How to Make All Business Units Care About Quality & Customer Experience

Peter Robustelli Blog

“How do we make all roles care about quality and customer experience?” This is a question that we hear repeatedly and at all levels of different organizations. If so many people are aware of this weakness, why aren’t they doing something about it? The answer is they are not organized or structured in a manner that will make this a reality.

“little q” (Functional Quality)

Many of the organizations that we work with or assess have a common theme running through them. We call it “little q.” Defining what “little q” is, is the first step towards understanding the topic of this blog. When we say “little q” (notice all lower case) we are talking about the traditional role that the Quality department plays in most organizations. In manufacturing it is typically inspection, audit, calibration, etc.; in service it is compliance, audit, standards, etc. From these descriptions you can see that these are very functional and narrow in nature. The responsibilities are siloed even though they may interface with many parts of the organization. This leads to the question, how do you change “little q” into “BIG Q?” And what is “BIG Q?”

Article: Big Q, Little Q, and Baldrige

“BIG Q” (Cross-Functional Quality)

At Juran, we define “BIG Q” as the integration of a quality system across the entire organization. All departments and functions participate and it is led by the senior leadership team. In the words of our founder Dr. Joseph Juran, “quality is everybody’s business, especially that of Upper Management. They must become educated and well versed in the application of quality methods and drive it through the business.” We are firm believers in this proven concept and there are many examples of it to look back upon. Jack Welch at GE, Herve Humler of the Ritz Carlton, Janet Wagner at Sutter Davis Hospital, and the list goes on. These individuals turned their organizations into customer centric high-value companies by driving home the idea that quality and customer focus was everyone’s business, not just a chosen few.

Article: Little q to BIG Q & Back Again by CEO of Juran, Dr. Joseph A. DeFeo

How does it start?

You begin with the Senior leadership team accepting the fact that you are “little q” and only they can change that. It can’t be delegated, assigned, cajoled, threatened, or bribed out of the organization. They must take an active role in defining a Strategic Quality Plan that will affect all parts of the organization. Long term goals must be established at the highest level (4–5), metrics must be applied to them and baselined, decomposed into annual increments, and deployed down through the organization. These goals will have the same importance and weight as the financial and operational ones that they review regularly and are integrated into the regular review cadence.

Infrastructure Requirements

There must be a support structure established that will help train, facilitate, and support the organization in their execution against these goals. The infrastructure leader will have a seat on the Senior Leadership team and will focus on driving improvement and customer focus (external and internal) on a day-to-day basis by working directly with business leaders and their staff to make this a way of life (within the organization). Fundamentally acting as a change agent to remake the corporate culture leads to embracing “Big Q,” and everyone begins to accept it as part of their daily work.

Tall order

Yes, this is a tall order and big pill to swallow. But the transformation from little q to BIG Q is not a shallow undertaking, nor is it something that is accomplished in 3–6 months, more like 2–3 years! Is it worth it? Just Google the National Quality Award winners and look at their stock prices against the S&P — you will get an idea. It is not for the light-hearted, but the rewards are immense, both financially and culturally.

Good Luck.



For more information on types of quality and how Juran can use it to improve your productivity, please get in touch with the team.


Check out Juran’s
LSS Training Courses
Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt
Lean Six Sigma Green Belt
Lean Six Sigma Black Belt
Upgrade to Black Belt
Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt
Lean Expert Program