Creating a quality assurance plan
Learn how your small business can get quality assurance processes right on a consistent basis.
An effective quality assurance (QA) program can help ensure you deliver the best possible version of your product or service on a consistent basis. A QA plan should be designed specifically for your business and improve existing procedures.
The American Society for Quality (ASQ) recommends a "Plan, Do, Check, Act" QA model that can be applied to any business — and to any aspect of a business, from product development to customer service to employee management.1
Quality assurance step one: Plan
Establish goals by defining your business's version of quality and determining how you can achieve it through measurable objectives. Create steps that will help your small business accomplish these goals, such as changing a material that goes into your product or setting a timeline for responding to customer inquiries.
Quality assurance step two: Do
Implement the procedures in the previous "plan" step. Make sure staff is up-to-date on your new operating standards. Train employees on their specific responsibilities, and create a handbook that spells out your QA goals and procedures.
Quality assurance step three: Check
Measure the success of your new system. Compare your employees' actions to your goals. Did results meet your definition of quality? What procedures fall short of meeting your objectives? Frequently analyze the outcome of your QA program.
Quality assurance step four: Act
Reevaluate your procedures if your results from the "check" step require changes. Improve your operating standards, and communicate any changes to your staff. Update your handbook or manual. This four-step process can be repeated.
Quality assurance plan success factors
Brian LeHouillier, managing director of the ASQ, identifies three critical QA success factors:
Employee incorporation. The role of the employee in a QA plan's success is critical, says LeHouillier. Communicate your definition of quality, your goals, and what is expected from each employee. "Show how your QA goals are in alignment with your company's vision, goals, and strategies," he adds. These goals should be realistic and come with a specific timeframe.
Customer satisfaction. Establish performance standards that meet or exceed customer expectations. "You need to understand what will delight your customers," says LeHouillier. He suggests customer feedback surveys to find out what quality means to them. Then evaluate your employees against those standards.
Performance traction. Measure and monitor performance, including feedback from employees and customers. Continuously improve your QA process and the aspect of your business to which it applies, such as your product or service.
Implementing these QA steps will allow your business to put its best foot forward on a consistent basis.