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  Alternatives Pty Ltd
  ABN 23 050 334 435

Contents | 1. Introduction | 2. QI Maze | 3. Principles | 4. Tools | 5. Resources

1. Introduction

Quality improvement has a long history in organisational thinking and practice. Organisational systems have evolved through:

  • Inspection
  • Quality control
  • Quality assurance
  • Quality management
  • Quality improvement

There is a wide variety of language that people use, for example, Total Quality Management, Quality improvement, Continuous quality improvement, Business excellence.

In the development of organisational thinking and practice there have been a number of key people including:

  • Deming
  • Crosby
  • Feigenbaum
  • Juran

While there are differences between their approaches there is also much in common. The essence of quality improvement is:

  • Mapping and describing processes
  • Gathering and analysing data about processes
  • Using the feedback from the data and its analysis to improve processes to provide better quality services.

Some of the other key elements in quality improvement in human service organisations include:

  • Build organisational commitment to quality
  • Focus on the client/service user
  • Find ways to measure quality
  • Set goals and create incentives for what’s been measured
  • Get employees involved in the processes of improving quality
  • Identify defects in quality and trace them to their source
  • Work closely with referral agencies and other suppliers
  • Design service processes with simplicity and client focus in mind
  • Improve coordination and collaboration between different functions in the organisation

There are a variety of tools that managers, team leaders and staff many find useful in improving processes to improve quality, for example, flow charts, Pareto analysis, fishbone diagrams, benchmarking.

In Australia in recent years there have been many changes happening that are related to quality improvement, for example:

  • The introduction and ongoing development of the Australian Business Excellence Framework
  • The development of the Service Excellence Framework
  • The growing use of ISO 9000 Standards
  • The introduction of standards and accreditation for many funded programs
  • The growing use of Quality Accreditation by human service organisations
  • The growth of program reviews and evaluation by organisations and funding bodies
  • The expansion of auditing from financial auditing to program auditing and quality auditing

It is important for non-profit human services organisations to find their way through the maze and to develop their own appropriate approach to quality improvement.

Much of the quality improvement thinking, literature and tools originated in manufacturing and so there are unique challenges when implementing quality improvement in human services.

When implementing specific quality improvement models, standards or accreditation systems both the costs and benefits need to be weighed up, for example, some organisations have found the paperwork and the time it can take to outweigh the benefits.

Some key questions to ask are:

  • What frameworks are available?
  • What are the core principles and processes of quality improvement?
  • What tools would be useful?

Key decision(s): Which of the following do we want in our organisation?

  • Good management incorporating quality improvement principles and processes
  • An agreed organisational quality improvement model or system (eg. an Business Excellence Framework or ISO 9000 standards or similar)
  • Independent accreditation for the model or system

Are there standards and accreditation that we require because of funding agreements? How do these relate to what we want?


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