Professionals don’t willingly make errors; they are the result of complacency, lack of training and a weak quality culture. Further to that point, quality doesn’t just happen; it takes an investment of time, resources and energy. And the costs of not embracing a strong quality culture are many.

I recently noticed a tree trimmer who exhibited a great example of quality — putting on his safety gear with care, having his partner check it, explaining his next steps, then upon completion, cleaning up the area.  He demonstrated a behavior-based approach that is the essence of a quality and safety-focused culture.

I have observed similar attitudes with some of my colleagues throughout my professional life. These individuals take pride in their work and the work of their teams. At times, enforcing quality requires employees to step out of their comfort zones.  For example, a manager didn’t deliver a proposal to a potential client because it hadn’t received an adequate amount of review from the proposal team.

Our success as a company depends on our ability to deliver quality work products as scoped to our clients — safely, on time and within the agreed-upon budget. Furthermore, consistent delivery of high-quality projects shows our clients that they can count on us to address their global needs at any time. When that trust is lost, all is lost.

An effective organizational quality management program is critical to AECOM’s long-term success.  Such a program provides the structure necessary to focus organizational energy to achieve its objectives. The program must establish policies, procedures and enabling tools such that a dynamic, ever-changing organization knows what and how work must be done to deliver quality services to internal and external clients.

However, one cannot expect that just providing policies, procedures and tools will lead to quality outcomes consistently. There is a required foundational ingredient, the energy, which is a human element. One aspect is leadership where a company’s leaders set the expectation, communicate it and practice the principles. The other potentially more-important aspect is a focus on organizational culture based on individual ownership.

I am passionate about the subject because I’ve experienced firsthand the costs of lack of attention to quality management, and the benefits of greater attention to quality management.  The costs include personal stress associated with addressing problems on short notice and under potential financial and legal threat, rework leading to unplanned cost and schedule impacts that reduce profitability and unhappy clients who cut off future work, negatively affect our organizational reputation, and the cost of litigation.

When I led a quality management team, we developed a set of essential quality principles required for a strong quality culture: Focus on the customer, plan your work, collaborate, follow procedures, manage documentation, check your work and improve continually. When this becomes a habit, it becomes the company’s organizational culture using policies, procedures and tools proactively to deliver quality and compliance.

Raj_89x100Raj Rangaraj is vice president, client care program, and is based in AECOM’s Santa Ana, California, United States, office.  He has served in various leadership positions — most recently as the quality officer for the infrastructure and environment division.
LinkedIn: Raj Rangaraj

Originally published Aug 31, 2015

Author: Raj Rangaraj