WHY WORK TOWARD A CULTURE OF QUALITY?
Culture is the invisible thread that binds together all those in an organization and can have a significant impact on satisfaction. In a healthcare setting, that can mean both patient satisfaction and employee job satisfaction.
Four attributes are essential to achieving a culture of quality: leadership emphasis, message credibility, peer involvement, and employee ownership. Many organizations establish quality objectives, but accomplishing those objectives requires commitment to a compelling mission and vision, company-wide values, expected behaviors, and complementary performance metrics and incentives. Only when an organization upholds these standards can it be said to exhibit a true culture of quality.
HOW TO GET STARTED
Creating a Culture of Quality begins with developing a Quality Management System (QMS) including adopting a quality policy statement and a comprehensive quality manual. Educating staff members on this new QMS promotes employee buy-in and ownership and is one of the most essential attributes to achieving the overall culture of quality. Annual refresher training for all staff is the best way to ensure continued quality.
A key component of a successful quality program is the consistent practice of reporting non-conforming events and near misses in an electronic event management system. Employees are encouraged to freely utilize the system to report and track events, opportunities for improvement, and any potential concern affecting patient or employee safety and/or the financial health of the organization, no matter how minor.
Other important components of the successful quality program include:
- the employment of real-time metric dashboards
- Lean Six Sigma
- an employee recognition program for quality
- electronic document control
- wireless temperature monitoring
- quality control software
- an aggressive peer-to-peer internal audit program
KEEP IN MIND
Success in building and sustaining a culture of quality correlates to leadership’s emphasis on best practices, instead of aiming to meet minimum requirements. Dedication to a quality program conveys leadership’s emphasis on and vision for quality, creates staff buy-in, provides message credibility, establishes expectations and incentives for employee involvement, and instills a sense of employee ownership, empowerment, and obligation for quality.
An organization that encourages open, honest communication and clearly explains expectations is less likely to make avoidable mistakes that occur due to misunderstandings or lack of information. This is a multilayered responsibility, however. It’s not just for management to share information with staff or for the company to share information with the customer, but also vice versa. As part of that, good listening skills are key. Staff who feel that the company’s success is their success tend to feel a sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare. These are not short-term attitudes but are developed in environments where loyalty, retention, continual improvement, and consistency are valued.
THE 5 EASY STEPS TOWARD QUALITY
Some easy ideas to promote quality in your organization include:
- Clearly identifying and sharing the organization’s goals, which can be accomplished through performance appraisals to help staff understand how their own objectives are linked with those of the company
- Ensuring there are effective, consistent processes in place by having documented procedures available where they are being used
- Encouraging interdepartmental teamwork through offering opportunities for staff to work together without compromising their primary work responsibilities
- Empowering staff by delegating responsibilities, including clearly communicating the scope of delegation and frequency of report-backs
- Sharing information with all staff where possible to provide an interactive environment for answering questions and giving additional information, such as through staff meetings
These attributes lay the groundwork for creating and promoting a culture of quality within an organization. Leadership must buy in and play an active role in carrying out all the components of this culture to promote its success.