8 November 2018

Today has been World Quality Day – not one of the United Nations sanctioned days of note, but a promotion of Quality as an organisational value. The focus this year is on Trust – and hence its blog worthiness. The marketing message has it as an opportunity to recognise the role that everyone in an organisation plays in building and maintaining trust with stakeholders.

Perhaps, inimitably, Japan initiated a Quality Month in November 1960. China got the vibe and in 1978 decided that September should be World Quality Month. By 1988 the United States and Canada decided that October was a better month for Quality. In 1990 the United Nations standardised arrangements linking Quality to national prosperity. World Quality Day become the second Thursday in November and has growing traction internationally. It found expression this year in some New Zealand public sector agencies.

This year’s Quality message comes wrapped in trustworthiness: that reputations are built on trust. Trust is a hard-earned commodity, yet one which can be squandered in a moment. There is no shortage of media reporting on quality failure and the impact on the customers and stakeholders of organisations: Grenfell, Facebook, Kobe Steel and BMW to name a few. And there are recent New Zealand examples – corporate and others that are closer to the experiences of State servants. They raise issues about organisational competence and about organisational integrity.

They illustrate why organisations need competent systems to ensure that their activities consistently deliver on promises made to customers and stakeholders; that they have an assurance framework to help understand operational risk, and an improvement framework to mitigate it and improve. Factors which captured the attention of the reviewers from the Reserve Bank and Financial Markets Authority looking into the New Zealand banking sector.

Trust and reputation are built on systems of governance, assurance and improvement, but need a culture of quality.

And culture means people and their drive to serve.

It prioritises people and engaging with them, not the pursuit awards and launching of media statements. It involves engineering diverse teams at all levels of organisations and fueling enthusiasm to generate small projects tackling real problems. It recognises the time it takes to make a difference, the need to be staunchly innovative, to trial change, measure it and try to do better. And it means making the most of existing technology before looking for answers in tomorrow’s toys.