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As quality of life is getting better and better, same thing must follow the process. More progress is needed and possible as customers demand better quality, better service, and lower prices. Using Lean Six Sigma analysis and other quality improvement approaches has shown us that quality improvement is profitable and can improve an organization’s bottom line. Individual quality methods may come and go, but improvement will never go out of style.

field of grass and happy young man

The Reason Behind Holistic Approach

Some argue that quality improvement has been most successful in manufacturing operations. Now, the problem is how to expand the quality improvement approach beyond the factory floor to the entire organization. Even in a manufacturing plant, there are many non-manufacturing processes needed to ensure the plant functions properly.

There is much improvement potential and bottom line impact outside of manufacturing as there is in manufacturing. While the cost of quality is generally in the 20%-30% range in manufacturing, it can reach 40%-50% in financial and administrative processes. There are lots of opportunities for major improvement and that a ‘one size fits all’ approach doesn’t work to make all quality problems go away.

That is why a holistic approach to broad-based quality improvement is the most applicable way to build and sustain a successful quality culture. This approach can integrate multiple methods that fit the specific problem at hand. First, we need to define a holistic approach and then show how it can make an organization’s improvement initiatives more effective.

1. Big Picture Thinking

An effective way to expand quality improvement across the organization is to look at the big picture. A company must view its organization as a system that can be studied and improved. Systemwide improvement must provide diverse tools to improve any aspect of the business, at any location around the world, in any culture, in any business function. Integrating multiple approaches that have proven effective with specific types of problems will increase chances for success.

Holistic improvement is defined as: “An improvement system that can successfully create and sustain significant improvements of any type, in any culture for any business.”


Characteristics of Holistic Improvement
– Applies in all areas of the business – all functions, all processes
– Applies in all cultures, providing a common language and tool set
– Can address all measures of performance
– Quality, cost, delivery and customer satisfaction
– Addresses all aspects of process management: Process design/redesign, improvement and control
– Addresses all types of improvement: Streamlining, waste and cycle time reduction, quality improvement, process robustness, etc.
– Includes management systems for improvement
– Plans, goals, budgets, and management reviews
– Focuses on developing an improvement culture: Uses improvement as a leadership development tool

These improvement methods integrate a variety of individual tools and approaches such as lean enterprise, Six Sigma, “workout,” TRIZ (the theory of inventive problem solving), and the theory of constraints, to name just a few. The critical step in diagnosing the problem and determining the solution is the project identification and selection. The organization’s improvement system must be robust enough to handle any problem the organization encounters in the course of its improvement work and clearly requires integration of multiple methodologies for success.

2. Strategic Areas that Impact Holistic Improvement

Based on ASQ’s 2015 Future of Quality Report, there are some strategic areas in the 21st century that can affect the impact of holistic improvement significantly. Those areas are leadership by top management, strategic thinking, addressing mission critical projects, use of Big Data and focusing on process and product robustness to reduce the effects of human error.

The diagram shows how strategic focus items work synergistically to build the quality culture needed to drive and sustain holistic improvement and improve performance that benefits all stakeholders.


3. Make Leadership a Priority

CEOs and other top executives have to take the lead to support quality improvement initiatives as successful holistic. CEOs like Jack Welch at GE, Chad Holliday at DuPont and Jim McNerney at Boeing have demonstrated that this approach leads to performance excellence.

4. Strengthen Strategic Thinking

Strategic thinking is an important aspect of leadership to success. It is all about planning, and it is central to the effective deployment of holistic improvement and creating a sustainable quality culture.


5. Create a Clear Quality Vision & Culture   

Based on the recent ASQ/Forbes Insights “Culture of Quality” white paper, it is found that most executives realize, quality culture is needed to engage an organization in the pursuit of holistic quality improvement and to sustain that pursuit over time.

6. Solve Mission Critical Problems 

Holistic approach can be used to attack a large problem by launching multiple, coordinated improvement projects, each using different tools based on the attributes of the problem on which they are focused. Contradicted with Six Sigma and lean that tend to miss the large, so-called “mission critical” problems that the organization faces.

These problems mostly take a large amount of time and effort to identify and solve because they show up as large, complex and unstructured. And other reasons include fear of failure, management may overlook such complex problems for “lower hanging fruit” where success is almost guaranteed.

This approach can lead to winning the battles but losing the war, as a successful series of minor projects does not bring the breakthrough improvements that senior leaders expect.


7. Use Big Data to Help Solve Previously Unsolvable Problems

Big Data offers the opportunity for quality professionals and others to solve problems previously thought to be unsolvable. Customer surveys can help us better understand customer needs and experiences. Collecting and integrating manufacturing data with customer data can help improve products and processes.

8. Focus on Product and Process Robustness to Reduce Human Errors

Recent world disasters make it clear that improvement initiatives need to pay closer attention to human error, which is better characterized as human variation. One opportunity is greater use of concepts, methods and tools of robustness to create products, manufacturing processes and human work processes that can remain effective despite human variation.


Improvement professionals have to mitigate human variation. The major need and opportunity is to create products and processes that perform well even when faced with lack of human attention, experience and expertise.


Improvement never goes out of style. Organizations not only have to look for improvement beyond the factory floor, but also to be more strategic than restricting their efforts to the most recently publicized tool. Along the way a quality culture will develop that will sustain the improvement efforts over time and continually bring significant benefits to the performance of the organization.

Source : Industry Week

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