Monday, May 30, 2011

Quality management principles for the development of quality management within an organization

Quality management principles have been as the foundation for the development of the ISO 9000 standards and recognized performance excellence models (quality award criteria) [see the reference].

They may be also useful directly for developing a business-integrated and organization-dedicated quality management (QM) approach. General quality management principles of the standards and excellence models are good as references but each organization should, however, define the principles from the organization’s own business point of view. The general principles may help the organization in its task.

We have an example. A company thought own QM principles as a suitable starting point for their QM development. At first they made clear what is the meaning of a quality management principle as follows:
  • A principle is a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning.  
  • QM was understood according to the ISO 9000 standard as coordinated activities to direct and control an organization with regard to quality. Hence QM equals quality of management that aims at business excellence.  
After this conceptual consideration they started innovate by brainstorming their own fundamental principles for managing the company towards performance excellence. They took all elements from the principles of ISO 9000, EFQM, and Malcolm Baldrige [see the reference] and took into account their own business-relevant flavorings. They finalized their results by a group-work to the following seven principles:
  • Centering on customers’ needs and expectations
  • Envisioning the future challenges
  • Valuing employees
  • Managing the organization as a system of responsive and agile business processes
  • Appreciating multiple means for discovering, collaborating, and learning in order to continually enhance organization’s business performance
  • Networking with and valuing partners
  • Anticipating timely changes in the needs and expectations of the market and society

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What is quality policy?

Quality policy is an important concept for a professional quality integration in organizations. Quality policy means what is the overall intention and direction within an organization related to quality. Again the genuine quality policy can be seen only in the awareness and actions of people, not in documents. Documented quality policy statement issued and signed by the top management of an organization is only a tip of iceberg of the actual policy. It may, however, be a useful managerial tool. Anyway, it is not necessary to use the term "quality policy" in practical business operations although people have always certain quality policies.

Quality awareness (or its synonym quality consciousness) is most essential topic for realizing quality and quality integration in practical cases. The concept may be defined very simply: having knowledge of quality. However, what is the meaning of this, is not at all any simple thing. Awareness is a profound totality of physical, psychological, and philosophical aspects of sensations, perceptions, ideas, attitudes, and feelings related to an individual or a group having knowledge of the abstract and comprehensive object of quality of a certain item, at any given time, or within a given time span.

A reference: Information is beautiful: What is consciousness?:

Monday, May 16, 2011

Business systems and management system standardization

System is a set of interrelated or interacting elements. An organization is managed as one single system. As early as in 1950, Deming presented the whole company as a system of processes (see the following figure).

A system is always created and owned by somebody. A system is an entity that maintains its existence and functions as a whole through the interaction of its parts. A system has always an aim or purpose defined by the system’s creators or owners. The system is just created to accomplish its aim. A system has interactions and transactions with its environment to get input from and to provide outputs to system’s stakeholders. Stakeholders may set requirements to the system.

A system is managed as a whole. Management is based on knowledge and information and a feedback function. The system is managed on behalf of its owners (shareholders). The system has its internal structure and process architecture according to the business needs, and it is operating within a certain business community (system environment) and interacting with other systems. Systems have also partners and competitors in its business community.

General international standardization for the management systems started in the beginning of the 1980’s. The first standards were ISO 9000 standards for quality management and quality assurance. Later a lot of other standards have been created for many specialized disciplines of the business management, including environmental protection, social responsibility, risks, occupational health and safety, information systems/services, information security, etc.

There are general standards for these disciplines but there are also sector-specific standards for these disciplines, e.g. for automobile industry, software industry, aviation industry, military applications, health care, etc. The management system standardization for specialized management disciplines typically consist of two different kinds of standards:
  1. Standards describing comprehensively the discipline in question (e.g. quality managemet in ISO 9004) to be taken into account for the development of organization’s business management system 
  2. Standards describing requirements, i.e. needs and expectations, (e.g. quality management requirements in ISO 9001) for the discipline in question.  
However, these standards may not describe any management system itself because according to the well-known Russell's paradox “whatever involves all of a collection of objects must not be one of the collection” (see the following figure).

The first category (1) of the standards are guidance documents for organizations’ internal use. The requirements standards (2) are factually general standardized models of organization-external requirements that may become obligatory in a contractual context or that may be used for auditing purposes for quality assurance and certifications.

In the existing management system standards of the different disciplines, there are many structural and conceptual differences. That may cause difficulties when different standards are implemented simultaneously within an organization’s business system. Now, however, an improvement is coming because ISO has defined a high level structure and identical text-parts and common core terms and definitions that must be used in all management system standards in the future. The proposed high level structure consists of key issues of the business management that is a significant issue for promoting the business-integration in applying the standards.

There are many problems in applying management standards in practice in organizations. Specialized standardization of different disciplines is carried out by the experts of the different expertise who don’t have necessarily close contacts or communication with business leaders or with each other. Those standards and also their application in organizations may become rather isolated from the business management system and from each other. However, even experts should understand and appreciate traditions and recognized practices of business management that are very often emphasized by the business leaders from the financial and legal points of view.

In order to avoid problems, ineffectiveness, and inefficiency, standards should be applied with integration, responsiveness, and innovation. That is also possibility to fulfill organizations’ targets for competitiveness and sustained business success.