Creating a Culture of Quality in 2023

Chris Nahil
By Chris Nahil on February 13, 2023

Building a culture of quality is key to helping organizations to thrive in 2023. Gartner has revealed that organizations with a strong culture of quality save an average of $337 million annually due to making fewer mistakes. This is due to improved productivity, increased customer satisfaction, and increased margins.

What is a Culture of Quality?

“Every organization has a culture of quality,” explains Marko Zgela, Sr. Manager of Global Quality Process Excellence, Pentair, who has been a quality champion for more than 20 years.
With more than 11,250 employees serving customers in over 150 countries, Pentair is a global leader in residential and commercial water solutions, including pressure pump booster systems, commercial pool solutions, home filtration and sustainable brewing solutions.
Zgela points out that what “culture of quality” looks like in practice varies greatly and is based mainly on an organization’s maturity. “If you were to sum up culture of quality in one sentence, it would be that ‘quality is everyone’s responsibility,’” he says.

Pentair’s Four Essential Culture Components

According to Zgela, Pentair’s four essential culture components are:


Management must demonstrate that quality is a top priority, recognize quality in their team members and lead by example.

Voice of the customer

Everyone in the organization should understand how customers use their products. This can help teams anticipate problems that customers will have when using their products. It can also help team members empathize with customers and build stronger connections.

Engaged teams

Organizations should build engagement teams around quality with leadership sponsors. This can help drive problem-solving to where issues originate. They can also promote further engagement by celebrating team success.

Empowered teams

As organizations progress through their journey of creating a culture of quality, team members should become increasingly comfortable with raising quality issues. They should also gain a deeper understanding of how quality affects the customer. There should be defined processes and mechanisms to communicate across the team, including through management levels.
“There is often a disconnect between what the customer sees, what top management sees, what middle management sees, and what is going on in production,” says Zgela.
Management for Daily Improvement (MDI) helps close this gap by bringing issues to the surface and making them visible so people within the organization can drive change. It also helps improve accountability by providing a thorough overview of the issues and who is responsible for addressing them.

Management for Daily Improvement

MDI is an organizational process designed to close the gap in the customer experience and bring people closer to the manufacturing floor. It involves implementing visual management strategies and facilitating key performance indicators (KPIs) at the ground level by leveraging day-to-day employee activities.

One of the key ways it achieves this is by connecting a bottom-up approach with a top-down approach.
A bottom-up approach ensures that employees understand organizational goals and helps them to understand how they can contribute to these goals. It ultimately provides an environment where people aren’t afraid to speak up about issues.
A top-down approach, on the other hand, encourages leaders to live organizational values and connect with the customer experience. Quality strategies and objectives are shared and tracked throughout the organization.

In addition, MDIs must be cross-functional, with multiple tiers – from production to supervisor to manager. These tiers can vary depending on the organization’s size.
MDI meetings should always be done standing up, and they should be very short – ideally, they should run for less than 15 minutes. They should take place daily close to or at the production floor, and leaders should use visual boards to help guide the agenda.

How to Fuel a Culture of Quality

Tim King, Founder, Quality Matters LLC and course developer and instructor at ASQ, explains that fueling a culture of quality “isn’t something that can be done by an outside quality firm.”
“It isn’t something done by managers and leaders trying to corral people. There’s a natural involvement. Everyone knows how their goals are linked to other goals,” he says. “It’s a culture of shared accountability rather than separation.”
A culture of quality is defined by an environment of trust, participation, and communication in which quality goals are shared, embraced, and pursued through all employee participation.
When sustainably implemented and lived by the workforce, this generates a positive dynamic of continuous improvement and the commitment to excellence in all areas of the organization.
Below are some practices you can implement to fuel a culture of quality within your organization.

The Seven Best Practices to Fuel Organizational Culture

1. Leadership: Senior leaders should be responsible for teaching the principles to create a culture of quality and for ensuring that employees understand how these principles apply.
2. Customer focus: Create a customer advisory group, and ask customers to speak with staff when they visit.
3. Engagement of people: “One of my clients allows employees to nominate someone as ‘champion’ of that value for that quarter if they’ve done something really special and gone the extra mile,” says King.
4. Process approach: Quality management is equal to process management.
5. Evidence-based decisions: Apply quality tools in more meetings and decisions, and develop critical thinking.
6. Improvement: Create storyboards and knowledge management systems to drive improvement for quality improvement teams.
7. Relationship management: Create interested parties matrices.

Ways to Assess Culture to Drive Cultural Maturity

Some of the resources to use to assess culture include:

  • Baldrige self-assessments: These can be used by both leaders and employees to assess an organization’s performance. Organizations can also apply for the Malcolm Baldrige Quality Award (MBQA) – the national award for excellence in the US. This has been awarded annually since 1987 and is based on the values and practices of high-performing organizations. The award’s recipients serve as benchmarks for others in pursuit of organizational excellence.
  • The ETQ whitepaper on the seven principles of creating a culture of quality: Ask managers to read it and evaluate each for strengths and OFIs, and provide an overall rating between 1-10.
  • An ISO Registrar: Ask them to include this in their audits and to connect and report feedback with the seven principles outlined in the whitepaper above.
  • Crosby’s quality maturity matrix: This shows the different stages of a company’s journey towards quality management maturity and helps quality managers understand how their organization can progress to the next stage.

Watch our culture of quality webinar to learn more about creating a culture of quality that can help organizations thrive in 2023.