How to Make a Habit of Qualitizing

Every organization is made up of a series of systems. Like the human body with its various systems, each distinct, each contributing to the health and function of the body/organization. Systems, in turn, are made up of components and processes. The components are the parts that make up the system like the heart, arteries. veins, and capillaries, or the raw materials, people, tools, and forms. Processes are what the system does with those components to achieve an outcome.

Qualitize is what we do to improve either the components or the processes (or both) of any system in our organization. To qualitize is to make something high quality. Quality goods or services are the result of quality components and quality processes. Good quality lifts people. Poor quality drifts people. When your team or organization produces excellent quality work the people know leaders pay attention and care about what they do. When the work is poor quality it signals the opposite and people’s attitudes and performance drift. Your best employees may eventually drift away from your organization.

Putting it to Work

There are really only two things you can do to improve the quality of your product or service. Improve the components or improve the process. Identify an output you want to improve. What one thing, if better than it is now, would bring the greatest return to your organization? This would be a great time to employ the habit called Solicit (see my last post).

Now map out the process in a flow chart. It’s best to do this with a team of stakeholders. List every step in sequence along with the owner of that step and any other components (people are components, too) such as parts, forms, equipment, etc.

Now that you have a visual map of the process with a list of components, decide where there are constraints or bottlenecks in the process or inferior components that are causing a poor quality outcome. Work on the most obvious one(s) first and measure the improvement. then, as they say on the shampoo bottles, “Rinse and Repeat.”

Making it a Habit

In my post on the Engager Dynamic called Qualitize, I mentioned the saying, “The standard you walk by is the standard you set.” In other words people will usually raise or lower their performance to meet your expectations. If you “walk by” poor quality work and say or do nothing about it, they assume you don’t care and that becomes the new standard.

Your job as the Engager is to set the tone of continuous improvement. A great place to start is with you. Set a consistent time in your day when you will work on you. Read a good business book, take a class, join a peer group. Do something that will help you grow as a leader. Casually let people know what you’re up to and that you’re doing it to continuously improve yourself.

I was talking with an Operations Manager recently who took self-improvement to the next level. He knew he was having challenges with some members of his team. He had attended a class on Organizational Communication and decided to put some of those ideas to work. He sat with his team and asked for honest feedback on how he comes across when he communicates. There was some hesitation at first but then the floodgates opened. It was not a comfortable session, kind of like self-performing exploratory surgery. But he came out of it grateful for the feedback and ready to improve. That sets a tone for his team that will benefit him, his team, and his organization.

You can also work on you by habitually asking yourself, “Is this my best work?” Don’t send an email or submit a report or send a text without double checking to see how you could improve it. Never have a conversation at work that you haven’t planned for. Think through how you could best engage in the interaction. You can do this even if you’re not planning for a specific conversation. You can scenario plan for types of conversations or conversations with certain people. If a conversation is spontaneous and you can’t plan for it, replay it in your mind and think about how to improve the next one. That’s especially true of phone calls.

Another step in setting the tone of continuous improvement is to make it one of your team’s cultural beliefs. Once you’ve begun to lead by example, start talking about continuous improvement as “the way we do things around here.” Start asking the question, “Is this your best work?” Reference continuous improvement as the reason you’re asking.

Many leaders believe people are generally lazy and don’t care about doing quality work. While there may be a certain lethargic comfort to mediocrity, if you make Qualitize your habit you’ll find the dullness will begin to fade, People’s eyes will brighten and there will be a buzz of excitement born out of the pride your people will take in the great quality of their work.

Qualitize – Engager Dynamic #7

“Qualitize” is a word, at least you can find it in the “Urban Dictionary” (be careful what you look up there). It means “To Improve something, to make it Quality.” By that definition it’s the perfect description of our next Engager Dynamic.

Quality

Every organization is concerned with Quality. They have set standards by which they measure their products and/or services and/or processes. People are measured against certain behavioral and performance norms. Teams and departments have goals and metrics against which their performance is measured. Quality is about measuring actual things as compared to something else, usually an accepted standard. Quality, then, is the degree of excellence something or someone has compared to that standard.

Quality relates to Employee Engagement in that people want to be part of something they can be proud of. It goes a little deeper than just the overall quality of the product or service, though. People want to be part of a group (team, line, department, etc.) where they can count on every member to produce excellent work. For this reason the boss who is an Engager makes sure of three rules regarding Quality:

  1. Clear Definition – the boss makes sure the standard by which Quality is measured is clear. S/he could use pictures of excellent work, displays, written descriptions, videos, etc. They may want to use a combination of these to be sure everyone is perfectly clear on the definition of “Excellent” work. What does it look like? Make sure the standards are high, standards that will cause people to stretch. Remember, the standard you walk past is the standard you set.

  2. Consistent Standards – in order for Quality to be an engagement factor the standard has to be the same for everyone. This is an area where the intention to engage can go off the rails pretty quickly. Differing standards is a huge dis-engager for people. Any whiff of favoritism will send excellent performers away holding their noses.

  3. Equal Accountability – this is closely related to number 2. Not only do the standards have to be the same for everyone. Every one has to be equally held to those standards. One of the most dis-engaging things a boss can do is let “slackers” get away with not holding up the standard. A boss who writes one person up for poor quality but lets another person get by with the same low quality is being incredibly disrespectful to the people who do excellent work.

On the other hand, when the standards are clear and consistent and when everyone is held equally accountable, each person’s performance tends to improve. It’s like when a good player is on a mediocre team. They may stand out and have good stats. But, if they move to a great team where other players are as good or better than them, they become better players. That’s the effect of engagement.

Qualitize

 
If you’re new to your role or you realize your approach to quality has been a dis-engager, take heart, you can make a positive impact on employee engagement. Try using the Engager Dynamic Solicit  to identify two or three things that need improvement, things you could easily work on – low hanging fruit as they say. Work quickly to improve those areas. That’s what it means to “Qualitize,” to improve something, to make it Quality. If you do that, keeping in mind the three rules above, you will be an engager. There will be skepticism initially if quality has been dis-engaging in the past. There may even be resistance because people don’t like change, even good change sometimes. But, hang in there, if you remain consistent, they will come around and morale will improve and so will your quality scores because your people will be engaged.