In the spirit of the season

It was a particularly hot August afternoon this year, whilst queuing at the checkout in my local supermarket, that I was forced to listen to a tuneless rendition of “Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer” which was being played in the background.  I have to say that in the heat of the day I didn’t feel an immediate need to rush out and start roasting chestnuts on an open fire.

I must admit though, as the festive season approaches, there is something about this time of year which is also very grounding about the whole experience. It is, after all, traditionally a time for reflection.  This is perfectly described in the novel ‘A Christmas Carol’ by Charles Dickens which was first published in 1843, during a period when the British were exploring and re-evaluating past Christmas traditions. It is a tale about transformation, rationality, choices and time. An opportunity to consider past activity and put things right.

If I think about that message, it resonates with Hyphen’s planning around quality management. The three spirits (or ghosts) that visit Scrooge in the story represent the past, present and future.

The ‘spirit of quality past’ is steeped in a history of compliance. This is the foundation of where quality management began – with the development of the ISO 9000 series of quality standards. Whilst they gave businesses the foundations for robust systems, the early ISO 9000 series of quality standards were difficult to interpret. When ISO 9001 was first introduced, it was more about conformance to procedures than management processes.

At Hyphen, we are beginning to successfully make the transition to the “spirit of quality present”. The bureaucracy and paperwork from the early ISO 9001 standard has made it difficult to move away from the concept that quality management exists for the purpose of meeting regulatory requirements.  We are, however, taking positive measures to change our perception of quality – away from thinking about it as a compliance tool, to embedding quality within our company culture. This is from a stance motivated by our value “We stand for quality” and delivered through our ‘Quality 2020’ campaign which we launched recently.

As we look to the “spirit of quality future”, I am confident that it does not feel as bleak as the prophesy in Dickens’ tale. The warnings of an inability to face up to reality or change are not shadows of things that must be, only things that might be. At Hyphen, we recognise that ISO 9001 only provides the structure for our quality management system. It does not define its purpose. Quality management is about governance – leadership and direction, delivery and performance. Leadership from Hyphen’s board creates a work environment that motivates people to achieve their best and take an interest in a commitment to produce quality work.

We are embracing the lessons that we can learn from every aspect of quality. The spirit of quality lives in our past, present and future and is beginning to thrive within our company culture.

Whatever your views on Christmas, it would be difficult to live through December without being affected by some aspect of the festive season. I can’t help but wonder if there will ever be a time when I won’t be facing Christmas with quite so much apprehension for all of the effort and planning that is involved,  but I know that I will take time this year to think about the message from ‘A Christmas Carol’.