Author: 
Charles Clowes, Australian Organisation For Quality
 Charles Clowes

Within the organisational development toolkit the capability area of quality systems, innovation and improvement refers to staff and client contribution, innovation, quality culture and management, reporting, adaptability and improvement, legislation and risk management.

The above concepts are all required for any organisation to succeed and achieve excellence.

However, there can be problems in achieving a culture of innovation and improvement if a quality system is too prescriptive and focuses on compliance to procedures and system maintenance too strongly. All too often new ideas or ways of doing things are discouraged because they do not reflect the way the procedure says it is done. The organisation can become too focused on achieving compliance and passing audits.

A good quality management system should consist of living documents. If your procedures and process documents have not changed for years this may reflect a lack of focus on innovation and improvement.

So how does an organisation encourage innovation and ongoing improvement?

  1. Complete the self-assessment organisational development toolkit for innovation, quality and improvement.
  2. Encourage staff  to report errors and possible areas of improvement. Staff should be encouraged to provide solutions to problems. The person working at the coal face usually understands the problem a lot better than the quality manager and will have a solution in mind.
  3. Encourage staff to look outside the organisation for ideas - don’t restrict it to your sector. Remember that all businesses and sectors will have encountered similar issues and found solutions.
  4. Avoid focusing too much on achieving compliance. Audits are only a tool to tell the organisation it is meeting the current procedures and standards. By increasing the focus on innovation and improvement, audits can become a tool to help achieve organisational excellence and promote better service to clients.

Be flexible and open to new ideas

Developing an internal culture of innovation and organisational improvement requires strong leadership and a tangible vision across the organisation. The internal culture of the organisation and the external culture it operates in will influence the ability of a business to innovate and search out areas of improvement. The organisation's quality system needs to be flexible and open to new ideas. Listen to new ideas and ways of doing things, even if this means you have to change your current business model.

There is a lot of talk about the impact of technology and how digital disruption has and will change ways of doing business. 

There is no doubt the social service providers will be impacted. By encouraging Innovation  and improvement in the organisation the impact of digital disruption will be positive and controlled.

Other innovation, quality and improvement resources on Community Door

The Organisational Development Toolkit: particularly section 9 (results)

Professional development resources developed through the sector readiness initiative

A recording of the organisational health check-up webinar held in August 2015, and associated resources

The Human Services Quality Framework resources on Community Door

The Quality Collaboration Network

StudioQ: Interviews, podcasts and videos on many topics, including quality and innovation

A list of external resources around innovation, quality and improvement

About  Charles  Clowes

Charles is the current president of the Australian Organisation For Quality (QLD).  AOQ-QLD is an NFP member-based organisation for business professionals who believe in the opportunities provided by championing continuous business improvement and business excellence across all industry and educational sectors. Member services include learning, training, networking, mentoring, resources, auditing and consultancy.

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