Engaging a Range of Employees is Key to Effective Implementation of Quality Management Systems
Picture this. You’re leading a project kick-off meeting to solve a business problem. There is a diverse team assembled to achieve a successful change—some focused on definition of the problem, some on building out the solution, and others responsible for implementation. You walk in with excitement that the results will have a significant impact on the organization, but how do you A) ensure the team executes the strategy and B) keep the team motivated and on the right track, all while ensuring a successful implementation that can be continuously improved upon? Affecting change, in the form of business process improvement and quality management systems, can be broken down into two fundamental areas: people and execution.
At a high level, there are generally three different types of people within most organizations; the people excited for the change, the people neutral to the change, and the people who resist change. Although it is tempting to assign the individuals who are excited about the change to a project, it doesn’t provide the diverse perspectives needed for successful execution. Involving a diverse team to generate and validate ideas ensures the project is putting incremental solutions in place that the organization is ready to adopt. Involving individuals that fall into all three categories will help the teamwork through change management and problems prior to implementation instead of during. People like being involved in creating change; they do not like being forced to adopt. Ultimately, the people in your organization should drive and own the process.
Keeping people, process, technology, market, and product aligned and at the forefront will ensure the right solutions are prioritized and executed
To achieve a successful business outcome, there are five phases of the execution process to consider.
The first phase is planning and analysis where the focus is to confirm scope, identify success criteria, create milestones, define current processes, and gather baseline data. Ensure this phase is as tangible and relevant as possible, so the team clearly understands the business problem everyone is responsible for solving. As a leader, if you don’t understand something, it’s likely the team won’t either.
The second phase is solutioning and prioritizing. Here, the team determines the problem’s root causes and develops different ideas on how to solve the issue. These opportunities include quick wins or long-term solutions. During this phase, encourage everyone to participate in brainstorming and consider each idea. Sometimes, ideas that initially seem unrealistic are those that can potentially provide companies the greatest competitive advantage. The most important part of this phase is making sure the solution is something achievable based on the right balance of people, process, technology, market, and product. Think of these as pillars holding up a house. If one pillar doesn’t exist or is not as strong as the others, the house will fall apart. The same concept applies to your organization. If all the organizational pillars aren’t fully considered in defining the solution, your organization runs the risk of over maturing one area faster than the others. This can lead to adoption issues as well as timing and cost overruns.
The third phase is development, where the team creates what is needed to communicate the change. During this phase, consider how key controls will be established, developed, and documented and how the controls will be implemented and managed. Controls put in place as part of a quality management system are the key to unlocking continuous improvement. Another consideration during this phase is guarding against over-engineering a solution. When we’re too close to things, we can be in danger of over-designing processes for implementations which can take longer and possibly delay work. Rather, a pilot can be effective to help validate what is mandatory versus what is a future consideration. During this phase, communication and support from the project leader is essential to documenting and developing solutions.
The fourth phase is implementation, where the change is communicated to all those impacted. During this time, it is important to “tell the story” describing the journey the team has taken to get to this point and reinforce the importance of the project and related business benefits. Remember, the individuals that were involved with the initiative had weeks or potentially months to work through every detail of the change, helping them achieve ownership while their peers are going through the change within hours or days. This short amount of time can make the change difficult to consume.
The final phase, management and continuous improvement, is critical but often overlooked. This phase is best managed by communication with impacted individuals to collect feedback and determine what is and isn’t working. By this point in the project, many leaders are excited to start working on the next project and tend to refocus their staff, thus taking the momentum away from maximizing the value of the current implementation. Don’t lose focus. Encourage the team to solicit feedback and make continuous incremental improvements to help further mature the business.
Today, companies around the world are investing considerable resources in designing and implementing strategic initiatives— including us at IAT Insurance Group. Making sure you are involving a diverse group of people and encouraging a transparent and positive culture will validate that the proposed solution is achievable and will maximize your opportunity for success. Keeping people, process, technology, market, and product aligned and at the forefront will ensure the right solutions are prioritized and executed. Focusing on implementing small incremental improvements that have controls in place and are effectively managed while collecting feedback will inspire continuous improvement opportunities.