Start Here. Establish Formal Improvement Efforts

in Leadership, Quality as an Organizational Strategy (QOS)
Photo by Per Lööv on Unsplash


By David M. Williams, Ph.D.

Where do you start your journey to adopt Quality as an Organizational Strategy (QOS)? It’s tempting to approach this work like an educational program or theoretical exercise, but the theories and methods are only worth pursuing if they support continually improving and getting results that position your organization for a sustainable future. 

Every organization has problems you are actively working to fix or new work you want to develop. These don’t go away because leaders start the QOS journey. It’s also likely one or more approaches for problem-solving are in use and their results vary or just aren’t there. Learning to improve processes and services in your organization is an essential skill. Starting with the work right in front of you and using improvement methods with renewed discipline is the best place to learn and improve your system.

Where to begin? There is no secret starting line for improvement. Here are good sources to get going:

  • Look at what improvement efforts are in progress right now
  • Review your strategic plans and the strategic objectives
  • Look at the last few leadership agendas 
  • Where is there known drag or rework?
  • Turn to your teams and ask them what problems need fixing

Be cautious of project ideas that are on “wish lists” or represent infrequent events. These may be important and find their way into the queue for a future round. Working on what matters right now is ideal.

Next, use the three questions from the Model for Improvement to draft a one-page charter.

  • What are we trying to accomplish (aim)?
  • How will we know a change is an improvement (measures)?
  • What changes can we make that will result in improvement (changes)?

If a project already has a charter, review it against the questions to learn and locate opportunities to build on the work. Review the current progress and assesses what would help the project team achieve its aim.

A leadership team member should participate in each improvement effort. Serving as an executive sponsor often accomplishes this aim.

You are looking for a set of projects to help move the organization forward. The key is, to begin with the work in progress, reduce any friction from moving projects forward, and focus on using improvement tools and methods to get the desired results. You are setting up a system to manage your current and future improvement efforts. A method to identify, charter, resource, and track improvement across the organization.

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Note: Establishing formal improvement efforts is the first milestone of Quality as an Organizational Strategy (QOS).