Although the amount of M&A activity may be somewhat reduced this year (pdf), it has fallen from a bumper 2015 when more was spent on corporate dealmaking than ever before (tiered paywall).
What the past 18 months or so of spending does mean, however, is that many managers around the world are struggling to integrate new businesses into existing organizational structures, processes, and cultures. Corporate Quality teams have a role to play here too.
While functional responsibilities like marrying quality assurance plans and quality management systems (QMS), will fall on the team’s shoulders, none of it will be done efficiently if Quality staff and the business are not equipped to handle these changes.
Two Roles to Play
To keep their employees and the business on track, heads of Quality should do two things. First, prepare Quality employees to handle the change and disruption that comes with the integration of a new company and, second, prevent the business from losing sight of Quality initiatives during the integration process.
1. Start with your own employees: When a major change occurs, management tend to focus on proper communication and building employee-level commitment to the change – most of which comes from the firm’s corporate strategy and often feels disconnected from the daily activities of Quality employees.
While commitment and communication are important, this alone isn’t enough to make any change a success. Quality managers should also equip staff members with the resources they need to adapt to the situation, and instill confidence in employees that they will be able to cope with the challenges presented by change. These are two major elements of what makes an employee “change-capable.”
To do this, managers should start by asking: “What resources will my employee need and how can I provide them?” These questions will help with that.
- What will your employees be asked to do differently during and after integration? For example, will they have more direct reports? Are they working to certify new suppliers?
- What can employees stop doing to unlock capacity for work on these newly required activities? For example, what low-value activities can they suspend to focus on what’s required during integration?
- Which people and functions will the employee need to work with after the change? For example, will your employees be working with new stakeholders who are unfamiliar with your Quality team?
- How does the change impact the expertise and capabilities the employee needs to get the job done? For example, if employees are taking on new or additional responsibilities, should they be paired with a mentor for additional guidance?
- Are new tools, rules, or processes needed, and how are they best provided? For example, are there execution barriers that Quality leaders need to address?
- If new skills are necessary, how will we deliver training prior to and throughout the transition? For example, do more employees require six sigma training?
After planning for all of these considerations, don’t forget to instill confidence in your direct reports by reminding them of their past successes. Employees who recognize the similarities between a current change and what they dealt with in the past will feel more confident in their ability to move forward.
2. Don’t let the business forget about Quality: So much of what goes on across the company can affect the quality of its products or services, and during times of flux, business units run the risk losing sight of important Quality initiatives.
Even if your staff has the resources and confidence they need to handle integration, Quality teams must focus their efforts on keeping the business focused on quality improvements, and sustaining a “culture of quality” during times of transition.
The key is to make Quality initiatives “easy” for business partners as they will be busy navigating specific details of their own integration process. Any addition of Quality-sponsored initiatives to their to-do list will be met with resistance. With this in mind, you must demonstrate to your internal partners that the work you need them to do won’t require a lot of extra effort. This works better than trying to convince them of the importance of a specific Quality initiative.
Of course, you can’t say it won’t be burdensome if you can’t back it up. Three techniques can help you reduce business partners’ effort when taking on Quality initiatives.
- Incorporate business partner concerns into the planning process for Quality initiatives: During planning, Quality staff too often only consider customer impact without pausing to think about how initiatives may affect business partners.Instead of addressing concerns as they arise, Biogen Idec – a member of CEB’s global network of corporate Quality teams – considers business partner effort an implementation risk, and incorporates their concerns into the Quality initiative planning process.
- Ensure initiatives have the right level of Quality support: When Quality staff think about how much support to provide internal stakeholders, they tend to guesstimate based on whether they think the initiative is harder or easier than previous projects.This Quality-centric view often leads to over- or under-staffed initiatives. To help solve this problem, one company in CEB’s member networks created execution support profiles to standardize the level of support from Quality based on how the initiative stacked up against specific criteria. By taking into account factors like downstream affects and the level of communication required, Quality can better scope the level of support they should provide.
- Understand how well your Quality team manages business partner effort: When deciding whether or not to take on a Quality project, 74% of managers and frontline staff care more about the effort involved than the ROI of the project, according to CEB analysis.Unfortunately, only 45% of business partners say Quality makes it easy for them to act on new initiatives. CEB Quality Leadership Council members should use the Business Partner Effort Survey to measure and understand how well their function supports business partners.