|Edward Caldeira, Director of Quality Resources, NAHB Research Center
When your job seems more like problem solving and fire fighting than leading and managing, it is time to use quality methods to improve the organization’s business processes. Most people think quality improvement is only for preventing construction defects and solving field problems. Quality improvement is also a way to solve business management problems and prevent fires.
Managers traditionally resort to using final approval as a checkpoint to catch problems and tightly control employee activities. Managers using this approach demonstrate that they do not believe the business process can produce reliable results without their scrutiny. These managers place themselves in the role of quality inspectors, and when they find problems they provide high-priced repair services as well.
A better, more cost-effective way is to improve the performance of business processes to reliably deliver quality results.
Mangers should view their jobs - and their responsibilities - as managing business processes, such as employee hiring, design or accounts payable processing. Problems that occur should be viewed as defects of business processes that need improvement. Recognizing defects of business processes is easy once you see a few examples:
A defect of a hiring process is an employee that is not a good fit with the company. Interference between rough mechanicals on construction drawings is a defective result of the architectural design process. Inaccurate contractor payments are defects of the accounts payable process.
Recovering from problem incidents like these is not enough. The business processes should be improved to prevent recurrence. There are too many processes to improve them all at once. Commit to improve only one new business process every month. Set priorities for small, focused problems to solve, and when effective solutions are found, aggressively institute the changes. The classic Plan, Do, Check and Act is a simple and effective improvement process to follow:
When problems start disappearing one by one, everyone can take pride in their accomplishments. If improvements are made every month, within a year noticeable improvements can be made throughout the business. Each improvement will get each manager closer to being a full-time manager and leader.
For more information on quality topics, visit www.nahbrc.org/quality. Questions? Call the Research Center’s ToolBase Hotline (800/898-2842.)