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Explore the new best practice framework for quality & improvement

Published on 27 April 2020

Explore the new best practice framework for quality & improvement

To make a real difference, we need to focus on the right things and engage the right people. The cycle has this purpose at its heart, linked to best practice knowledge from the last 10 years. Get in touch if you would like to use it to benchmark or re-define your role and purpose as a function. We also invite you to help us develop the framework to use as an external audit or for accreditation, proving so valuable in planning.  

Operational purpose 
To set yourself up for success, you need a clear view of who defines this and how you track it. Spend time understanding these people and their priorities, linking back to the organisation’s strategy & KPIs. The Four Lens Model and the Strategy Pyramid (pg 86) are brilliant tools for this and agreement on a clear operational purpose at this stage can avoid a lot of wasted effort, later in the cycle. You will need to define (or redefine) your role by fleshing out how your quality and improvement heartbeat supports this purpose. What is success for customers? Or colleagues? What improvements are we driving? 

Establish outcomes & drivers
The second strategic stage defines delivery strategies for customers, colleagues, business & compliance. To be ‘fit for purpose’, what outcomes are you looking to drive? What is ‘good’? Work through the detail each type of contact or process, using pyramid principles. Use analysis & feedback to understand the drivers of each outcome and create models that look ahead (predictive). Next, map out your stakeholders and engage them in defining their role, accountability and expectations in relation to these outcomes. Include frontline colleagues, customer and process champions, business leaders and those responsible for regulatory or contractual standards. It’s not only your role that needs defining. 

Set your review framework
The next stage is to define your monitoring/assessment framework and review cycle (see box). For continuous improvement (CI), you need to use both colleague feedback and data-driven insight (Scientific Method pg65). For quality assessment (QA) you need to optimise questions in monitoring forms. Consider how you use them to develop people or improve processes. A new question (or data view) often uncovers new opportunities, but don’t have too many or you lose focus. Increasingly, monitoring is data-driven, with interaction analytics or machine learning (pg 56 & 62) ever more important. Automation of some kind is crucial in being able to do more with less and all this does require a distinct skill set. Remember to look at whole end-to-end customer journeys and monitor digital, back office or branch activity, as well as calls. 

Empower your people 
The last half of the cycle looks at how you manage learning, performance and improvement. They are connected, but here we focus on each stage in turn. Great people deliver great customer experience, so if you want to empower people, put this at the heart of your operating model, with individuals owning their own development. Be aware that what we often call performance ‘coaching’ is mostly not coaching at all. Better results are coming when we separate feedback (eg pulling information from PowerBI dashboards) from coaching (interactive, curiosity-based 1:1 sessions). Self-awareness is the foundation for this, so take great care to build it and induct new recruits into this way of thinking from the outset. 

Manage performance  
Performance management focusses on what matters most to the business, to deliver commercial targets or manage time/cost. Tailor this to an individual’s performance (eg those not performing vs role models). Separate the roles of coach, assessor & manager in supporting this. Avoid inherent conflict between metrics (common in balanced scorecards) and the use of different types of target (pg 55). Above all, align metrics (especially customer measures) and look at the end-to-end journey, since most inefficiencies are otherwise not visible. Finally, who gets involved? Understand how and why they become truly engaged and how they drive improvements. 

Innovate and improve 
Create improvement loops, using data or feedback to drive service recovery, improve process or knowledge and influence behaviour or feeling. There may be different stakeholders, risks, governance etc. Plan out the best approach for each, different processes within one single operating rhythm. Distinguish what works best for process/system change from an innovation – or a change in policy or operating model. Knowledge management is a key tool for process consistency. When you want to change behaviour, analyse what can block or drive this (for whom?) and how you best influence this. Metrics have a powerful impact, for better or for worse.  

Drivers of success
Understanding and learning is at the heart of the cycle, vital to improve the improvement process itself. Calibration (or ‘levelling’) gets us consistent about what is ‘good’, but do we have a discipline for getting better at improving? Most organisations work best when there is a strong underlying heartbeat of quality and improvement, together with other cycles specific to a theme or a business imperative (see box).

Finally, on the left of the diagram, five key activities power the improvement cycle. You can learn from the best, across many support functions. Join up data, with automation, and be quick to add new questions/data. Be sure your analysis is driving the right action & influencing strategy. Review where you focus and how you communicate and learn. Keep future-proofing your career!

Do you need to redefine your Review Cycle? 
Most organisations work best when there is a strong underlying heartbeat of quality & improvement, plus other cycles which are specific, time-limited and linked to a theme or a business imperative.

  1. Review your current operating rhythms. Do you hold weekly, monthly or quarterly reviews for quality or performance improvement? Is there a separate continuous improvement cycle? Is the focus on quality or improvement distinct, or lost in general business reviews? 
  2. Establish what needs to change. A single business-as-usual ‘heartbeat’ is far more effective than siloed meetings. Drive oxygen around the body by building shared habits for powering improvement, both behaviour and process. 
  3. Projects or corporate initiatives will have separate governance and the cycle can help you here too. Try an ‘agile’ approach, as quality and improvement are especially well suited to iterative development.

This article was first published in the 2020 Best Practice Guide - 2020 Vision: Crystallising your knowledge

To download a full digital copy of the Best Practice Guide, click here

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