As the Covid-19 pandemic exposes vulnerabilities across supply chains, quality is quickly emerging as a focal point for many organizations—especially when it comes to developing strategies for sustaining quality during times of disruption, according to a Gartner survey published earlier this month.
“Covid-19, digital transformation, sudden facility shutdowns, or an expansion into a new market–all of those incidents disrupt supply chain organizations,” said Bryan Klein, research director with the Gartner Supply Chain Practice. “A strong culture of quality is critical during times of transformation. Quality leaders must find strategies to sustain their quality levels during disruptions.”
Gartner’s 2020 Culture of Quality During Disruptions Survey found that traditional means of sustaining quality don’t always work during disruptive times. Instead, companies with the most successful track records focus on developing strategies that help employees navigate decision-making processes and balance priorities. What’s more, they found that implementing a “culture of quality” is the most important way to sustain a company’s quality levels.
Gartner surveyed more than 1,200 employees from organizations in a variety of industries around the world and found that the typical tools quality leaders use to maintain quality during disruption–reinforcing the importance of quality and ensuring access to quality tools such as trainings and knowledge hubs–have little to no impact on a firm’s ability to sustain quality.
“More than 70% of survey respondents said that messages about the importance of multiple competing priorities all increased during a disruption. That’s why just reinforcing the importance of quality falls on deaf ears,” Klein explained. “It’s the same with quality tools. As priorities and circumstance change during the disruption, employees are unsure whether the tool is still relevant–and [they] stop using it.”
A better strategy for maintaining a culture of quality? Help employees navigate the inevitable tensions between conflicting priorities and offer clear guidance on when a certain level of quality is crucial and when it’s not, the authors said.
“It helps when senior leaders acknowledge the tensions between priorities,” Klein added. “There’s power in knowing that employees aren’t expected to optimize multiple priorities at the same time. At times it’s okay to decide between priorities, such as decreasing speed-to-market in the face of a significant cost reduction.”
Establishing categories such as “must have quality,” “should have quality,” and “can have quality,” can help guide employees’ thinking patterns, the survey also found. Taking it a step further, quality leaders should also prepare employees at all levels to manage competing tensions when necessary.
“Peer-to-peer consulting or a quality ambassador program can give employees access to the relevant guidance. Discussing tensions between priorities during weekly meetings motivates staff to reflect on their decision-making process and will lead to better informed decisions at later stages,” Klein also said.