It is important to understand that every company has some form of quality management system. It might not be documented. It might not be based on ISO 9000. It might not be very good. But it’s there. Even if it’s just “running it by Grace in Engineering”, there is a quality management system. Ideally, it is documented, processed based, available to all employees, has built-in methods
Even if it’s just “running it by Grace in Engineering”, there is a quality management system. Ideally, it is documented, processed based, available to all employees, has built in methods to continually improve, and, while we are at it, audited every year to certify to the world that your entire company is walking the walk… but it certainly doesn’t have to be. What we are going to talk about is how to know if it is working for your organization.
Here's how to know if your quality management system it is working for your organization:
You are profitable. If you are a profitable company, you are doing something right. You are satisfying your customers. You don’t have obscene amounts of waste is time and materials. Your team doesn’t have to re-order the correct parts and rush them in when the wrong parts were ordered. The service department isn’t wasting hours finishing the installation department’s projects for free. You don’t need to attend expensive meetings with your project team and managers to hear client complaints instead of working on actual projects. You aren’t paying your team ridiculous amounts of overtime to complete jobs that were promised within an impossible schedule (spending extra money just to appease the client, even when you know there is no way you can deliver). You are not leaving your 5%-10%-15% retainer on the table because you just were never able to complete the project or satisfy the client. You are actually making money in the AV industry.
The client is the focus of everything the company produces. Companies that were said to have standards-based quality management systems were joked to make cement life jackets: well-constructed life preservers that had missed their users’ needs…but were consistently produced! However, a quality management system that works focuses solely on the client and implements methods of assuring client satisfaction. Your company asks your clients how you are performing, and doesn’t sneak off to the next project, hoping no one notices. Your team understands that the client needs to be included in the project, and not just surprised at the end with fingers crossed, hoping they like it.
You deliver a consistent product. Listen, Lucas may be able to terminate RJ45 connectors much faster than Iris. Jess may have her PMP, and this is Jim’s first job as project manager. There may be stars on the team that always outperform some other members. However, the end result that the client actually sees is consistent no matter what team member touches it. Many clients may demand to always get the “A Team” with other integrators, but with you and your quality management system that works, they know it doesn’t really matter since the delivered product/service is going to be the same from ANY member of your team.
There are ways to improve the system. W. Edwards Deming said that “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” Every member of the team has avenues to suggest and implement changes to the system. Not only that, there are means of making sure that everyone in the company is aware of the changes when they happen. There are no rogue engineers with their own special sauce. The recipe is shared with the entire team to assure consistency (see Item 2), as well as an improved product or a better way to deliver it.
There are no process holes. At other companies, people don’t really know what everyone else is doing. It is just assumed that everything that needs to get done for a successful project will get done and that someone on the project team knows how to do what was promised to the client. At your company, each project is reviewed to make sure the team has the tools and knowledge to deliver the contracted systems. Not only that, but the schedule is reviewed to make sure that they are available for the job. If not, your company knows well in advance if additional resources are required to keep the client happy. It’s also easy to bring a new team member up to speed (new hire or new role) because your company process owners for each piece of the pie.
If your system is not working or you don’t have one written down, you should look into creating one. There’s a business adage that says, “If it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist.” Plus, it’s nice to make money. It’s nice to have less stressful projects. It’s nice when your clients enjoy seeing you and don’t threaten to call security.
We recently hired a testing specialist who had little experience with documented quality systems before coming on board. Our methodology must agree with him because his wife noticed the difference. Apparently he wasn’t as snarly when he got home after work. That’s really what quality management systems are all about: maintaining great relationships with clients, with team members…and with our love ones.
Originally appeared in Sound & Communications, March, 2014.
In the AV industry, the end-users are typically represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the designers who specify the system and the integrators who install them. AVR acts as a third party to commission these systems. These are our stories.