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How Training & Development Can Foster a Culture of Quality

Achieving and sustaining a culture of quality in manufacturing is extremely difficult. Quality products aren't simply the result of a "quality initiative". Quality initiatives tend to be glossy, executive sponsored and short lived. Enduring quality is the result of a culture of quality!

A sustainable culture of quality is a top down philosophy. And it's a bottom up culture. It really does start at the top. But it must be adopted at the bottom.

The Harvard Business Review defines a culture of quality as "...a culture in which employees “live” quality in all their actions—where they are passionate about quality as a personal value rather than simply obeying an edict from on high." HBR adds that a “true culture of quality” is an "environment in which employees not only follow quality guidelines but also consistently see others taking quality-focused actions, hear others talking about quality, and feel quality all around them."

That very same HBR article goes on to say that "traditional training solutions have failed to achieve the cultural change necessary to sustain a quality environment." While my experiences validate that opinion, I believe that it applies only to traditional approaches to training and development. Today's learning technologies provides solutions that reach far beyond the traditional. And training today encompasses much more than courses and assessments. Training and development can (and needs to be) a key component in creating and sustaining this culture.

To achieve this culture of excellence you must first identify your audiences. This exercise will likely bring two key audiences front and center: manufacturing personnel and suppliers. In other words, the culture must exist internally, with your manufacturing teams, and externally with your supplier network. Your distribution channel also has an ongoing role in your quality initiative but it’s a different animal and requires a slightly different approach. I will cover that in a future article.

Now that you’ve identified your two over-arching audiences, you should consider further defining sub-audiences. On the external supplier side, I don’t believe that this applies. Internally, however, you should further delineate Quality Managers (senior manufacturing executives, corporate quality executives, senior supervisors, etc.) and Quality Practitioners (manufacturing floor, show supervisors, managers, etc.)

Once the audiences are defined it’s important to educate and galvanize these targets around your quality initiative. You’ll want to create a virtual resource and gathering place for each audience. My recommendation is to create a "hub" of quality, aka portal, for each of the key audiences i.e. your manufacturing teams, your quality supervisors/executives and your suppliers.

This diagram shows the key features and functions that comprise a powerful quality culture portal.

By integrating the features and functions shown in the attached graphic you’ll achieve 4 key components necessary for any successful training and development program:





Once you’ve defined your audiences, created your Quality portals, you now need to populate your environments with content and programs.

1.Learning content

2.Quality certifications

3.Best practice forums

4.Badging, incentive and recognition programs

5.Gaming (as a form of competition and motivation)


Once this is done, a marketing and communication strategy is required to create awareness, drive usability and sustain usage.

This is a sophisticated initiative but the financial benefits are almost unlimited. For more information, samples of related solutions and a look at enabling technologies and services, please check out our website at

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