If you can measure quality, you can manage quality. Pt 1

Different industries (and people) will have different interpretations of quality. The challenge for organisations is to define quality in measurable terms that can be implemented operationally. Followed by ensuring employees understand the organisation’s concept, definition and measurement of quality and how it applies to their role.

So how can you define Quality in measurable terms?

Well, firstly you need to define what Quality is for your organisation. How do you do this? Well, if you are ISO 9001 certified then you would already have a documented Quality Policy and this would serve as the definition of quality for your organisation. If you don’t have a quality policy then you could start by asking yourself the following questions.

What are my customer requirements?

What are the requirements/inputs from other internal/external stakeholders (employees, suppliers, legislative etc)?

How do my customers perceive and define quality?

Once you have defined what quality is to your organisation you can start to think about your quality objectives.

One of your derived quality objectives could be to deliver a customer order within 3 days. First, you would need to ensure the objective was S.M.A.R.T (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-based).

How “Specific” is “Deliver a customer order in 3 days”?

Well, some customers may think the day they order counts as the first day, some may just assume it’s 3 working days. A revised version of the quality objective could be “Deliver customer orders within 3 working days”

How “Measurable” is “Deliver customer orders within 3 working days”?

Does your infrastructure support the gathering of performance data easily? Or is it labour intensive? Can you answer quickly, how many orders were received on x date and how many of those orders were delivered within x date +3 working days? Clearly, the objective is measurable, does your organisation have the tools to measure it quickly and accurately?

 How “achievable” is “Deliver customer orders within 3 working days”?

If your organisation operates 24/7 and you deliver your own goods, then you can control most of the variables so 3 working days might well be feasible. Are you relying on a courier company? What are their delivery targets? Do you have a service level agreement with them? What is their reputation? What about your suppliers? Do you have controls in place that prevent customers ordering goods you don’t have in stock? Do you deliver internationally? A further revised version of this quality objective could be “For UK orders, products in stock will be delivered to the customer within 3 working days”.

How “Realistic” is “For UK orders, products in stock will delivered to the customer within 3 working days”.

Have you had input from internal stakeholders? Do you know how long it takes an order to be processed? How do you receive your orders? Are orders placed online quicker to process than orders taken over the phone? Are some products quicker to pack than others? What time do you need to receive an order to ensure it is processed and ready to ship when the courier arrives? Yet another revision of this quality objective could be “For UK orders placed before 3pm, products in stock will be delivered to the customer within 3 working days”

How “Time-based” is “For UK orders placed before 3pm, products in stock will be delivered to the customer within 3 working days”?  

I think we could all agree that this objective is time based.

We have taken one objective that was ok-ish and taken it through the S.M.A.R.T test continuously improving it along the way. That is the key to robust objectives, being able to continuously update and improve them as more inputs and variables are identified. The final objective is by no means perfection.

In pt 2 we will discuss the measuring of quality (finally)

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