Get to the Next Level

Are you a builder committed to the quality process but still need a breakthrough to reach levels of quality and customer satisfaction you expect?
By Edward Caldeira, Director of Quality Services, NAHB Research Center | August 31, 1999
Are you a builder committed to the quality process but still need a breakthrough to reach levels of quality and customer satisfaction you expect? Fine-tuning the company’s existing management system into a unified approach, rather than adding new functions, is the key to your success. If you have good business practices and a quality culture, fine-tuning can put you in a position for breakthrough results.

Get started by eliminating mixed messages that associates receive from the management system. Preaching customer satisfaction will have little effect if you pay bonuses solely on profitability. Likewise, efforts to achieve a reputation of integrity and customer responsiveness can be diminished by using personnel evaluations forms from the office supply store that value neither of these qualities.

Awarding individuals for their personal successes often discourages teamwork (my favorite is a bonus for the person who wins the annual teamwork award). Discussions at your company are sure to uncover your own alignment weaknesses that deserve attention.

The next step is to link the company mission, values and long-range vision and goals to each business function. Annual business plan activities should support the future vision of what the company can become. Personnel hiring, evaluation schemes, training and compensation should link directly to the company vision and values. Customer satisfaction surveys should ask if company values are demonstrated. Performance measures for all levels within the company should reinforce overall company goals. Reviewing each element of the management system for linkage to companywide themes will produce rewarding results.

Reaching the highest levels requires tying together individual business functions in ways that drive toward companywide goals. Customer expectations set during the sales process should set the stage for customer satisfaction with home quality and warranty service.

Accounts payable payment schedules should advance the development of trade contractor partnerships. The selection of suppliers should support zero-defect construction goals. Customer satisfaction surveys should provide performance feedback for all key customer contact points in sales, selection, construction and warranty service. There are many opportunities to fine-tune the complex network of business activities to achieve new levels of synergy.

Examining your company from an integrated business systems point of view requires a new perspective. An excellent agenda for self-assessment is yours by answering the questions for the National Housing Quality (NHQ) Award, co-sponsored by the NAHB Research Center and Professional Builder magazine. Call 800/638-8556, ext. 714 for an application. The Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award offers a more detailed version applicable to larger firms (301/975-2036 for applications).

Linking builder best practices into a unified business system is the theme of the Benchmark pre-conference seminar "Quality Management: Reaching the Next Level," Oct. 31, 1999, presented by a panel of NHQ winners and judges. Call 800/647-2937 for details.

Leverage your quality accomplishments by aligning existing business activities into a cohesive management system. The synergy will propel your company to the next level of total quality management.


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