How to Implement a Quality Improvement Program at Your Small Business

That’s the big question, isn’t it? Just how to implement a quality improvement program at your small business.

As promised, we’re going to cover the required steps to do this. It’s not possible to take the standard implementation process that large companies use, and simply overlay on to a small company – there are differences in available resources, available technology and organizational structure that make this approach impractical.

So, we have modified some steps, and changed the usual sequence of others to make this template more usable for the average small business.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Blue RibbonThe Roadmap – Even small companies need to figure out where they want to go, which is their vision, what they want to accomplish, which is their mission, and, how they’re going to act to their employees, their partners and their customers as the first two things are occurring. These rules are their operational templates, which are their values. It’s a big deal to get these three things figured out, and this is really tough for a lot of small companies to do. Many small companies come up with either something so generic it is meaningless, or, something so specific that it’s unwieldy. But these things need to be defined because both short-term and long-term strategy needs to adhere to the roadmap, and all the employees need to be aware of the roadmap and how what they do matters in terms of the company’s goals.

Identify Stakeholders – All your customers/clients are stakeholders. So are your employees. If you’re a non-profit and you have volunteers, they’re stakeholders. If you rely on funding from government or a private foundation, they’re stakeholders.

Ask your stakeholders – Asking your stakeholders what’s important to them will quickly have you on your way to developing success criteria. You will need to develop a survey specific to each group for best results.

Identify critical success factors (CSF) – these should be signposts that will assist your organization as you move towards accomplishing your mission. Theses should be clear-cut, and measurable (preferably in increments, i.e. 50%, 80%).

Develop CSF metrics – accurate measurement of progress towards achievement of the factors you’ve chosen.

Improvement campaign – After getting stakeholder feedback, and after calculation of progress towards your success factors, you will need to plan, and then execute, improvements required to get the company moving faster towards its goals. The plan should have action plans, an owner who is responsible for the plan’s progress, and a timeline.

Constant monitoring – survey your stakeholders again, look at the data from the improvement plan every month, etc. Keep improving – the first improvements will be dramatic, the ones after that will small and will be more difficult to achieve.

Grade your assets – Make sure you have the right assets to improve your quality. Your people (your human assets) should be skilled enough and knowledgeable enough to do what’s needed, your technology should be current and support your goals, your physical assets (building, address, workspaces, equipment, etc.) should not be an impediment to your quality improvement program, and so forth. Be honest (merciless!) in grading the assets you have available to your company as you embark upon your quality journey.

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