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The focus of this article will be on Quality Management Systems (QMS) in the service industry. Knowing quality grew up in the manufacturing industry brings certain challenges when implementing a QMS in the service industry. Why? The products are not always tangible. The services, for the most part, are promises. Promises to customers to pay their claim if they have an auto accident. Promises to customers to pay a certain interest rate on money you invest. Promises to customers to pay a doctor visit if you become ill.
Before I jump in, let me start with a definition. There are a lot of QMS definitions out there. I have read many. Many have confused me. Many were bland. Many did not provide a robust enough articulation to assist me with visualizing what a QMS really is. With this, let me try to explain what it is in its simplest form. A QMS is a management system, It is a system that contains pre-architected improvement processes that consistently monitor the performance of your processes against customer expectations to create a permanent environment of continuous improvement.
“A QMS is a management routine that needs to be adopted, practiced to get it perfected, and maintained as staff moves in and out of the organization”
There are various types of QMS’ that you may have heard of like Six Sigma, Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI), Total Quality Management (TQM), and ISO. These methods or systems are very robust systems that create permanent environments. But, some like Six Sigma, are methods that are used to solve business problems as they become apparent and may not the permanency status you are looking for. I bring this up because it is very important to make a distinction between methods or systems that are typically used on business problems project-by-project versus a permanent system that is in place and used day-to-day as problems occur. Now, I am not saying Six Sigma can’t be used on a day-to-day permanent system. I am saying I have seen organizations typically use Six Sigma in this fashion.
Next, I would like to get into why companies struggle, and to help you better understand what a QMS is, but first let me provide you with the elements of an effective QMS and its purpose. First, the purpose of a QMS is quite simply improve processes or service delivery, reduce waste, lower costs, and to change organization culture to have a more proactive continuous improvement mindset versus being reactive. Next, although elements could be different based on how you were trained, your CI beliefs, or organizational receptiveness, I will provide a general set of elements. Quality management Systems should address an organization’s unique needs; however, the elements all systems have in common include:
a. The organization’s continuous improvement strategy and objectives
b. Procedures, instructions, and records of the QMS system
c. A process or service heat map
d. Customer satisfaction scorecard
e. Root cause analysis
f. Improvement opportunities or change roadmap
Now on to the obstacles of a QMS. Would you like your company to generate less waste? Would you like your company to be more effective at meeting customer requirements? If yes, a QMS may be the right solution. I say may because they are very complex systems and many companies struggle to not only implement them but also maintain them as a management routine. To get to the root of why companies struggle, let me outline the biggest QMS obstacles and how to avoid them. Awareness of these obstacles and a clear understanding of how to avoid them can you’re your organization avoid the fate of other that have failed.
In summary, implementing QMS systems are very difficult, especially in the service industry. A QMS is a management routine that needs to be adopted, practiced to get it perfected, and maintained as staff moves in and out of the organization. When choosing what system to implement, evaluate all of the systems and pick the system that will be a cultural fit for your organization and have the greatest long-term stickiness. The elements of each QMS may differ from system to system, but in the end, don’t force fit a particular system without evaluating how the organization will absorb the change. Lastly, there are many obstacles an organization faces when implementing a QMS system. In my experiences, I have outlined the top three that have consistently come up. I am quite confident a functionally organized organization, too much improvement and not enough people to solve, and not being receptive to change will be obstacles you will have to overcome.