Last edited 08 Jan 2021

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ConSIG CWG Institute / association Website

Quality culture and behaviours


[edit] Introduction

A quality culture is often described as a mind-set throughout the organisation with shared values and beliefs.

Many construction companies have embraced behavioural culture safety programmes with names such as Injury-Free Environment and Zero Harm where orientations and training are delivered to a wide variety of roles within the industry. The aim of these programmes is to supplement rules and policies by asking participants to think about how they and others, through their behaviours, have a responsibility to ensure safety on site and go home safely at the end of the day.

A recent industry report by the Get It Right Initiative ( estimated the cost of error in construction to be £10bn – 25bn per annum. With strong links between quality and health & safety, the analogy of a behavioural culture programme can be applied to quality to address errors.

Why should quality be important to the construction industry?

[edit] Implementing a quality behavioural culture programme

When considering implementing a quality behavioural culture programme attention should be given to ensure it is relevant to the organisation and its stakeholders so they understand why quality is their responsibility and how they can contribute to a successful business and project.

  • Are the business leaders aligned?
  • Do they not only do and say, but do they think and feel the correct behaviours to allow a quality culture to bloom?

A commonly used phrase when something doesn’t look right on site is ‘Don’t walk by’. When examining this, how can this lead to a successful outcome so that the issue is investigated without blame? In order to do this the culture should be set so that a task can be stopped without fear of blame and examined independently and fairly to resolve the issue.

[edit] Integrating culture programmes

With many behavioural safety culture programmes and leadership teams already in place within many organisations, an efficient way to implement a quality behavioural culture programme would be to consider integrating those programmes as you would with an integrated management system. After all, an integrated culture will affect all aspects of project delivery.

[edit] Quality behavioural culture improvement plan

A quality behavioural culture improvement plan can be put into place to deliver awareness and training that the organisation wants to achieve.

Items for consideration include induction and targeted quality training, start of shift briefings using benchmarks, quality site notice boards and events to mark World Quality Day.

Culture should drive the policies, the guiding principles, the processes, the behaviours, the attitudes and values of a company and project. Shifting an organisations or project’s culture requires deliberate and focused Chain of Command commitment and leadership.

This is not something that can be palmed off to the quality manager on his or her own to deliver. But it can be planned and must have quality improvement at its heart!

[edit] Example for a Quality behavioural culture improvement plan template

Area Actions How When
Quality training ITP and benchmark training Delivered by compliance team Q1-Q2
Don’t walk by Develop quality culture Discuss construction methods on site As part of site supervision
Communication Posters & quality dilemma’s, stand up briefings, information points Programme of events and World Quality Day Q3
Visual leadership Establish quality leadership teams On all projects with terms of reference On project start up

[edit] Board drive / steering group

To be successful in driving a culture of quality the company, business or local project board must believe and drive the agenda. The messaging must be simple and relentless.

Consistent ‘hard tell’ leads to people behaving differently and if this shows quality improvements it will lead to a cultural shift where those delivering the work see the benefits and set the tone. This is when you know you are moving to a culture centred on quality

[edit] Performance metrics

These must be clear and concise and centred on the delivery of the product or the service. They must also resonate with the customer and business leadership but be centred in reality. Once set and agreed, these can be used to create behaviours centred on quality improvement. The correct behaviours repeated will help result in a shift towards a quality culture.

[edit] Senior management site tours

When developing a quality culture improvement plan, a common activity within the construction industry is site safety tours. When carrying out these tours, the quality aspects of the work could also be examined. As well as scrutiny of items such as inspection and test plans and benchmarks, attitudes and behaviours should also be examined. For example, if something was identified as an error or didn’t look right would they speak up or ask if they didn’t understand something? If they did speak up how would their manager or supervisor resolve the issue?

The site tours should include:

1. Employee empowerment – drive culture by embedding quality in appraisals, job descriptions and ownership of the processes. Encourage radical thinking and managed change and reward those who flag up failure. Promote quality near misses.

2. Customer focus – what do the customers want? Get them involved. Really understand their requirements and what end users want out of the product or service. Use this in training/coaching/tool box talks /role play sessions.

3. Relentless collaboration – talk, talk, talk – drive quality in all you do. Drive everyone to be a critical friend. How can we do this better? Can we do this another way? How can we improve what we deliver?

4. Don’t talk about perfection, talk about improving and sharing every day. Don’t get stuck on reports and emails. Drive collaboration and continual improvement.

5. Talk positively – even with errors, and failures, talk positively, raised early, bad news is good news. Recognise those who raise issues early – it reduces the cost in the long run. Recognise ‘everyday quality’ leaders from all areas of the business or project who exhibit the correct behaviours. Praise them.

6. Leaders who ALWAYS make sure quality is aligned with cost and programme will help drive the culture of quality. People know when push comes to shove, the trump hands are given to cost and programme in many cases, those who keep the faith with the quality programme are those that help change the culture. Embrace these people in your programme.

[edit] Conclusion

Integrate your cultural behaviour programmes to maximise efficiency, put a quality culture improvement plan in place and don’t walk by.

Original article written by Karen McDonald on behalf of the CQI Construction special interest group, reviewed by Ian Mills and members of the Competency working group and approved for publication on 5 March 2019 --ConSIG CWG 13:08, 27 Mar 2019 (BST)

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