Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Finding and managing the right simplicity complexity balance 5: the continuous quality improvement committee

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on June 7, 2012

This is my fifth installment in a series on more effectively structuring and managing a business, so that its overall organization and system of operational processes include the right details and complexities and no more or less (see Business Strategy and Operations – 2, postings 262, 276, 281 and 285 for Parts 1-4.) Smaller, simpler organizations can plan for and manage this through simpler mechanisms and means – but even a single owner/employee business should be thoughtful and systematic as to how they manage their business instead of making their decisions on an ad hoc, disconnected basis. Strategy and strategic thinking are always important. Larger and more complex organizations need to do this more formally and with more organizing structure and that brings me to this series installment.

At the end of Part 4: operational and project-oriented approaches I stated that for this installment, I would:

• Outline some of the basic requirements and parameters for a continuous quality improvement committee and that I would explicitly build that from Part 3: benchmarking from where your business is now – 2.

I begin that by citing a series I developed for inclusion in my directory page Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2: Joining, Working On and Leading a Committee (see postings 206-220) in which I develop a very specific best practices model for setting up and running a committee. And I refer within that to the process of defining and developing a committee charter that outlines in detail precisely what the committee is supposed to accomplish and how. This posting is all about developing a charter for a continuous quality improvement committee. And in keeping with the basic principles underlying these charter agreements, as a best practice this one should begin with a basic statement of the committee’s overall goals and objectives.

• The chartered function of this committee is to identify organizational needs and inefficiencies, to benchmark them and to develop efficient, cost-effective approaches for addressing them.
• This means developing and communicating best practices models and approaches based on study of other organizations – acknowledging that by itself that approach is always going to leave the organization in a reactive position and playing catch-up. But even there, this approach also means really understanding the competition and their sources of organizational and operational strength as competitors.
• This also means proactively seeking out new approaches to efficiency and competitiveness that would build from the best that the organization does and has to offer – and the development of unique sources of value and marketplace strength.
• Continuous quality improvement and the systems and process optimizations that it entails have to be carried out on an ongoing basis if change is to be gradual and evolutionary, and not disruptive.
• This means involving key stakeholders in the conversation and in the decision making process and both to gain necessary insight as to current structure and practices, and to identify places where change could be productively beneficial.
• Stakeholder participation is also essential to stakeholder buy-in for any change enacted. Change simply imposed from the outside will always be resented and resisted so this is an essential part of any change management process – and whether that change is gradual and evolutionary and built into the basic fabric of the business organization, or whether it is revolutionary and in response to crisis.
• The goal here is to keep the change process proactive where ever possible and non-disruptive and to prevent where possible any crisis arising.

And the points listed up to here at least potentially create opportunity for inefficiency from committee bloat – from having too many members to get anything done and with too many of those members resenting their participation as a waste of time.

• A continuous quality improvement committee should have a core standing committee membership that would include participants from functional areas such as the business’ overall Executive Strategy Team, Finance, Human Resources, Information Technology and overall Operations – services that collectively take the pulse of the overall organization from their respective viewpoints, and on an ongoing basis.
• Functional areas and services that have more focused charters and perspectives would always be welcome to participate from their decision to do so, delegating a member of their team to this committee.
• If an area of possible or current operational friction is identified that would affect a service or functional area, the manager of that service or functional area would be asked to participate or to delegate a committee member representative, and both for their insight and to help ensure their buy-in for decisions made.

Accountability and reporting are important here and would be specified in the charter.

• This committee and its chairperson(s) would report for purposes of this committee to the Chief Executive Officer.
• The committee would release findings and progress reports on a regularly scheduled basis, and for most such committees this would mean at least annual reports at the end of the business’ fiscal year.
• Further reports and updates would be prepared and released as needed in fulfilling the committee charter and charters sometimes mandate semiannual or even quarterly reporting.
• Committee report distribution would be determined and its process outlined in the charter, and with a goal of balancing need to involve necessary and affected parties with need to preserve confidentiality of sensitive and proprietary information.
• In practice this might mean wider distribution of executive summary documents, or having more general release, and restricted access versions with access to the more inclusive and detailed restricted access version provided on a needs basis.
• The wider distribution version of these reports would serve to keep everyone in the organization aware of the committee and what it does, and to keep them involved as sources of insight that would serve as starting points for committee review and analysis and for further work.
• This type of committee can only work and succeed to the extent that it is accepted as necessary and of benefit. It can only succeed to the extent that people who see potential problems and inefficiencies bring them to the attention of the committee and its members – directly or through reports to their managers that are then passed along.

And with this I note that I am specifically writing here in terms of the open organization and I further note that a continuous quality improvement committee cannot succeed in a heavily soloed organization in which open communication and open understanding of overall organizational process cannot take place (see for example my five part series: Open Business Models and a Diversity of Meaning at Business Strategy and Operations, postings 130, 133, 137, 140 and 144.)

I am going to discuss the role that technology enablers can play in my next series installment, and the potential offered by Web 2.0-based interactive intranets, and internally facing and supportive information architectures as facilitators of continuous quality improvement. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Business Strategy and Operations – 2 (and also see Business Strategy and Operations.)

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