Continuous quality improvement is an approach that garners the resources of a company to continuously improve the quality of one or more components of the company such as customer service processes. Continuous quality improvement work has been growing in America because of more discerning consumers, increased competition and better quality products being supplied from overseas such as automobile companies. The auto companies and others have recognized the need for continuous quality improvement and are producing higher-quality products.
The first step in continuous quality improvement is the identification of the need for it and the potential benefits. This need is often identified when a company gets too many customer complaints, its costs are no longer competitive within its industry or some other quality impacting shifts occur that impact a business.
For continuous quality improvement to become an ongoing way of doing business senior management must be committed to it, communicate that commitment to employees and agree to provide the necessary resources to launch and implement a program on an ongoing basis.
Areas where less-than-acceptable quality is occurring must be identified. The impact of poor quality and the cost or other detrimental effects of quality problems must be estimated. Impacts could include high cost, lost market share and poor morale.
To decide in what order quality improvement opportunities must be pursued, determine the cost (or cost savings) of applying continuous quality improvement to an area. Estimate the financial and non-financial impact on each area and the implementation time frame.
Before any quality improvement effort begins, senior management should announce the program to all employees, explain its purpose, and outline why the continuous quality improvement program is being launched and its benefits to the company and its employees.
A quality improvement team should be assembled to do the work. They should be grounded in continuous policy improvement techniques such as by attending training sessions or getting oriented by a specialist, such as an outside consultant.
Each quality improvement project should be planned with key tasks, timing and who will be responsible. Current quality levels should be benchmarked so quality improvements can be measured and assessed. Assessment should occur to determine if quality levels are, in fact, continuously improving. If they are not, an assessment of the problem and solution should be determined.