While working with management on quality issues, I’ve come to see current methods as generally quite stale, slow and organisationally entrenched. Old methods are becoming increasingly ineffective.

Right now, quality methods seem to be stuck. The ‘traditional’ approach to quality is to take the ‘perceived’ customer requirements, turn them into measurable criteria and then manage processes against them. All that works if the customer requirements stay static or evolve slowly and incrementally. Unfortunately, for many industries, the days of slow and incremental are long gone and will not be returning anytime soon. We are living in a time of rapidly changing customer requirements, and there is little time to take stock and recalibrate the system.

The traditional quality methods, in effect, anchor the system and its processes to what was current for customers at a very specific time and fail to keep up with the rapid pace of change. They evaluate performance against an historic standard of what a customer needs and don’t consider what else can be done to provide supplementary or even new forms of value. Truthfully, traditional quality methods encourage service providers to adhere slavishly to the standard, ironically bypassing the very customer they’re trying to serve.

Are you doing what the system wants or what the customer wants? Click To Tweet

It’s not about changing the structure of an organisation or even adding more people; it’s about designing and implementing a work-climate where the front-line staff deeply understand their customers’ needs and have the freedom to seek new ways to meet them.

When business requirements change more quickly than the quality system can handle, for example, when moving to cloud-based solutions, the system often gets worse or stops working completely, because insufficient consideration has been given to the way in which products and services can be delivered better — the real reason the customer bought from us in the first place. So, when your quality system begins to fail, it’s much easier for your competition to pull your customer away from you – forever.

So, how do you design a forward-looking quality system that is able to keep up or even get ahead of your customers’ needs? This is where the Adaptive Business Model comes in. To borrow a phrase from sailing, the quality system needs to ‘pull the anchor’ on the top-down management approach and instead equip staff to navigate the boat. As a result, adaptive organisations will inherently view quality and new customer needs as the wind in their sails, and management can begin to focus on charting the course to seek new destinations through its products or services, innovating and improving long-term profitability.

At the end of the day, it really comes down to one crucial question, “Are you doing what the system wants or what the customer wants?” Once you start to realise the two are not the same, you can see the solution.