Saying you want your company to deliver quality products or services is easy. Actually doing it is tougher. One essential step is to come up with quality metrics, objective standards for measuring your product and the quality and efficiency of the manufacturing process. Without good metrics, you're just guessing that what you're offering the customer is high quality.
Quality metrics should be measurable, actionable, trackable, maintained, updated and tied to business goals.
There's no set of metrics that works for every company in every industry. You have to choose metrics that are relevant to your industry and the goods or services you offer customers. However, there are some standards that apply to choosing metrics in any industry. Metrics should be:
- Measurable: "Lots of the products work." isn't as good a metric as "99 percent of them work."
- Actionable: You're measuring a property you can work to improve, such as durability or customer satisfaction.
- Trackable over time: If you can't monitor a metric, you can't tell if the quality's improving.
- Maintained and updated regularly.
- Tied to business goals: If your customers don't care how long your product lasts, durability may not be a good quality metric to focus on.
Another term for quality metrics is key performance indicators (KPI).
You can think of the quality metrics for your project or company as a scorecard listing KPI. It's the equivalent of judging a baseball player by runs batted in, strikes, fouls and homers. As different industries play different games, their scorecards use different standards.
A tool manufacturer's quality metrics, for example, might include:
- Tensile strength: How much pulling can it stand before breaking?
- Shear strength: How easy is it to cut or snap?
- How much metal scrap is left over in manufacturing?
- How many defective products does the process turn out?
- Customer satisfaction.
If a company wants to see if its project managers are delivering good service, the KPI scorecard would have different checkboxes:
- How much has the team spent on the project? Cost includes manpower, resources and raw materials.
- How does this compare to the budget? If the project is 50-percent complete, but the budget is 75 percent used up, that might be a bad sign.
A KPI pharmaceutical industry scorecard would have yet another list of metrics:
- The number of patients receiving company medicines.
- The number of patients participating in clinical trials.
- The number of new formulas under development.
- The number of new drugs that received regulatory approval.
Some items on the checklists may overlap across industries. Customer satisfaction, share price and the number of workplace accidents are relevant in most industries.