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A Quality Culture Begins with Communication

Quality Culture CommunicationEarlier in my career working at a young software company, I found myself at odds with one of the founders over our organizational culture. The conflict was not what our culture was, but rather how we, as leaders, ensured employees embraced and furthered the culture. Actually, we debated not on how but if we should communicate the culture.

My fellow manager thought specific sharing of our culture unnecessary, as it was “known in the hearts and souls and minds” of all the team. I respectfully disagreed then and now. My experience over twenty years working with companies from startup to F100 has taught me a few lessons, sometimes painfully. Organizational culture is made and must be communicated to become truly embedded.

What has this to do with quality? Everything. The American Productivity and Quality Center (APQC) classifies culture and the dynamics of an organization as “deep knowledge,” alongside familiarity with proprietary systems and understanding of a company’s products, services, and specialized processes. In a previous blog post, we discussed that well-designed quality solutions like Arena Quality support and encourage a quality culture through content management, business process support, and visibility. However, irrespective of any solutions’ value, the goodness of systems can not be fully realized without a disciplined implementation of culture across the organization.

The APQC report specifies four areas that can be accessed to build a quality culture: content management (enterprise systems like Arena QMS and Arena PLM), technical management (standard processes, knowledge share, mentoring), HR/talent management (training, career tracks, competency management, hiring) and knowledge management (formal knowledge capture, communities of practice). The report is worth reading. However, it does not provide much direction on the communication of quality culture—setting the standards and expectations that will truly weld them into the culture of the enterprise. At that software company a decade ago, I learned that communication of a quality culture is the first step. Then, and only then, can the great tools, enterprise systems, and management techniques be used to extend and support that culture.

Here are my guiding aphorisms on organizational culture:

– Organizations are not organic; they have been created with a specific mission and goals.

– Therefore, a healthy organizational culture is also not organic—it will not just happen. It must be purposefully, thoughtfully built, shared, and embraced.

– For lasting adoption, the business culture must be driven from the top-down, not bottom-up, or sideways, and must be done across the teams and cross-functional disciplines – no silos!

“Only three things happen naturally in organizations: friction, confusion, and underperformance. Everything else requires leadership.”  Peter Drucker