The Journey to Quality


Part 1: “Why is it so hard to get buy-in to quality improvement?”

Picture this…

You have the vision – or you’ve been assigned the vision – to make things better in your organisation. You’re leading the way, but strangely no one seems to be following. Sound familiar?

It’s one of the constant challenges we hear about getting the ‘quality improvement’ ball rolling with your team: How do you deal with resistance like I’m too busy to be involved OR This is your job OR You do the work, we’ll support from the sidelines?


First steps…

Quality improvement, we admit, isn’t a term that might inspire the masses. But what quality improvement can do for your team and your organisation can really be transformational. This is true whether you’re just starting the journey, or if your organisation is on their fifth review cycle and needing new ideas.

Whilst we don’t pretend to have all the answers, there are some approaches we have found over the years to be successful in creating a culture of quality improvement, and more importantly, keeping that culture sustainable. We suggest you rewrite these approaches in your own words – in words that will make sense to the people in your organisational culture.

Approach #1: Make ‘Quality Improvement’ sexy

Well, not literally, but framing quality improvement to be inviting is an important first step. Te Wana shouldn’t be a process separate from what you already do. It’s not a special add-on task. It’s just a tweak that should weave into what you already do. Start by asking your team:

  • Do we want to make a difference for our clients?
  • Do we want our work to flow easier?
  • Do we want to feel our organisation works to good standards?
  • Do we want to recognise (and be recognised) when we’re doing a good job?

Head-nodding and buy-in is what you’re after. And Te Wana is a programme that can help address those questions.

(And then while you’re at it, ask if anyone has a sexier term than Quality Improvement! Please!)

Approach #2: Tātou tātou everyone

From there, you want to work on how to get team ownership of the process. Questions like:

  • How do we record where we are at now?
  • How are we going to organise keeping track of the changes we make?
  • How do we make tweaks so they don’t feel like twerks?

Approach #3: Have plan, will travel!

Then, like any great journey, you’re going to need a map, a navigator, and a plan. Plus someone to be responsible for celebrating when you get to different destinations.

And you need to know where you’re going (so, like, you’ll know when you’ve got there).

Ask: Where do we want to get to? (Decisions and Vision)

  • Decide what is the vision for quality in your organisation.
  • Identify what do you want to use it for?

When the vision and purpose is clarified moving forward becomes more straightforward. Some examples of quality visioning could be:

  • to strengthen a client centred culture
  • to recognise and maintain good practice
  • a sense of common purpose
  • to break down work silos or support a change process

Remind everyone: ‘Quality improvement is not an additional ‘thing’, it’s a tweak to what we already do’

Good support amongst your colleagues is an essential element of excellence. As well as vision and values, a quality journey needs a structure and leadership for direction and pathways. Opportunities to improve the way things are done, or recorded, or reviewed, or the need to be recognised, then integrated into everyday plans. But…

  • your structure for quality improvement needs to ‘fit with’, and not be a burden to the way your organisation works
  • and how and what you decide to do must lead to better practice, not just ticking the compliance box

Support Framework and Ownership

A couple of tips…

  • give people a reasonable degree of input and control of the pathways and they’ll take better ownership of the process
  • also ensure the quality processes are fair, responsive and engaging – rather than imposed – there’s nothing more off-putting than what feels like more ‘to-do’s’

Enable Participation

Leaders in creating quality cultures (ie, You) need to be personally involved in improvement activities. Getting the most participation and sustainability is through shared understanding and effort across the organisation.

  • Communicate – talk face-to-face at least at the start so others can see how you’re fired up about quality improvement
  • Show people the quality system skills and experience they will gain from the process
  • Create regular, set agendas on quality topics and processes
  • Be innovative in the variety of inspiring ways that people can contribute to the process
  • Allow quality improvement to be everybody’s business so it can permeate all you do

And finally…

Promote Outcomes, aka Are we there yet? Yes we are!

Taking note of what did you use to do, and how has it improved now thanks to the quality improvement framework is the key to the sustainability of a quality culture? It’s vitally important to recognise and celebrate the efforts being made, and when the milestone you originally envisioned has been achieved. Think of how you will celebrate, ask how others want to be celebrated. Document your changes, communicate widely and celebrate!

Then it’s much easier to commit to continually review, to learn from experiences and be prepared to change where change will deliver improvement.

Your call to action

So have any of these approaches resonated with you that you could apply? What are some sticking points you encounter in creating a quality culture? Or what have been your experiences and ideas that have really worked for you to get people onto the quality culture-wagon? Share your thoughts in the Comment section on our website.

AUTHORS: Stephanie Pope and Vernon Waretini

Stephanie has been involved in quality improvement programmes since before they were a thing and Vernon is a natural-born creative editor.

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