Do Executives See the Impact of Quality Projects?

Minitab Blog Editor 19 April, 2017

Do your executives see how your quality initiatives affect the bottom line? Perhaps they would more often if they had accessible insights on the performance, and ultimately the overall impact, of improvement projects. 

For example, 60% of the organizations surveyed by the American Society for Quality in their 2016 Global State of Quality study say they don’t know or don’t measure the financial impact of quality.

Evidence shows company leaders just don't have good access to the kind of information they need about their quality improvement initiatives.

The 2013 ASQ Global State of Quality study indicated that more than half of the executives are getting updates about quality only once a quarter, or even less. You can bet they make decisions that impact quality much more frequently than that.

Even for organizations that are working hard to assess the impact of quality, communicating that impact effectively to C-level executives is a huge challenge. The 2013 report revealed that the higher people rise in an organization's leadership, the less often they receive reports about quality metrics. Only 2% of senior executives get daily quality reports, compared to 33% of front-line staff members.  

A quarter of the senior executives reported getting quality metrics only on an annual basis. That's a huge problem, and it resonates across all industries. The Juran Institute, which specializes in training, certification, and consulting on quality management globally, also concluded that a lack of management support is the No. 1 reason quality improvement initiatives fail.

reporting on quality initiatives is difficult

Quality practitioners are a dedicated, hard-working lot, and their task is challenging and frequently thankless. Their successes should be understood and recognized. But their efforts don't appear to be reaching C-level executive offices as often as they deserve. 

Why do so many leaders get so few reports about their quality programs?

5 Factors that Make Reporting on Quality Programs Impossible

In fairness to everyone involved, from the practitioner to the executive, piecing together the full picture of quality in a company is daunting. Practitioners tell us that even in organizations with robust, mature quality programs, assessing the cumulative impact of an initiative can be difficult, and sometimes impossible. The reasons include:

Scattered, Inaccessible Project Data

Individual teams are very good at capturing and reporting their results, but a large company may have thousands of simultaneous quality projects. Just gathering the critical information from all of those projects and putting it into a form leaders can use is a monumental task. 

Disparate Project Applications and Documents

Teams typically use an array of different applications to create charters, process maps, value stream maps, and other documents. So the project record becomes a mix of files from many different applications. Adding to the confusion, the latest versions of some documents may reside on several different computers, project leaders often need to track multiple versions of a document to keep the official project record current. 

Inconsistent Metrics Across Projects   

Results and metrics aren’t always measured the same way from one team's project to another. If one team measures apples and the next team measures oranges, their results can't be evaluated or aggregated as if they were equivalent. 

Ineffective and Ill-suited Tracking

Many organizations have tried quality tracking methods ranging from homegrown project databases to full-featured project portfolio management (PPM) systems. But homegrown systems often become a burden to maintain, while off-the-shelf solutions created for IT or other business functions don’t effectively support projects involving continuous quality improvement methods like Lean and Six Sigma. 

Too Little Time

Reporting on projects can be a burden. There are only so many hours in the day, and busy team members need to prioritize. Copying and pasting information from project documents into an external system seems like non-value-added time, so it's easy to see why putting the latest information into the system gets low priority—if it happens at all.

Reporting on Quality Shouldn't Be So Difficult

Given the complexity of the task, and the systemic and human factors involved in improving quality, it's not hard to see why many organizations struggle with knowing how well their initiatives are doing. 

But for quality professionals and leaders, the challenge is to make sure that reporting on results becomes a critical step in every individual project, and that all projects are using consistent metrics. Teams that can do that will find their results getting more attention and more credit for how they affect the bottom line. 

This finding in the ASQ report dramatically underscores problems we at Minitab have been focusing on recently—in fact, our Companion by Minitab software tackles many of these factors head-on. 

Companion takes a desktop app that provides a complete set of integrated tools for completing projects, and combines it with a cloud-based project storage system and web-based dashboard. For teams, the desktop app makes it easier to complete projects—and since project data is centrally stored and rolls up to the dashboard automatically, reporting on projects is literally effortless.

For executives, managers, and stakeholders, Companion delivers unprecedented and unparalleled insight into the progress, performance, and bottom-line impact of the organization’s entire quality initiative, or any individual piece of it. 

Regardless of the tools they use, this issue—how to ensure the results of quality improvement initiatives are understood throughout an organization—is one that every practitioner is likely to grapple with in their career.  

How will you make sure the results of your work reach your organization's decision-makers?