Making Quality Fun: Creating a True Culture of Quality

Making Quality Fun: Creating a True Culture of Quality

In far too many organizations, quality managers are looked upon as the bad cops, insistent upon excessive documentation, blind adherence to process, and rigid set of rules that don’t always seem to make sense.

In organizations where the culture of quality is strongest, management takes responsibility for explaining, training, and reinforcing the importance of those programs and processes. There will always be a few people in any organization who bring a dismissive attitude to the conversation about quality management; but for most, the right attitude falls into place with good leadership and the right education.

Like anything else, though, quality management programs stand a much better chance of being embraced widely throughout the organization if leadership can find ways to make it more fun. At face value, it may seem like a stretch to put “fun” and “regulatory compliance” in the same sentence; but there are definitely some ways to soften your team’s resistance to quality management and make it more palatable. In fact, it can be a very positive experience. Here are some tips for accomplishing that:

Say it loud and proud

Teams often develop a sense of common purpose and morale around a slogan or battle cry. Here are a few great examples:

Do your job (The New England Patriots)
Be Legendary (Tom Bilyeu/Impact Theory)
You’ll know at the finish line (Spartan Racing)
Semper Fi (US Marine Corps)
The HP Way (Hewlett-Packard)
A good slogan captures the essence of what a team strives to be. Coming up with the right catchphrase isn’t necessarily easy; it usually requires some time and reflection. Solicit input from your team. Find out what resonates with them. A good slogan might not emerge right away, but when you find it, you’ll know. When you get it, make it visible. Put it on t-shirts. Make posters. Talk about it in team meetings.

People want to be part of something meaningful. If you can capture that in a succinct phrase, it can serve as a rallying cry for perpetuating a culture of excellence.


There’s an old story about steel magnate Charles Schwab in which he nearly doubled productivity at one of his mills over a period of just 24 hours, simply by writing the latest shift’s production quantity on the floor in chalk. At the end of each shift, he updated that number. Not wanting to be outdone, the next shift jumped into action, striving to outproduce their co-workers. That trend continued, and within one day, the number jumped from 6 units to 10.

In some respects, Schwab was implementing an idea that gained more formal acceptance only about 10 years ago. It’s called “gamification”, and it’s based on the idea of applying the psychology of games to a non-game context. One of the central tenets of gamification is the idea of keeping score. Think about some of the familiar elements of video games, – especially multiplayer games. The score is clearly displayed at all times. Players can earn badges. They can build up a reputation score.

At Intellect, we recognize our employees for their years of service to our team. They earn titles like Maestro, Sensei, and Guru. The highest level is Sage; it is awarded to employees who demonstrate exceptional levels of inspirational leadership and industry evangelization.

Simply by managing a scoreboard for your key metrics and recognizing top contributors, you can add a powerful element of fun to the process.

Spur some friendly competition

The Charles Schwab story illustrates something important about competition in the workplace, – namely, that it doesn’t need to be focused on monetary incentives or big rewards. In fact, most people enjoy friendly competition more when there isn’t something of high value at stake.

We know of a major software company that held a sales competition in which the grand prize was a cowboy hat. Account managers were doing everything they could to win that hat, knowing that the CEO planned to award the prize at the company’s upcoming annual conference. For around $100, that company managed to motivate its sales team and give them away to have a lot of fun in the process.

This approach often works best when you have a specific goal in mind; that is when you are looking to raise the bar on a specific metric. In this case, it pays to keep things as simple as possible. By setting forth a challenge and offering your team an opportunity to engage in some friendly competition, you can inject some fun into quality management.