As a quality management practitioner for the best part of my 30-year career, I daresay that perhaps one of the most misused, misunderstood and misinterpreted words that I have had to live with was precisely the word ‘quality’!

Indeed, searching the classical textbook definitions can take somewhat different twists to admitting something that is probably similar, yet said differently.

To me, and perhaps most people, quality is getting your espresso at your table in time, at the right temperature, and with that unforgettable aroma you would expect from a freshly ground bean. And not getting a macchiato instead!

How many times does this, or similarly small frustrations, take place in our day-to-day activities? The net result is an overall sore experience – with some of these experiences of course, being sorer than others.

And how do we react?  Most of the time, we just need to lump it, and accept the fact that your order needs to be reprocessed (rework, waste). A bit of a longer wait needs to be endured for the macchiato to be replaced with the (hopefully) proper espresso, but your colleague sitting at the table with you has already drank his/her drink by now. So, you need to down your coffee alone… experience? Net negative!

We recently decided to undergo a little project at home.  We called in the selected turnkey contractors to take care of all the works, within a mutually agreed two-week timeframe (which I know was very doable). 

The works started in April.

Come July, we are still waiting!  Hoping for the ‘turnkey contractors’ to source some tradesmen to carry out rework for works that were not done right the first-time round.  Committed dates went flying out of the window. The final product and finish is much to be desired! The inconvenience caused to us, the paying customers – just don’t mention it!

Why do these things happen?  A lack within several elements in the processes making up the business activity.

I was recently having a social chat with a good friend of mine, operating within the hospitality industry, and one statement he said to me rang music to my ears. As he was explaining to me, he works hard to run his business (don’t we all?), but what matters to him is not that he actually got paid for the service eventually, but in making his clients get that ‘wow experience’ whilst under his care.  Definitely a step closer to the definition of ‘quality’.

So, what is the difference in these two mindsets?

We have great talent around us. We have several great business entrepreneurs making business success out of ideas generated, and ventures, taking risks and experimenting with opportunities. It will be indeed a pity to let a lack in intrinsic quality approaches spell disaster for the dream of the risk taker, shattering business success, delivering a not-as-pleasant experience to colleagues and customers.

We all understand how difficult it is at times to find the right resources, possessing the right skill sets, attitude and capability to deliver the value we promise to deliver. Sometimes, offering properly structured and relevant training, handholding and coaching might help – but is it enough? Is there the commitment and loyalty to deliver?

Do our people own their little bit of the process, however small (or large) it may be?

Do they really understand where the tasks they are set to carry out fit within the whole process? Are our people aware of the impact their activities have on the experience offered to the stakeholders involved (suppliers/colleagues/customers)? Are they aware of the upstream influences, and the downstream influences in respect to the tasks they are set to execute? 

Process awareness is key. Ensuring we have properly identified, and defined processes is critical. Having the right resources, tools, equipment and materials to execute the process is mandatory, as is the right level of data and information made available (including specifications, timeframes, costs involved, etc.).  Whether running a small cafeteria or a five-star deluxe hotel, your business operations are centered around processes.

We need to listen to our process behaviour, capture the relevant feedback and learn more about our process and its causes for variation. What makes our process inconsistent? Identifying the cocktail of (potential and actual) root causes could be a daunting exercise.  Unless tacked appropriately, we might never know the next time we call at that café again, whether ordering an espresso will result in the proper expectation to be delivered, or yet another macchiato! 

As individuals of these lovely Islands, as business people operating locally and/or internationally, as a nation, together we need to work towards achieving a change in mindset and drive quality into our DNA.

Our Maltese expression “…u iva, jghaddi…” needs to be abolished from our vocabulary and attitude.

Ing. Joseph Micallef is a freelance Consulting Advisor, bringing with him over 30 years’ worth of experience across various sectors. Working in areas related with quality, lean, business process transformation and project execution and programme management he can be contacted directly on m +356 9982 2244 or e: [email protected]

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