How to Build a Culture of Quality in Your Organization

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How do you judge the quality of a product, organization or business? I recently heard a story about someone from the hospitality industry. He would enter a hotel lobby and head towards the public restrooms. If they were clean and in good condition, the hotel would get his seal of approval. What’s the rationale behind the toilet test? Many hotels will make an effort with their lobby and their rooms, but the shared restrooms are a relatively hidden part of the building that many guests will never see.

The theory goes that if the hotel staff are making an effort to keep even its public bathrooms clean, you can safely assume the hotel is in good shape overall. In the words of Henry Ford, “Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.” Quality matters to all of us. We think about it in decisions we make every day, particularly if we’re thinking about buying a product. And the higher the price, the more important quality becomes — you have to justify that premium. As business owners, we need to build trust with our customers in the quality of our products so they will make the decision to choose our offerings.

So, how do you ensure that the quality of your products meets the highest standards? It starts with building a culture of quality in your organization. If you focus on quality in every aspect of your organization, from the people to the processes, to the work environment and beyond, you’ll be well-placed to create a high-quality product and a superior overall experience for your customers.

Related: Discover How Product Quality Can Distinguish Your Brand From Competitors

Defining quality in your organization

It’s important to spend some time thinking about how your company defines quality in order to hold yourself accountable to that high standard. There are some areas where this is easier than others. For example, all developers know that they need to avoid “spaghetti code” — disorganized coding that’s hard for other developers to read, understand and fix if needed. You need to write your code in a clear, clean and organized way, aligned with your internal R&D standards so that anyone can quickly understand it and edit it in the future.

With areas like content, where quality is much more subjective, you need to create and deploy clear company guidelines. For example, you can create a design system and a brand book to maintain a consistent quality of your design and text assets across your product and marketing materials.

You’ll also need to define quality for specific domains that are relevant to your company. Early on in building our business, we had to create a standard for songs in our catalog. We identified three areas to focus on: technical (the mixing and mastering), the production, and a comparison with similar music externally. Each of these areas was further defined to make sure that our entire music team would be able to evaluate music in a similar way and maintain the standard.

Creating an environment that supports quality

Quality is in the details, and that also goes for your work environment. The right lighting, temperature and furniture can make a big difference to your employees’ comfort, concentration and productivity. And there are many other areas where you can focus on getting the details right. For example, the overall cleanliness of the office, the produce in your kitchens, your company events and even branded merch. When quality is felt in every aspect of your organization, you create a culture.

It’s also essential to create an atmosphere that supports continuous improvement. By providing your teams with actionable data and an environment that encourages people to act based on these insights, you’ll empower them to raise the quality of their results and your organization as a whole. By supporting measured risk-taking, you’ll energize people to try new things and learn from their successes and mistakes. They’ll then implement what they’ve learned into their work, elevating the quality and giving them a sense of personal development and fulfillment. And this matters.

In general, people want to feel that they’re doing good work. So, if you create a culture of quality, it makes people feel like they’re doing quality work, which in turn makes them proud of their work. This makes them perform better, which makes your product and brand better. And the effect trickles down everywhere.

A quality product makes customer support better as well — their job is easier as they’re able to stand behind the product with confidence, and they get fewer tickets.

Related: Why Quality Over Quantity Matters When You’re Scaling a Business

Building teams and processes with quality at the center

If a team has one standout star performer, it creates a bottleneck. You need to build teams with a level of quality that’s evenly spread so that if people are sick or on vacation, you don’t miss them or feel the need to stop work. Here it comes back to your definition of quality, which should also apply to your employees. You need to make sure that you hire people who fit your definition, to have fantastic teams, not star solo performers.

Quality is also measured in the places your customers won’t see, such as your processes. Rigorous quality assurance (QA) needs to be built into every aspect of your workflow. Encouraging peer-to-peer QA inside teams has the added benefit of helping people grow and develop based on feedback from their colleagues.

If we apply the hotel restroom example to a SaaS company, I think the equivalent is their customer service. I look at what channels are available to contact them, how long it takes them to respond and the way they communicate in their replies. These interactions give you an indication of the quality of the company. Consider that for every person who complains, there are probably hundreds, or even thousands, who have the same frustrations but don’t have the energy to reach out.

Related: Why Establishing High Expectations Is a Quality of Good Leadership

In conclusion, quality drives impact. By giving your users the best content, tools and experience, you’ll build a sustainable brand with quality at the center. It’s important early on in the development of your business to define what it means in the context of your organization and to align the whole team. It’s something you’ll need to track and measure, and you will probably need to update your definition as you grow.

By focusing on quality, you’ll have better people working with better processes and creating a better product. You’ll be able to be more agile and adjust to new challenges and opportunities. And best of all, you’ll have happier customers who’ll trust your brand and become your biggest advocates.

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