the findings from the Gartner 2020 Culture of Quality During Disruptions Survey suggesting that organisations experience on average three disruptions per year, the potential impact on businesses of a wide range of incidents is potentially significant. Bryan Klein, research director with the Gartner Supply Chain Practice, said: “COVID-19, digital transformation, sudden facility shutdowns or an expansion into a new market all disrupt supply chain organisations. A strong culture of quality is critical during times of transformation, and quality leaders must find strategies to sustain their quality levels during disruptions.”

“More than 70% of survey respondents said that messages about the importance of multiple competing priorities all increased during a disruption. That’s why just reinforcing the importance of quality falls on deaf ears,” Klein added. “It’s the same with quality tools. As priorities and circumstance change during the disruption, employees are unsure whether the tool is still relevant – and stop using it.”

According to the survey, the most impactful action quality leaders can take to maintain a culture of quality during disruptions is to help employees navigate the inevitable tensions between conflicting priorities. However, this is something only 27% of organisations are currently doing.

As a next step, quality leaders should offer clear guidance on when a certain level of quality is crucial and when it’s not. Establishing categories such as ‘must have quality’, ‘should have quality’, and ‘can have quality’ are an easy way to guide employees’ thinking patterns.

Finally, employees must be equipped to manage competing tensions when necessary. Less than 25% of survey respondents reported that they seek guidance from quality leaders before making a difficult trade-off decision. Gartner’s Klein suggests that quality leaders need to ensure that employees are properly equipped to make those decisions on their own: “Peer-to-peer consulting or a quality ambassador program can give employees access to the relevant guidance. Discussing tensions between priorities during weekly meetings motivates staff to reflect on their decision-making process and will lead to better informed decisions at later stages.”

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