Quality and Total Quality
Improving Process Quality
These days, most people know that work gets done in any organization through a series of end-to-end tasks which we call processes. For example, there is a process to market or sell a product or service, or one to deliver it or one to invoice a customer once they have made a purchase. In all three of these cases the process will not only involve steps inside a given company, but usually involve steps that are “upstream” or with suppliers or goods and services, or “downstream” which includes distribution entities, resellers, wholesales and agents, for example.
Although there are hundreds and sometimes thousands of processes, the Total Quality guru Joseph Juran suggested that all organizations have three very large “umbrella” processes that they should think about. These processes are: Demand generation, Demand fulfillment and Cash generation.
Let’s look at each of these in more detail.
Every organization no matter what its size or type (for profit or nonprofit and government or private) should only exist if a demand exists for its product (something tangible) or services (such as information, for example). Departments like marketing, advertising, sales, revenue management and customer service are all part of this demand generation activity which is the net sum of their efforts.
Once a product or service is desired and ordered/requested, this next major process umbrella is all about fulfilling the demand that has been created. Departments here (which deliver on orders/requests) have many names also like operations, production, engineering, warehousing, and transport/delivery. However they all exist to ensure that the customer’s need is met.
Finally, when a customer’s request for a product or service has been received and met, they need to pay for the product or service rendered, even if it is indirectly (patients often pay for services through insurance for example). Cash generation is then all about giving customers many and easy ways to pay for what they want and to feel good about doing so. This is usually the domain of departments like accounting or finance.
All three of these processes are shown in the chart below, which show the path from suppliers to the end consumer, with some examples of departments covered (including support organizations like HR).
What Juran’s model suggests is that senior managers are often well-served to take an initial look at process quality in each of these three umbrella categories so as to determine which one is in greatest need of attention. Once this is known, they can:
- Focus on Customer needs
- Align priorities according to what needs to be done
- Ensured that key values are shared
- Determine that there is a strong “managerial grip” on how to improve the process
In so doing, the above four steps may reveal sub-processes which may need attention that are affecting performance in the larger umbrella process.