Blog entry by Charles Biney
- Friday, 10 June 2022, 7:33 PM
In the first part of this submission, I laid out the stepwise, multifaceted, visionary approach adopted by the leadership of the UAE when they embarked on their quality journey. I have had some very interesting feedback since then. One of them was this: “Can Government lead the charge?” And my answer to that was the same point I reiterated as touching the approach the UAE adopted: “Government led the way… the private sector followed suit”
I established how the UAE’s national quality programme was in no mean way, instrumental to the emirate’s beautiful success story. There are indeed lessons to be learned from their experiment, concepts to be adapted and programmes to be designed and implemented as we map our own journey. I will be sharing six vital pointers- and they are by no means exhaustive, which I believe could be impactful to Ghana’s quality programme. These pointers are categorised into two parts- state-led, and private sector-led initiatives.
Pointers and Opportunities for a Successful Implementation in Ghana
¤ Visionary Strategic Leadership
It is worthy to rehash some phrases from Dr. Edwards Deming and Philip Crosby (notable luminaries of Quality) here. The responsibility of a Quality programme rests on Leadership in instituting constancy of purpose and establishing unequivocal specifications. These can never be overstated. The NQ Infrastructure addresses some very technical aspects of the requirement but hardly touches at the core of the systemic, socio-cultural undertones and the multidimensional nuances underpinning a mature national quality programme. The traditional approaches of yesteryear will not suffice in a very dynamic globalised and even polarized society. Now, this calls for strategy- a strategy that draws all key stakeholders, opinion leaders, influencers and organizational leadership around the table, to serve as sounding boards to the larger populace- let’s call it a top-down strategy. The strategy must also be one that designs and effectively implements a number of quality-oriented organisations, programmes, and projects towards the big end in mind- making Ghana a quality-centric nation- an oasis of hope.
¤ A Multidimensional, Multiskilled National Quality Council (NQC)
The NQC is the independent and leading body entrusted with entrenching a quality culture throughout Ghana. The NQC will develop strategies and promote overall sectorial quality initiatives and strategies. Typically, the NQC brings together major players in industry, unions, local governments, equity groups and practitioners ‐ in the oversight and support of the current and future quality goals of the nation. The constitution of the NQC must needs include players with technical expertise across the quality ecosystem- subject-matter expertise, and industry-specific knowledge of our critical industries.
¤ Thought Leadership in the Quality Domain
There is a need for independent think tanks to provide thought leadership and guide the quality profession. Quality Think Tanks (QTTs) are active working research groups created for the analysis of issues focused on specific quality areas and dedicated to consideration and advocacy of alternative approaches for the future development of their focus areas. QTTs, in their right configuration, challenge policy orthodoxy and provide innovative direction to shape emerging problems and help determine future directions. Again, when properly configured, QTTs operate to define the role of quality in various thematic areas with a focus on bringing knowledge and creating useful outputs. The International Academy for Quality (IAQ) for instance has the following QTTs: [Quality in Applied Statistics Initiative Think Tank (QiSTT) Quality in Education Think Tank (QiETT), Quality in Governance Think Tank (QiGTT), Quality in Healthcare Think Tank (QiHTT), Quality in Innovation Think Tank (QiITT), etc.]. Therefore, a great opportunity exists for collaboration amongst quality practitioners and allied experts to conduct leading-edge ingenious and indigenous research on key performance indicators of local industries, including agribusiness, retail, oil and gas, hospitality, healthcare, logistics, etc.
¤ Business Leaders Rethinking and Prioritising Quality
Corporate executives (CEOs, CFOs, COOs) still need to be convinced of the potential that quality management offers to reduce cost and improve product features, thereby positively impacting corporate performance. In fact, when it comes to this percentage of the economy, I dare make the most outlandishly obvious statement- “Quality needs to be redefined”. For most C-suite executives, the subject of, and the institutionalisation of Quality is very often a tactical afterthought- to complement operations or another tick in the box as a requirement for onboarding a major potential customer/partner. A much-preferred definition that entrenches quality within the organisation should read thus:
“Quality- our pursuit of product and service excellence, is that principal paradigm that ensures we have loyal and returning customers. It is the fulcrum of our business model, the determiner of our corporate top-line and bottom-line, and the single most important ingredient for the long-term survival and growth of our business.”
“The return on investment from quality improvement programmes is six times the investments made”. (Dr. Joseph Juran). Now that’s what we call a good deal!!! This reconfiguration complements the national drive by taking quality into the trenches.
¤ Creating a Culture of Sharing Data and Benchmarks
Organisations find it hard to access industry-specific data/benchmarks to compare their performance and share best practices. Intra-industry benchmarking for best practice is common and has been around for decades. There is even yet a not-so-much explored dimension- inter-industry benchmarking. Reference is made to the UK’s National Health Service lean transformation journey which adopted best practices and process benchmarked with Toyota’s Production System (TPS). There is the opportunity to adapt and adopt ethical benchmarking principles for our business environments to open up to share good practices inter and intra-industry.
¤ Use of Advanced Quality Tools and Techniques
I have discovered, in my experience working with players over the years that the current application of quality tools and techniques is at a pretty basic level across much of our industry. And I could even go as far as to opine that many players use zero to very minimal tools. Complex problems in a complex world require complex tools (pun intended). Logic and intuition may not be sufficient to see organisations through chaos and complexity in today’s world. The simplistic, and often linear approach to solving problems doesn’t cut the mustard in the 21st century. Luminaries and practitioners have over the years, designed and deployed problem-solving toolboxes as they have dealt with complex problems and change. Industry leaders, managers, and executives need to imbibe and apply analytical and systems-centric tools to ensure effective problem-solving and decision-making. Advanced techniques such as Quality Function Deployment (QFD), process capability, control charts, and Design of Experiments (DoE) used effectively can be a real game-changer for players across all industry sectors.
Circumventing the Dichotomy- From Policy to Implementation
Four broad contributors to policy failure are stated here: overly optimistic expectations; implementation in dispersed governance; inadequate collaborative policymaking; and the vagaries of the political cycle. Now, all these have to be taken into cognisance as we embark on our own unique journey. Ghana’s approach should be steeped in the understanding of what makes us truly different in terms of our multifariousness and our uniqueness, our culture and our growth trajectory.
Quality infrastructure has grown over the decades and its setup differs from country to country. The approach we adopt to implementing our National Quality Infrastructure and its complementary institutions, programmes and systems could spell the bane or success of it. A skewed overfocus on the technical and sociotechnical aspects of the architecture without a commensurate focus on the sociocultural aspects will lead us to a state where quality results and behaviours are only predicated on pedantic, penalty-driven, and overly-regulated institutions and management systems.
Conclusion- A Balancing Act
Quality, for any people, ought to be a two-way street- top-down implementation requires constancy-of-purpose driven leadership. Bottom-up acceptance and compliance require followers with quality mindsets and the empowered willingness to be and to do. But the greatest charge lies on the shoulders of national leadership to ensure the long-term success of such a needful intervention. There ought to be a balance of efforts (see Fig. 1) on this two-way street- the overarching state-led strategy as the fulcrum that balances state-led initiatives and private sector-led initiatives.
Figure 1 A Conceptual Framework for a National Quality Programme- (Author's Construct)
I end with my closing words from the Aug-2017 maiden seminar of the Ghana Quality Organisation where I shared my thoughts on lessons we could learn from the UAE experience.
“If God be God, then let us serve Him. We cannot pay lip service to the issue of Quality. We are either doing it Quality or we are not. Anything short of a Quality effort at implementing Quality makes it not Quality.”