Influential Voices: Making the Case for Quality

As I read Paul’s blog post this month, I’m reminded that I’m very lucky. I’ve never actually had a job where I had to try to sell quality to top management. Paul notes that the question he’s most commonly asked is, “How do I convince senior executives (often CEOs) and public officials that quality is important and an essential strategy for–pick your ending–performance excellence, competitiveness, growth, sustainability, survival, efficiency, effectiveness?” Perhaps the senior executives in question don’t belong in top management. I’m currently completing a sustainable-business focused MBA through Green Mountain College. Even though the focus of the degree is not quality, we’ve discussed quality throughout the program. I’d argue that quality is the root of performance excellence, competitiveness, growth, sustainability, survival, efficiency and effectiveness.  A smart manager/executive understands that.

I wonder perhaps if the folks who appear not to understand quality are in fact just missing the connections. Or we are not spelling it out for them properly. Or have we gotten tired of asking? I’ve had some conversations with folks that didn’t ask for something because they were so sure that they were going to get shot down… and then they blamed management. When I have justified things properly, with sufficient detail, I’ve never had a request denied. How do you talk to top management about quality?

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Sam4Quality
    Mar 13, 2012 @ 14:08:23

    You ARE lucky, Aimee! I’d emote myself to death if your kind of ‘top management’ quality commitment reached the Middle East, especially where I work! It requires much greater effort complimented with pain here, to get the top management going on to something called quality. It’s only deep passion and commitment to quality that helps fellow quality professional push that one bit more.

    Hail Quality!

    Reply

  2. Tom Grinley
    Mar 13, 2012 @ 20:35:47

    Indeed, you are very lucky to have not been beaten down and endlessly frustrated. I think many of us actually do question if we are the problem in the failed efforts. However, when senior management tells you “They don’t pay us for quality, I just need you to make us look compliant”, it’s time to move on. I hope you contiinue to have such good fortune, it’s nice to know somebody is getting through.

    Reply

  3. Ian DeWeerd (@iandeweerd)
    Mar 14, 2012 @ 21:51:44

    Hi Aimee! I’m also working on my MBA and it seems like Quality has been mentioned at least once in every one of my classes. That’s what makes it so surprising when I hear about business leaders that fight or flat out ignore quality. I definitely agree with you that we have to actually ask for support and resources from management, they’re not going to just give it to you. During discussions you also have to come prepared with the answers to the financial and ROI questions that you know will be asked. I would hope that all my company’s management would think through ideas and evaluate options to determine what’s best for the company.

    Really enjoy your blog. Keep up the good work!

    Reply

  4. John Hunter
    Mar 14, 2012 @ 22:56:05

    I agree that people are too quick to blame whoever is above them for not approving or doing what the requestor wants. Communication (and systems thinking) requires understanding their point of view. And then find out how to make your case in a way which lets them see the value.

    A couple posts where I have talked about related ideas

    http://management.curiouscatblog.net/2010/02/09/circle-of-influence/

    http://management.curiouscatblog.net/2006/12/12/how-to-improve/

    It is a very good strategy to start building trust in those you want to approve future actions by giving them gains early. Find out what they want improved, do some things that give them results. They will start to seek you out to address issues they want improved.

    Reply

    • Ashok Vaishnav
      Mar 17, 2012 @ 05:15:20

      In the contemporary scenario, there could hardly any manager who would not like to subscribe to include ‘quality’ as an imporatant paramater into opeartions, unless it does not seem to add any economic or competitive value.

      In other words, thr first and foremost USP of Quality has to be its economic or competitive value.

      Once this has been accomplished, Quality needs to be built into the startegy of the organization.

      Reply

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