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Quality Creates...Perspective

How to Use Proven Happiness Principles to Improve Quality Management

Rachel Beavins Tracy
by Rachel Beavins Tracy on Tue, Feb 28, 2017

In Shawn Achor’s bestselling How to Use Proven Happiness Principles to Improve Quality Managementbook The Happiness Advantage, he describes how the traditional idea that success leads to happiness is completely backwards. He tells us that in reality, it’s happiness that breeds success.

Throughout the book, he points to endless numbers of studies showing that everyone from financial managers to factory employees perform better when they are happier at work.

And it’s not about pretending to be happy, or deluding yourself that everything is great when it’s not. It’s about using simple techniques to build a competitive advantage, something highly relevant to improving quality and customer satisfaction.

Increasing Moments of Joy

Early in the book, Achor points to a study showing how giving doctors a little boost of joy resulted in faster and more accurate diagnoses. The funny thing is, all researchers did was give each doctor a lollipop. The doctors didn’t even have time to eat it before reviewing the patient chart.

The point is that even short bursts of happiness-inducing activities can impact how we function. It’s why Google provides play areas, snack bars and nap pods for employees—they recognize that happier workers are more creative, and better equipped to solve problems.

Even if you can’t give just a Google-style makeover, consider ways to make the workplace happier. Free snacks, good coffee or a foosball table in the break room will pay dividends when it comes to engagement and productivity.

Building Better Teams

Leaders who give good feedback have stronger teams, outperforming those with less encouraging leaders by 31%. On corporate teams, performance suffers if each negative interaction isn’t balanced out by at 3 positive ones (get that up to 6, and that’s when teams really perform best).

Providing feedback can be as simple as a thank-you email, or as creative as having employees pass around a weekly award consisting of a goofy stuffed animal to recognize hard work. If giving positive feedback doesn’t come naturally, make it a point to start each meeting by thanking a team member for a specific contribution to the team.

Finding Meaning in Work

One key area where happiness can improve quality management is to redefine how we look at our work. If you’re looking at reviewing specifications, documents or open corrective action requests as a chore, that’s what it will be. If you look at it instead as improving quality and helping deliver a product that will bring someone joy, your work becomes much more meaningful.

Focusing on the Right Things

In the quality management world, it’s easy to get stuck in a pattern of only recognizing the negative. To fight against this, quality professionals can cultivate gratitude (see above) and optimism.   

Studies show that simply believing we can do things makes them possible. Before the advent of quality management, who would have thought it was even possible to get down to just 3.4 defects per million opportunities? And yet, that’s just what thousands of companies who have implemented Six Sigma methodologies are doing every day.

Capitalizing on Failure

In times of crisis, it’s those who can turn failure into opportunity who come out on top. Just look at the companies who survived—and even thrived—during the Great Recession.

Using the Quality Management System (QMS) effectively can help you do the same, particularly if you’re using collaborative Corrective Action and Risk Management software. Just as important is sharing the findings, so everyone can benefit.

Cultivating Good Habits

Sometimes we know what we need to do, but motivating ourselves to do it can sap our energy. Studies show self-control is a limited resource (imagine being on a crash diet and having to meet a big deadline at work), so finding ways to make good habits easier is essential.

For example, a few key tools can make once time-consuming reporting much easier:

  • Configuring custom dashboards within the QMS so you don’t have to go looking for key information.
  • Creating report templates for automatic distribution to reduce time spent gathering and processing information.
  • Setting up alerts for key events such as high-risk equipment maintenance issues or customer complaints.

Socializing for Resilience

During times of crisis or stress, companies have observed that tightly knit teams are better prepared to weather challenges. When people retreat into their shells, that’s when teams struggle with rising absentee rates, increased health care costs and declining performance.

Studies show a strong social support network helps mitigate the effects of stress, improving results, motivation and learning. In fact, how team members feel about one other is the greatest predictor of a department’s success.

The lesson? Make time for social interaction. Live the example, and make it part of the structure. Making time to get together for lunch—or just a few minutes for a cup of coffee—will pay off in the long run. 

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