Implementing a Quality Ambassador Program

Quality ambassadors can influence their peers to prioritize quality, thereby strengthening the culture of quality in the organization. Quality leaders can use this guide to develop a quality ambassador program by identifying, training, and engaging ambassadors.

Utilizing Kotter’s eight accelerators for change, we can implement a Quality Ambassador program like this:

AcceleratorActions
Create a strong sense of urgency around a big opportunityDemonstrate the organizational value of Ambassadors by performing a needs analysis to assess the current state of employee engagement with quality.
Build and evolve a guiding coalitionBring together key stakeholders from across the organization who will provide input in the program’s design and support its implementation.
Form a change vision and strategic initiativesIdentify the key objectives for implementing a Quality Ambassador program and outline the lines of effort required to successfully design and pilot it.
Enlist a volunteer armyReach out and engage informal leaders at all levels of the organization. Find your current informal Ambassadors and draw them in.
Enable action by removing barriersBe vigilant for factors that impede progress. Work with your Ambassadors and senior leaders to give teams the freedom and support to succeed.
Generate and celebrate short-term winsPilot the program. Create success stories by looking at the successful outcomes of teams that have Quality Ambassadors and by listening to team members and their customers for evidence that quality culture is improving. Your goal will be to create an environment where teams that do not have Quality Ambassadors are asking how they can participate.
Sustain accelerationScale the impact of your program by implementing it more broadly within the organization.

Define the Key Responsibilities of Quality Ambassadors

  
What activities should Quality Ambassadors focus on?  Example: Reinforce key quality messages with co-workers. Drive participation in quality improvement projects. Provide inputs to improve culture of quality. Provide inputs to improve and maintain data integroty
What will Quality Ambassadors need from their managers?    Example: Approval to participate, must be renewed annually
What will Quality Ambassadors receive from the Quality team?    Example: Training on ways to improve employee engagement with quality. Support for any questions/objections that ariseTraining on data integrity  
What are Quality Ambassadors’ unique responsibilities?    Example: Acting as the point of contact for all quality-related queries. Reporting feedback from their teams to the Quality leadership. Conveying to employees the personal impact of quality on their effectiveness. Mitigating employee objections about pursuing quality improvement projects. Tackling obstacles to rolling out quality initiatives
What responsibilities do Quality Ambassadors share with other employees?    Example: Constantly prioritize quality in their day-to-day work  
Expected time commitment    Example: 8-10 hours/month, plus 6 hours of training at launch

Metrics to Measure Success

Type of MetricsList of MetricsDirect Impact of Ambassador’s workRecommendations
Active Participation LevelsPercentage of organizational units adopting culture of quality program.
The number of nominations for quality recognition programs. Quality observations were identified during Gemba walks. Participation or effectiveness of problem-solving or root-cause processes. The number of ongoing quality improvement projects. Percentage of employees receiving quality training  
HighAmbassadors should be directly held responsible for these metrics
Culture of Quality AssessmentsCulture of quality surveys. Culture of quality maturity assessmentsMediumThe Quality Ambassador program is a factor for improvement.
Overall Quality PerformanceKey KPI associated with Quality. Audit scoresCost of poor qualityLowThe Quality Ambassador program is a factor for improvement.

Engaging for Quality

When building a quality organization, we are striving to do three things: get employees (and executives) to feel the need for quality in their bones; get them to understand what quality is and why it is important; and build the process, procedure, and tools to make quality happen. Practitioners in change management often call this heart, head, and hands.

Engage the heart, head and hands to build a quality culture

In our efforts we strive to answer give major themes of questions about why building a culture of quality is critical.

ThemeQuestions
WhyWhy do we need quality? Why is it important? What are the regulatory expectations? What happens if we do nothing?
WhatWhat results are expected for our patients? Our organization? Our people? What does out destination look and feel like?
HowHow will we get there? What’s our plan and process? What new behaviors do we each need to demonstrate?
YouWhat do you need to fulfill your role in quality? What do we need from you?
MeWhat do I commit to as a leader? What will I do to make change a reality? How will I support my team?
Five Themes of Change

The great part of this is that the principles of building a quality culture are the same mindsets we want embedded in our culture. By demonstrating them, we build and strengthen the culture, and will reap the dividends.

Be Preventative: What actions can be taken to prevent undesirable/unintended consequences with employees and other stakeholders. We do this by:

  • Involving end-users in the design process
  • Conduct risk assessments and lessons learned to predict possible failures
  • Ensure the reason for change is holistic and accounts for all internal and external obligations
  • Determine metrics as soon as possible
  • Focus on how the organization is responding to ongoing change
  • Think through how roles need to change and what employees need to be accountable for

Be Proactive: What actions can be taken to successfully meet objectives?

Be Responsive: What evidence-based techniques can be used to respond to issues, including resistance?

This is all about leveraging the 8 change accelerators and effectively developing strategies for change.

Quality, Decision Making and Putting the Human First

Quality stands in a position, sometimes uniquely in an organization, of engaging with stakeholders to understand what objectives and unique positions the organization needs to assume, and the choices that are making in order to achieve such objectives and positions.

The effectiveness of the team in making good decisions by picking the right choices depends on their ability of analyzing a problem and generating alternatives. As I discussed in my post “Design Lifecycle within PDCA – Planning” experimentation plays a critical part of the decision making process. When designing the solution we always consider:

  • Always include a “do nothing” option: Not every decision or problem demands an action. Sometimes, the best way is to do nothing.
  • How do you know what you think you know? This should be a question everyone is comfortable asking. It allows people to check assumptions and to question claims that, while convenient, are not based on any kind of data, firsthand knowledge, or research.
  • Ask tough questions Be direct and honest. Push hard to get to the core of what the options look like.
  • Have a dissenting option. It is critical to include unpopular but reasonable options. Make sure to include opinions or choices you personally don’t like, but for which good arguments can be made. This keeps you honest and gives anyone who see the pros/cons list a chance to convince you into making a better decision than the one you might have arrived at on your own.
  • Consider hybrid choices. Sometimes it’s possible to take an attribute of one choice and add it to another. Like exploratory design, there are always interesting combinations in decision making. This can explode the number of choices, which can slow things down and create more complexity than you need. Watch for the zone of indifference (options that are not perceived as making any difference or adding any value) and don’t waste time in it.
  • Include all relevant perspectives. Consider if this decision impacts more than just the area the problem is identified in. How does it impact other processes? Systems?

A struggle every organization has is how to think through problems in a truly innovative way.  Installing new processes into an old bureaucracy will only replace one form of control with another. We need to rethink the very matter of control and what it looks like within an organization. It is not about change management, on it sown change management will just shift the patterns of the past. To truly transform we need a new way of thinking. 

One of my favorite books on just how to do this is Humanocracy: Creating Organizations as Amazing as the People Inside Them by Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini. In this book, the authors advocate that business must become more fundamentally human first.  The idea of human ability and how to cultivate and unleash it is an underlying premise of this book.

Visualized by Rose Fastus

it’s possible to capture the benefits of bureaucracy—control, consistency, and coordination—while avoiding the penalties—inflexibility, mediocrity, and apathy.

Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini, Humanocracy, p. 15

The above quote really encapsulates the heart of this book, and why I think it is such a pivotal read for my peers. This books takes the core question of a bureaurcacy is “How do we get human beings to better serve the organization?”. The issue at the heart of humanocracy becomes: “What sort of organization elicits and merits the best that human beings can give?” Seems a simple swap, but the implications are profound.

Bureaucracy versus Humanocracy. Source: Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini, Humanocracy, p. 48

I would hope you, like me, see the promise of many of the central tenets of Quality Management, not least Deming’s 8th point. The very real tendency of quality to devolve to pointless bureaucracy is something we should always be looking to combat.

Humanocracy’s central point is that by truly putting the employee first in our organizations we drive a human-centered organization that powers and thrives on innovation. Humanocracy is particularly relevant as organizations seek to be more resilient, agile, adaptive, innovative, customer centric etc. Leaders pursuing such goals seek to install systems like agile, devops, flexible teams etc.  They will fail, because people are not processes.  Resiliency, agility, efficiency, are not new programming codes for people.  These goals require more than new rules or a corporate initiative.  Agility, resilience, etc. are behaviors, attitudes, ways of thinking that can only work when you change the deep ‘systems and assumptions’ within an organization.  This book discusses those deeper changes.

Humanocracy lays out seven tips for success in experimentation. I find they align nicely with Kotter’s 8 change accelerators.

Humanocracy’s TipKotter’s Accelerator
Keep it SimpleGenerate (and celebrate) short-term wins
Use VolunteersEnlist a volunteer army
Make it FunSustain Acceleration
Start in your own backyardForm a change vision and strategic initiatives
Run the new parallel with the oldEnable action by removing barriers
Refine and RetestSustain acceleration
Stay loyal to the problemCreate a Sense of Urgency around a
Big Opportunity
Comparison to Kotter’s Eight Accelerators for Change

Change Strategies for Accelerating Changes

The five change strategies that leaders can utilize:

  • Directive strategy – the manager uses his authority and imposes change with little or no involvement of other people.
  • Expert strategy – usually involves expertise to manage and solve technical problems that result from the change.
  • Negotiating strategy – manager shows willingness to negotiate and bargain in order to effect change with timely adjustments and concessions.
  • Educative strategy – when the manager plans to change peoples’ values and beliefs.
  • Participative strategy – when the manager stresses the full involvement of all of those involved and affected by the anticipated changes.

These are not mutually exclusive. It is not uncommon to use 2 or 3 or even all five on larger, more complicated changes.

Leaders in the Way

In “How Leaders Get in the Way of Organizational Change” in Harvard Business Review, Ron Carucci discusses ways leaders can create problems in change.

The three main pain points he discusses are:

  • Scope naiveté: Underestimating the work
  • Change laziness: Overestimating the organization’s capacity
  • The perceived pet project: Misjudging how others see you

Great article, I strongly recommend reading it.

For each of these democratic leadership is an effective path to avoiding.

  • Idealized Influence: By holding oneself accountable you spend the time to understand the organization’s capacity
  • Inspirational Motivation: Moving from pet project to what is best for the organization
  • Intellectual Stimulation: Strive to overcome scope naiveté
  • Decentralized decision-making: Get the organization bought in to accelerating the change
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