The Elements of a Strong Quality Management Culture
Raj Rangaraj is the vice president of the client care program at AECOM. In a recent AECOM Impact blog postk, he explains the importance of a quality management culture, as well as the human elements required to achieve a quality and safety-focused culture.
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.
AECOM is a premier, fully integrated professional and technical services firm positioned to design, build, finance and operate infrastructure assets around the world for public- and private-sector clients. The firm’s global staff — including architects, engineers, designers, planners, scientists and management and construction services professionals — serves clients in over 150 countries around the world. AECOM is ranked as the #1 engineering design firm by revenue in Engineering News-Record magazine’s annual industry rankings, and has been recognized by Fortune magazine as a World’s Most Admired Company. The firm is a leader in all of the key markets that it serves, including transportation, facilities, environmental, energy, oil and gas, water, high-rise buildings and government. AECOM provides a blend of global reach, local knowledge, innovation and technical excellence in delivering customized and creative solutions that meet the needs of clients’ projects. A Fortune 500 firm, AECOM companies, including URS Corporation and Hunt Construction Group, had revenue of approximately $19 billion during the 12 months ended June 30, 2015. More information on AECOM and its services can be found at www.aecom.com.
Vice President, Corporate Communications