To Have A Quality Mindset, You Need A Quality Environment

In Part 2 of the Quality Series, why a Quality Mindset requires a Quality Environment…And how to build it.

Karl Hentschel

“Quality is never an accident. It is always the result of intelligent effort.”

– John Ruskin (1819-1900)

“Quality is not a consequence of following some set of behaviors. Rather, it is a prerequisite and a mindset you must have BEFORE you decide what you are setting out to do.”

– Edwin Catmull (1945- )

In my previous post, I explained how Bidtellect envisioned changing “Quality Assurance” from a step in the software development process into a shared Quality Mindset. But a Quality Mindset requires a Quality Environment in which to work.  The quotes above led me to many books, two of which, Good to Great by James C. Collins and Creativity, Inc. by Edwin E. Catmul, were instrumental in helping define a quality working environment.

The concepts below are intended for everyone in a company, but are especially intended for company leaders.  Note that I didn’t say “manager” or “coordinator” or “director” (although it really helps if leaders with those titles buy-in to the quality work environment concept).  Company leaders are the people in your organization to whom others look because they get the work done.

1. Develop and Support Competence

 

This may seem like a no-brainer, but in order for people to have a Quality Mindset, they need to know what they’re doing.  That means, they either bring experience to the company, the company provides experience to the person, or a combination of the two.  Don’t ask a plumber to build a brick wall or a mason to wire the lights, unless you plan on training them properly.

2. Model Discipline

But not the kind you’re probably thinking of right now.  I’m talking about internal discipline, not external discipline.  Not a manager, a director or vice president enforcing rules, but rather individuals doing the work to the best of their ability.  (Notice I said “work”, not “job”. This is important for later.) Discipline is (and should be) a modeled behavior and takes the form of disciplined thought and disciplined action.

3. Extend and Build Trust

Disciplined people, engaging in disciplined thought and taking disciplined actions don’t need to be managed.  They will do what needs to be done without needing to be told, if you trust them to do it.

4. Extend and Encourage Ownership

Ownership and trust or kind of “chicken-and-egg” because each fosters and reinforces the other.  I have a standing rule for my Quality team: You don’t have to ask permission to take responsibility.  Responsibility doesn’t necessarily mean you will do the work, but it is expected that if you take ownership, you are responsible for ensuring it gets done.  This ownership isn’t limited by your “job” but rather the work that needs to be done.

5. Heighten Understanding

A leader is responsible for heightening people’s awareness of what they do not know.  Do not confuse this with competence (although for junior people, it may by applicable).  This is more about making people aware of what occurs outside of their competencies. Get people thinking about “the company” as a whole, rather than just the testers or the developers or the technology team, etc.

6. Show (Frequent) Appreciation

Appreciation is often regarded as a leadership responsibility and it most certainly is.  But that doesn’t mean leaders are the only ones who should recognize individual or group accomplishments or appreciation for hard work, diligence or tenacity.  They should model appreciation and encourage it amongst team members.

7. Clear Obstacles

Bureaucracy is a reaction to incompetence and lack of discipline.  It is a leader’s responsibility to get the right people, facilitate the right chemistry, and develop and support them.  Once they engage in discipline and take ownership, the controls can be loosened and the bureaucracy decreased or removed.

8. Accept Risk

… and with it the mess it creates.  If you trust your people and allow them ownership, there will be times when they will get it wrong.  You should NOT be looking for ways to keep people from making mistakes. A true leader will enable people to resolve problems WITHOUT BLAME.  This reinforces the trust and ownership (above) and KEEPS FEAR AT BAY. People who are afraid they will get blamed, afraid they will become unemployed or afraid of ignominy DO NOT trust or take ownership…nor do they create their BEST work in the end.

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