Creating a Quality Culture

The Water Quality Association's (WQA) Gold Seal Program consists of five different departments: certification, laboratory, facility assessment, sales and quality. Each of these departments essentially works independently of one another; however, each department focuses on many of the same goals, including the two main goals—quality and customer service.

Without quality, good customer service would not be possible. Quality control activities, which include consistent internal audits and other daily tasks, help promote consumer, regulator and manufacturer confidence in product certifications.

Quality assurance must be implemented in all facets of an organization; however, not all employees are focused on the nitty-gritty details of quality assurance without sometimes being reminded.

Without having a one-to-one quality manager-to-employee ratio, how does an organization’s quality control system ensure that all employees care about quality? Some may find the answer in teamwork.


Promoting Cooperation & Teamwork

As individuals, we are in a continuous pursuit of personal growth in ourselves, our families and within our jobs; however, today’s working environment for many companies often promotes the concept of teamwork, which at times demands an individual to sacrifice personal gain for the better of the group.

So how does an organization motivate its employees to work together for a common goal, even if it means personal sacrifice? Rewarding employees with some sort of monetary goal seems to work for most organizations, but even that can present challenges when it comes to promoting mutual cooperation while encouraging independence and new ideas.

Take for instance Robert Axelrod’s Prisoner’s Dilemma, in which there are two players in a situation and each chooses to either cooperate or defect. The results of the game demonstrate that both will gain when both cooperate but if only one cooperates, the other who defected will gain more. Alternatively, if neither cooperates and both defect, both will lose but not as much as the one whose cooperation is not returned. The table below demonstrates these outcomes with hypothetical points:

  • R is a Reward for mutual cooperation: When both players cooperate, they receive the (R).
  • T is the Temptation to defect payoff: When one player defects and the other cooperates, the one who defects receives the (T).
  • S is the Sucker payoff: When one player defects and the other cooperates, the one who cooperates receives the (S).
  • P is for Punishment for mutual defection payoff: When both players defect they receive the (P).

Much research has been conducted using this scenario, yet the challenge or dilemma of finding strategies to promote mutual cooperation is still being pursued. This concept can be applied to many situations, especially since the ultimate outcome is for both to cooperate.

Even though not all organizations find themselves in a dilemma necessarily, it is important to understand and impart the concept of teamwork in order to ensure all employees value the goal of meeting quality expectations, and to avoid selfishness and greed whenever possible.

The WQA emphasizes the importance of quality in everyday tasks, in addition to how one’s work will affect another’s work—in essence, teamwork.

In general, an organization’s success depends on the ability of each of its parts to succeed. The importance of properly training employees and promoting teamwork, combined with synergy, will ultimately lead to maximized success.

Editor’s note: In last month’s WQA Forum, author Pauli Undesser was inadvertently listed as ‘he’ in the author bio. However, Undesser is a female certification manager on the WQA’s staff. Water Quality Products apologizes for this error.

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About the author

Allison Corwin is quality manager for the Water Quality Association. Corwin can be reached at 630.505.0160 or by e-mail at [email protected].