Today’s CEO has a lot of competing interests to manage but often it is a single desire that bubbles to the top as most important, Revenue Growth. However, to have a meaningful discussion on the CEO’s view of quality, it is important to dive deeper and note that Revenue Growth is much more of an ends than a means. The job of the CEO involves more than sitting at the top of an organization and demanding growth. The CEO must identify the right levers and pull those levers at the right time to spur on this growth.
Understanding the CEO Toolkit
For most organizations in the manufacturing industry the levers at a CEO’s disposal are well known and well documented, including initiatives in the areas of:
- Operational Excellence
- New Products Introduction
- Compliance Management
This is of course not a complete list, but the connections between these initiatives and revenue growth are clear. Companies that have a culture of Operational Excellence are more efficient, flexible, and adaptable. These companies have structured continuous improvement programs in place and are able to serve customer needs more effectively than their competitors. In regards to New Product Introductions, one needs to look no further than Apple to understand how a new product can open new markets, improve the marketability of a brand, and make substantive impacts on revenue. In the case of Compliance Management, it is actually more about revenue loss avoidance. If companies proactively manage compliance, they are much less likely to have facilities shuttered or products pulled from markets for compliance issues, which can be one of the most destructive events a company can have with regards to revenue growth.
Unfortunately, for many companies, quality is not mentioned in the above discussion. Far too often, quality is seen as one of many departments that would play a role in the above initiatives; on par with Engineering, Manufacturing, Purchasing, Customer Service, and other departments that similarly just play their own role. However, truly visionary CEOs understand this is not the way to approach these initiatives or quality in general. Companies, and their strategic initiatives, are most successful when quality is not viewed as a department but instead a shared responsibility, extending from the CEO all the way to the line operator and everywhere in between. When quality is viewed in this light, it begins to have a transformative effect in the organization and becomes a true source of competitive advantage.
The Cisco Way
A great example of this perspective on quality and overall leadership style comes for the Cisco CEO, John Chambers. Cisco has $40B in Revenue, is 95% outsourced manufacturing with a global supply base, and customers all over the world. Mr. Chambers understands the value quality can have in helping grow revenues and consistently mentions quality is a top objective. A recent quote from Mr. Chambers exemplifies this belief:
“Quality is doing what you said you would do, when you said you would do it. Quality is never letting the customer down. Quality is being accountable for the total customer experience.”
By focusing on quality not as a department but a shared responsibility that extends from suppliers straight through to the overall customer experience, Cisco has quickly become one of the most successful companies on the planet.
Top Down and Bottom Up
Another important lesson on leadership that many seasoned CEOs have learned is that leadership is not just a top-down process. Successful CEOs know that leadership comes from all levels of the organization and they will be much more successful in their efforts if they can inspire bottom-up grass roots initiatives within their organization that is in alignment with their high level strategic objectives. This is especially true in the area of quality. Gaining buy-in at all levels of the organization is a big indicator of how successful overall quality initiatives can be in driving revenue growth for the organization.
Tying it Together with Quality Management Software
It is one thing to set a strategic direction for an organization and inspire leaders to take up your cause at all levels. However, it is something different to have the foresight to supply the organization with the right tools for success. For many companies, Quality Management Software can be one of these tools.
Through work-flow automation Quality Management Software can help a company build best practices into collaborative business processes that span all aspects of the business. Quality Management Software can also help companies centrally manage quality issues such as Non-Conformances and Corrective and Preventive Actions (NC/CAPA) so that companies can extend what they learn from continuous improvement initiatives globally and actually “know what they know”. Additionally, Quality Management Software can help a company with visibility into critical quality metrics. This visibility allows stake-holders to understand how quality might impact the decisions they are making when they are making them, ensuring they have the right data in an easy access format. Finally, Quality Management Software can help companies build-in and pro-actively manage compliance. Compliance Management helps clients ensure that the risks of adverse compliance events are minimized. The capabilities delivered by Quality Management Software are a major enabler of John Chamber’s view of quality described above.