Building a Quality Organization 

The starting point of any paper about building a Quality organization needs to be a definition of what is meant by Quality. However, there are as many definitions as there are quality experts. Some commonly accepted variations include:-

Some of these reflect different dimensions but part of the problem is that we can all define what we mean by quality – e.g. in terms of a retail outlet, a car or a hotel. The difficulty comes when we try to express this definition in generic statements. But at the simplest level for organizations, quality answers two questions; “What is wanted?” and “How do we provide it (often at the lowest possible cost)?” 

The dimensions of Quality 

In building a Quality organization it is important first of all to understand the different dimensions of quality because that will help you to decide which of them you want to focus on. One definition of the different dimensions and examples of the types of models which illustrate these are set out in the table below:- 

Dimensions of quality Characteristics Examples of models
Quality Control
  • looks at processes

  • concerned with control

  • focuses on auditing an organization

  • deals with conformance to requirements

  • specifies what is required

ISO 9000:2000
Quality Assurance
  • looks at outcomes

  • concerned with monitoring

  • focuses on meeting customer needs (customers defined in the widest sense)

  • provides guidelines

Investors in People

Balanced Scorecard
Quality Improvement
  • has an element of self assessment

  • encourages review and reflection

  • has structures for the sharing of god practice

  • builds in continuous improvement

European Foundation for Quality Management


ISO 9004

It is important to think of these dimensions as complementary and at different points on a continuum. They are not in conflict and it is not a question of choosing one rather than another. Your organization could be working on a number of these concurrently or you might decide to introduce them at different points. But even before you go down the path of looking at models there are tools you can use to introduce quality thinking in your organization. 

Examples of quality tools and techniques 

One way to do this is to start to take a quality approach to problem solving. Every organization will inevitably come across issues which it needs to address and the problem solving wheel is one tool that can be used to help with these. 

The wheel takes you on a structured process from identifying the problem through possible solutions to choosing a way forward and testing it to ensure it is going to have the desired effect. The stages are as follows:- 

  1. Identify the problem 
  2. Gather data 
  3. Analyse data 
  4. Generate solutions 
  5. Select the solution 
  6. Plan for implementation 
  7. Implement and test 
  8. Continue to improve 

Because the process is cyclical it ensures that continuous improvement is built in and that reflection and looking at best practice are important features. At each stage of the cycle there are quality tools and techniques that can be used to help. Brainstorming (a technique that is well known but rarely used correctly) is a tool that can be used at stages 1 and 4. Solution effect analysis (illustrated below) can be used at stage 5. 

An organization can back this up by introducing quality groups within the organization to ensure that all staff are involved in the process and have an opportunity to contribute (a key factor if the work is going to succeed and be truly accepted by the people who need to implement it). So called quality circles bring together people from different functions, with different skill sets in a concerted effort to solve a problem that impinges on all of them. For quality circles (or indeed any quality group, or any useful meeting) to work, it is useful to have agreed ground rules in place. These could include: 

Building quality into the culture of your organization 

A piece of work recently published in the journal “Quality World” looks at the next stage – how to build quality into the culture of your organization. It is based on the work of an industrial chemist Jeff Cartwright who wanted to understand the science behind organizational culture and how he could best motivate his employees to work productively, responsible and harmoniously. He studied the origins and history of culture and the writings of a number of academics and came up with a simple three-part model representing:- 

He then conducted over 400 one-to-one interviews with directors, managers and staff across 40 organizations, recording their responses to questions related to each part of the model. This identified which nine key motivating factors of organizational culture which impact on people, listed below:- 

and positive behaviours which made a difference at each level. 

There is now a nine factors survey available which allows organizations to look at their strengths and areas for development and to benchmark themselves against both internal and external demographics. 

In summary, for any organization which wants to build quality into their operations, their methods and their dealings with people, both inside and outside their organization, there are a number of starting points. At the simplest level there are a number of very effective tools and techniques that can be used to improve decision making and the way that organizations and teams within them operate and make their decisions. There are also a number of Quality Standards, all complementary and all offering something different that can be used to allow an organization to either self-assess or be externally assessed against a recognised Standard. Finally there are a number of all encompassing models, such as the Nine Factors model which will give a more overall view of how a company is performing and where it can improve. 

This Tips and Tools has been written for us by Peter Jones, formerly Director of Quality at IiP UK, and now a valued DBA Associate. 

A number of DBA Associates have substantial experience in the field of quality. If you would like any further information on any point in this article or any other aspect of quality, please contact us.

© DBA 2003