Why Your Continuous Quality Improvement is a Joke. CQI starts with CQL.

Photo: Manu Shwendener on Unsplash

Photo: Manu Shwendener on Unsplash


Your CQI stinks. You're not alone.

I've been around . . . and there are a few things I know about CQI.

First, organizations love the idea of--or are forced to espouse a commitment to--continuous quality improvement. Often this focus is driven by leadership's desire to "be the best" but pragmatically, it is more likely driven by the demands of accrediting and licensing bodies, pragmatics of positioning and branding, the need to have controls on key processes, etc.

Second, while leaders may believe in the philosophy and practice of CQI, it often operates more like a "task to be completed," or a "process to be done before the next audit," or metrics to "prove we are doing the job.". Rarely, is it functioning as a vibrant value of the organizational mission.

Third, employees are much less optimistic about CQI. They often see it as a "big stick" waiting to get them for failing, a nuisance or meaningless task to satisfy some external body (accreditation, foundation), and/or a task to complete as efficiently and painlessly as possible so they can "get on" with their real job.

Want CQI? Then you need CQL!

So why isn't continuous quality a more successful driver of organization success? Mostly because employees don't see a leadership commitment to CQL.  What is CQL?  Continuous Quality Leadership. Leaders with a commitment and drive to continue to improve their leadership.

Ask employees, "How do your leaders improve their ability to lead the organization?" Mostly, you'll get a blank stare. Maybe, there will be a mention of some training the leader recently attended, a certification or honor they received, or you may get a mention of a strategic planning process. But mostly . . . a confused and polite stare.

CQL leads to CQI

If you, as a leader, want employees to see continuous improvement as a value--then model it. Tell them about your focus for qualitatively improving . . . the area(s) that you want to improve as a leader. No, this does not mean engaging in some self-flagellating, faux humbling, "I'm not very good at Z." It means stating clearly that as a leader, or leadership team, we are going to focus on improving our ability to open up new markets, develop an improved employee engagement process, develop our community partnerships . . . some developmental goal that will improve the organization.

Speak plainly. Don't rely on a vague mission statement or some global goals. Get real. If they see that continuous improvement is important to you, it is more likely to become important to them. The reason your continuous quality improvement is a joke is because, to you as a leader, they think it doesn't really matter.

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