Training for Quality

An increasing number of organizations are recognizing that, in order to gain and keep competitive advantage, they need to adopt a quality culture. Continuous quality improvement has become a key objective for these organizations, because they perceive it to be the single most significant factor contributing to continuing success and competitiveness. Training provides an important support to the achievement of quality objectives.

Costs of quality and quality training

It has been conservatively estimated that up to 25% of all work is done to find and correct errors. Errors increase costs and reduce efficiency. Improved quality means fewer errors, and therefore reduced costs. The implementation of quality improvement schemes alone, however, gives no guarantee that organizations will see the desired cost reductions. Quality initiatives which are unsupported by adequate and appropriate training can have an adverse rather than a positive effect in that they require people to:

  • understand and use new systems in which they have had no training and to which they have no commitment
  • change their basic perceptions of and attitudes to work with little or no support in how to do this
  • use skills and working methods which may be new, unfamiliar and therefore inaccessible to them.

The costs of quality training may be seen to be high. In addition to the costs of developing and producing the required training materials, there are also the costs associated with taking large numbers of people 'off line' to attend the relevant training courses. But the costs of not offering quality training are that:

  • staff may lack the essential skills and knowledge required to operate the quality system effectively
  • staff may see the quality system as just another 'bureaucratic' control and therefore lack the motivation to apply it properly.

A well designed quality training programme will enhance people's ability and willingness to operate the quality system effectively, thus overcoming likely barriers to the implementation of quality improvement.

Preparing to train for quality

Before embarking on the design of a quality training programme, trainers need to assess their organization's readiness to undertake the changes which may be required. Levels of readiness will, to a certain extent, determine the level of training effort to be invested upfront in winning commitment for quality initiatives. Here are just a few questions to which training professionals will need answers, in order to clarify the critical factors affecting the success of their quality training programme:

  1. How committed is your top management to quality improvement? Is the current emphasis on quality perceived as just another management fad?
  2. Is there an organization-wide quality improvement strategy? If so, does it acknowledge the need for continuous improvement over a long period of time?
  3. To what extent does management have a common understanding about what constitutes quality in your business? Is the importance of serving customers well a value which is communicated by management?
  4. What decisions has management made when forced to trade-off among costs, schedules and quality? Have there been times when management made difficult business decisions in favour of quality?
  5. Does management realize the cost of not training for and implementing a quality improvement programme?
  6. Do the incentive systems reward people for their contributions to quality improvement?
  7. Does the management environment encourage input from employees? Are people afraid to speak their minds and make suggestions for improvement? Would their past experience lead them to believe management truly cares about employee ideas and concerns?

Topics to cover in quality training

Quality is an issue which involves the whole organization from top management downwards. Quality training programmes therefore need to embrace the whole organization. The following lists offer a brief overview of the various topics and issues which may need to be covered with different organizational groups as part of their training.

Top management:

  • what quality is and what it means for the organization
  • customer orientation and customer service
  • defining customers' requirements and expectations
  • assessing quality position relative to competitors
  • identifying strategic quality goals
  • treating suppliers as strategic business partners
  • avoiding the costs of poor quality
  • adopting a continuous improvement philosophy
  • top management roles in quality improvement
  • developing a structured approach to implementing quality improvement
  • planning to implement the quality improvement initiative
  • the cost of failing to train for quality.

Middle management:

  • definition of quality in the context of the organization's products, services and relationships
  • why quality is critical to continued success
  • importance of customer orientation and customer service
  • identifying internal customers and defining their requirements
  • assessing departmental/team quality
  • avoiding the costs of poor quality
  • the meaning of a continuous improvement philosophy
  • roles of middle management in quality improvement & maintenance
  • developing departmental quality goals
  • creating an improvement-oriented environment
  • developing partnerships with suppliers
  • tools and techniques for data gathering and analysis
  • implementing a structured approach to quality improvement
  • action planning to implement the quality improvement process.

First-level supervisors:

  • what quality is and why it is critical to continued business success
  • customer orientation and customer service
  • identifying internal customers and defining their requirements
  • why it is more efficient to prevent errors than find and fix them
  • quality standards and measurements
  • first-level supervisor's role in quality improvement & maintenance
  • supporting an improvement-oriented environment
  • working effectively with suppliers
  • prevention through process control
  • tools and techniques for gathering and analysing data
  • action planning to implement the quality improvement process.

All other jobholders/contributors to continuous quality improvement:

  • what quality is, why it's important, and how it is measured
  • the importance of internal/external customer service
  • why it's more efficient to prevent errors than to find and fix them
  • working in a continuous improvement environment
  • how the quality improvement process works
  • individuals' contributions to quality improvement
  • working effectively with suppliers
  • prevention through process control
  • tools and techniques for gathering and analysis data
  • action planning to implement the quality improvement process.

DBA has extensive experience of working with organizations in both the private and public sectors to design and implement quality training programmes. DBA is also a leading provider of training and consultancy in the fields of customer service and internal customer service - fields which are both critical in the context of continuous quality improvement. If you would like to know about the services we offer in these areas, or if you would like our assistance in carrying out a readiness check, please get in touch so we can discuss your requirements with you.

DBA 1999