Producing Quality Through Management

Quality production management can be divided into four sectors: quality planning, control, assurance, and improvement. It is vital to understand that quality management is not only about the end product, but about the processes that are put in place to get to that final product. To have quality management assurance, the production of the goods must be controlled.

Quality Management has to start with planning. Quality is directly influenced by the initial specifications provided for a job. If the planning is done correctly, all other operations will flow well. Planning starts with the production order. Management must be able to accurately calculate how many orders can be produced within a given time period. Should this calculation be incorrect, there will be severe repercussions. If the time period is too short, the factory will have failed to meet their deadline, and the clients may cancel their order. Or the staff/workers will have to work overtime to finish the order. Overtime is expensive, and may not have been included in the initial quotation provided to the client, which will result in a loss of profit for the company.

Planning also covers the purchasing of raw materials. Management has to check that they have purchased the correct amount of materials, and that they meet the client’s quality specifications. Purchasing is vital to quality and has to be carefully managed.

Planning also entails work specifications. Management needs to ensure that before production starts the factory is ready to produce a product that meets the client’s specifications. Samples are expensive to make, but much cheaper than having a batch of thousands rejected because they do not adhere to the specifications. Once planning is complete production can begin.

After production has started, quality control comes into play. Throughout production, items need to be sampled to ensure there are no defects. The performance of the staff and/or machinery may not meet the required quality standards, so their work must consistently be observed and controlled. Checks and balances must be put into place so that each step of the production process flows smoothly, and there are no quality control issues.

Quality assurance is difficult to define, as it is based on the trust that develops between the company and its clients. The management must foster that trust at all levels within their staff. Subsequently, the staff must provide the client with their best work. The client must also trust that the company can, and will meet their expectations. The management has to develop a sense of mutual trust and respect to ensure quality assurance.

There is always room for improvement. Production quality gets better and better when the management is consistently looking for areas in which they can improve. Management should check every step of production and analyze the results in order to determine where the production process can be improved. Regular meetings with staff are a beneficial way to find out how to improve production. Often a worker will pick up on an issue that managers are not aware of.

Keeping up with technological developments helps ensure the quality level improves. A new machine may cut production time and offer better quality work. Part of quality management is checking for viability. If too much money is spent on ultra-modern machinery, the repercussions may be serious. Many companies have failed because they have purchased too many unnecessary machines.

Improvement is also essential during the initial research phase. Suppliers should always work on getting the best materials at the best price. Clients can renegotiate with suppliers for better payment periods or discounts. Continuous research will ensure that improvements are made throughout the industry. But an informed and pro-active management has the best chance of improving production.

Staffs conditions are another aspect where improvement is vital. Studies repeatedly show that contented staff members offer better production and increased loyalty.

The packaging can also be improved, to ensure clients are receiving products that work. If items are being broken in transit, then the packaging method needs to be improved.

Quality production management impacts a broad spectrum of things. A well-managed company will produce quality goods, but if problems are frequently arising, the management is ultimately at fault. Each manager should be a leader, team player, listener, planner and motivator. Most importantly, quality management should lead by example, as the establishment of a strong work ethic starts from the top. A company with quality leadership rarely fails, as problems are promptly dealt with, and customers return to utilize their services again and again.


Three Management Issues That Cause Training To Fail

There are three management issues that cause training to fail: (1) training is used in lieu of effective performance management; (2) training is given to employees when the real problem is organizational policies, procedures or systems; and/or (3) managers do not reinforce the training: they see no value in the content, they do not know what their employees learned, and/or they do not know that they should reinforce the training.

1. Training is used in lieu of effective performance management.

Too often, a training program is scheduled with the sole intent to address the performance deficiencies of one or only a few employees. Using training in this fashion rarely solves the problem it is intended to solve and actually creates additional long-term problems.

First, training alone is unlikely to solve the performance problem. The employees’ manager will still need to set clear performance expectations, monitor the performance, and provide timely and effective performance feedback (all of the performance management activities that the manager hoped to avoid by sending the employees to the training in the first place).

Second, the employees who are already performing satisfactorily will be well aware of the reason for the training and feel resentful that they were forced to attend. This will:

a. negatively impact their perception of the manager’s credibility and effectiveness;

b. have a detrimental impact on their morale; and

c. contribute to a suspicion of any future training.

Avoid this misuse of training:

When performance is in question, keep in mind that training is only appropriate if there is a skills deficit. If the employee already has the necessary skills and organizational supports, but chooses not to perform satisfactorily, take the necessary coaching or disciplinary actions.

2. Skills training is given to employees when the real problem is organizational policies, procedures or systems.

Training programs to build employee skills are often scheduled when the real culprit is the organizational policies, procedures or systems that are supposed to support the employees’ performance. This is a case of the obvious problem not being the real problem. It is very easy to blame employees for unsatisfactory performance.

This is much easier than asking the hard questions about what gets in the way of their performance. If the employees already have the appropriate skills but are unable to properly perform them, then something beyond their control is causing the problem:

a. Is it due to a policy that is: unreasonable, outdated, inappropriate, or ambiguous?

b. Is it due to a procedure that is: ineffective, convoluted, duplicative, or time consuming?

c. Is it due to a system that is: difficult to use, prone to breakdowns, inefficient, or has outlived its usefulness?

Avoid this misuse of training:

When employees have the skills but are still unable to meet performance standards, the underlying problem will typically be organizational. As Dr. W. Edwards Deming said, “Eighty-five percent of an employee’s ability to perform successfully depends upon the system.” Investigate the situation to find the real cause, which will either be a policy, a procedure, and/or a system.

3. Managers do not reinforce what is learned in the training program:

There are three major reasons why managers may not provide follow up support after training program:

a. They see no value in the content.

If the training content is not directly related to the skill sets required for the employees’ specific positions, they may question its relevance. This may be particularly true when their positions are highly technical in nature.

b. They do not know what their employees learned.

The managers may not have been involved as subject matter experts in the design of the training, so they have a first-hand knowledge of the program. Possibly no one took the time to communicate the training goals, learning objectives and take-away job aids to the managers.

c. They do not know they should reinforce the training.

There is a misperception that training stands alone. Nothing can be farther from the truth. New skills need to be continually reinforced for them to be retained. Managers are the obvious and best choice to provide this reinforcement.

Avoid this lack of reinforcement:

a. Keep in mind that the purpose and value of all training programs need to be communicated to both the targeted employees as well as their managers.

b. Make sure that managers have a good understanding of the training that their employees will receive. Whenever possible, involve them in the design of the program. This will increase their investment in the training outcome.

c. Clarify that the training is intended to support employee performance and needs reinforcement to ensure that the new skills adequately transfer back to the job site. Once the employees are effectively applying their new skills, the manager should see clear benefits, such as increased productivity, quality, and service.

Training cannot take the place of effective performance management. Training is not the solution if policies, procedures or systems are the cause of the problem. Managers need to reinforce skills learned in the training program. Do not let these three management issues cause training programs to fail.