Projects in today’s workplace are riddled with partially met milestones, unfinished tasks and a general lack of follow through as it relates to everyday work. Why? Why do we believe there is a positive correlation between the quantity of work performed and the quality of work performed? Is it because we tell ourselves that staying busy must mean that we are doing quality work? Well, that is complete nonsense.
Now, more than in previous working generations, it has become imperative that we begin holding the quality of our work in high regard.
The majority of the time, as employees, we tend to compare our work to that of our peers, and since the workplace is a “what have you done for me lately” environment those who seem to be completing projects and work at a rapid pace are glorified while those who do not are often ostracized. However, focusing on this high quantity low-quality formula has significant drawbacks in the big picture. Yes, in the short term, the praise for work completed feels fantastic, and you feel on top of the world. Unfortunately, it will only be a matter of time before the foundation begins to crumble and what was previously seen as an accomplishment now looks like a gigantic mess. When we fail to take a proactive approach to establishing a quality mindset around our work the results are typically felt in a number of ways. Let’s call them the 3 R’s:
Rework, by business definition, is the correcting of a failed, defective or non-conforming item. It is a non-value added activity that results in a net loss for the organization and is absolutely attributable to a lack of quality surrounding the work. Take a moment to think about how many projects you have worked on that required rework. Now think about how much time could have been saved if that rework were not necessary. Focusing on quality over quantity can go a long way in preventing this.
A failure to produce quality work has a ripple effect that extends far beyond the individual responsible for that work. While the individual who failed to produce quality work will undoubtedly experience a strike against their business reputation, it will actually be the organization that feels the brunt of the failure. In business and in life our reputation precedes us. How would you feel if you and your organization were known for completing large amounts of work, yet it was of such poor quality that most of your customers were one and done?
Let’s face it, we all want to give and receive respect as it relates to our peers, and also feel respected by the organizations that we work for. Failing to take a quality first approach to our work only serves as a tool to diminish the amount of respect we feel throughout the workplace. From a work perspective, would you have the same amount of respect for a co-worker with high output but extremely poor quality as you would a co-worker who produces stellar work all of the time even if the amount work completed was relatively low?
The idea of quality over quantity is not a new concept. It’s not some earth-shattering revelation ready to become the new fad in the workplace. It’s old, and it’s simple, but it’s highly effective. It also requires minimal effort. All it takes is transforming the way you think about your work from a “how much can I get completed,” to “how can I do this better.” Start on a small scale by thinking about the tasks you need to complete today and how you can improve their end result. It may require that you initially reduce the overall amount of work completed in order to focus on the quality aspect of what it is you are doing. Soon you can begin to implement this concept on a grander scale with longer time frames. Over time the thought of not completing as much work as before will subside as the satisfaction of doing quality work begins to take over. Eventually, your old way of thinking will give way to a new and improved quality first mindset where the amount of work completed is not nearly as important as the quality of the final product.
Gregory Craig, MBA, PMP, PMI-ACP, CMQ/OE, has extensive project management, process improvement and quality management experience across a variety of industries including oil and gas, information technology and defense. He has led both domestic and international projects of significant magnitude and complexity. His current role is at a Fortune 500 company leading a group of diverse individuals focused on analytics and process improvement. A strong business leadership background, he finds joy in helping others who are in various positions of leadership and influence. Gregory writes about business processes and quality management.