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Building Capability

How to Define & Build Quality Management Capability in Your Organisation


Many functions in your organisation will utilise quality improvement methods. Some might go for industry standards like Six Sigma to improve business value, while others employ total quality management for a performance focus

Regardless, there needs to be quality control for quality management. Defining clear-cut quality management capability for your organisation may seem like a gargantuan task, but we promise it only requires some hard yards now for sustainable pay-off later. We cover it all in this guide, so let’s jump in.  

What is quality management capability?

Quality management capability refers to the collective skills, behaviours, knowledge, tools and processes required by an organisation to meet its strategic goals and maintain competitive advantage.  

3 steps to define quality management capabilities  

Don’t be intimidated by defining quality management capabilities. It’s a fairly routine process, and it gets you to ask all the right questions. 

Step 1: Define the landscape 

We begin by asking what role quality management plays in the business landscape. 

Lay out, in order: 

By looking at the organisation as a whole, you’re ensuring that any methods you use for building quality management capability are always in line with business strategy. 

Step 2: Define the purpose 

Every capability will have a role to play independent of all others. In saying that, you also need to understand if they’ll play nice with other business capabilities. Think of this as risk management. You don’t want to end up wasting resources down the line. 

To help articulate the purpose of each capability, consider the following. 

Step 3: Define the outcome 

The final piece of the puzzle is to name capabilities. The ideal name is universally understood, so don’t use business jargon here. Our hot tip is to name the task or action being performed. For example: 

If you click through on any of those examples, you’ll find we’ve got a full set of quality management capabilities available for here (click through here for the full list). 

You can copy, paste and edit each as you see fit, or simply use them as inspiration for your quality management capability framework if you desire. Each capability comes with three levels of competence and clear definitions, so they’re good to use from the jump.   

Strategies for building quality management capability

Think of this process as somewhat like quality planning. You’re likely trying to create order among environmental chaos (cough, change, volatility, instability, cough), and so capability building needs to be as solid as possible. 

Six steps get you closer to that resilience. 

  1. Engage leadership (for buy-in) 
  2. Establish accountability (in leaders) 
  3. Assess capability gaps (for individuals) 
  4. Outline capability maturity (for the org) 
  5. Design methods to bridge gaps (i.e. training) 
  6. Track progress and revise methods (the fun part). 

Engaging leadership  

It’s not just that a culture of quality starts with leaders. The biggest task for any change transformation is mobilising the workforce to actually do the work. You know who they listen to? Leaders

Leaders, though, don’t necessarily want the same outcomes as you, because they’ll have their own functional KPIs to worry about. So, meet them where they are. What are the metrics they have to move the needle on? Process improvement, customer satisfaction, team effectiveness, revenue growth? Show how that needle stays put without the quality assurance you’re offering. 

Then flip it and show what they stand to gain from championing capability building in their team. We’re not just training employees, but: 

  1. Fundamentally changing how work gets done 
  2. Shifting quality compliance from a cost of business to value generator

Think about what that means for production, who can’t afford to be inefficient, or marketing, who likely can’t be A/B testing every strategy, or even HR, who understand more than most the importance of a resilient org structure. 

Co-ownership between HR and business units  

Once you’ve got leaders on the hook, you need to keep them invested and accountable. And a large part of that is making clear how big their investment is in the process. 

While quality management capabilities will be applicable to all functions, the specific capabilities used in each department will likely differ. Which means HR will need different data points from which to build the right training levers. Or in layman’s terms: You need leaders to provide insight into the capability needs of their function. 

HR, L&D and OD’s role is to take that and align performance development with business strategy. A co-owned approach to building quality management capability means that you’re working with the right information (not assumptions) at the right time (moment of need), and all business units are working to the same quality management system standard. 

Understanding quality management capability gaps

Capability gaps at the individual level are like holes in a ship. A few leaks can get by without much notice, but over time the water coming through will force the hole to get bigger. It’s possible more holes will emerge in other places, too, if the integrity of the ship itself is compromised. 

This is essentially our lyrical way of saying that proactive maintenance or intervention keeps you not just afloat, but pushing ahead faster. That’s better than the other option of reactively trying to plug a hole. 

You’ve got a few ways of assessing quality management capability. 

  1. The first is the self-assessment, where employees evaluate their own competency in any given capability. 
  2. The second is the manager assessment. It’s best done in tandem with the self-assessment, wherein the manager evaluates the employee on the same capability to create a more well-rounded image of competency. 
  3. The third is the subject matter expert assessment. Best used for some of the more niche capabilities in your framework. 

Use that competency as a measure of performance. Again, use universal language like: 

The point is to make it clear that performance can progress, though it exists within guardrails. 

Assessing quality management capability maturity 

The birds-eye view of gaps amounts to how mature capability building is in your organisation. The ultimate aim of this step is to create a visual map that shows, in real-time, the availability of quality management capabilities in the workforce. 

Most organisations measure capability maturity on a five-step scale. 

  1. Initial: Work is done but unpredictable. 
  2. Managed: Work is managed on a project-by-project basis. 
  3. Defined: Work is proactive rather than reactive. 
  4. Qualitatively managed: Data-driven objectives are in place. 
  5. Optimising: Focus is on continuous improvement. 

Some also have a ground zero, where work does not get done at all. 

Like we said, availability is usually a common marker for maturity, assessed against the level of business risk posed by lack of availability. Don’t skip this step; it’s the information with which you can argue for resourcing and justify prioritisation. 

Methods to build quality management capability  

We’re not here to tell you to start from scratch with L&D. (You can say “phew” now.) Rather, we’re going to tell you to optimise what you’re already doing and using

The one thing you may have to introduce is embedding learning opportunities into the flow of work. Not only does this help ensure transparency in business processes, but it gets you to create up-to-date learning content that employees can access when they need to. 

Basically: Rather than waiting for performance issues to rot in the workplace, enable a culture of continuous learning that self-sustains continual improvement. 

Outline the many quality issues that may challenge delivery of your product or service. For an easy win, focus on those that employees could largely self-remedy, given the tools to do so (because often bureaucracy can halt speed and create waste in value chains). For example: Customer expectations, record-keeping, data analysis, and risk management processes. Create content (short-form videos, PDFs, even short quizzes) that addresses the most common challenges within those challenges, and then make it readily available.  

Perhaps you have enterprise quality management software in place. If not, look to procuring one or a similar knowledge management system to centralise all quality management documentation. Part of this is not leaving employees to manage the entirety of their development. The right system will also enable you to weave quality management capabilities into their overall learning pathways.  We created the first performance learning management system (PLMS) for this purpose. A PLMS is designed to allocate contextual learning opportunities that guide learners to mastering the role-specific capabilities that drive organisational success.

Another angle is to consider the most impactful touch points in the employee lifecycle. Onboarding will be the most obvious, as that’s where you can introduce your quality systems, policies and objectives. But also think about how you can use mentoring, stretch assignments and certifications to develop the behavioural side of capabilities.  

Consider how the following are impacted by attitudes as much as tools and knowledge: 

Tracking progress  

As with all things quality management, there needs to be methodology to, well, manage quality in building capability. 

This doesn’t need to be complex, and it definitely shouldn’t be an after thought. Embed evaluation metrics into each step of the way, and you’ll have a much clearer idea of quality progress. 

You’ll want to continually re-assess each metric. That could mean: 

Key takeaways 

Quality management underpins the sustainability of all products, processes and procedures in your organisation. Keeping a tight lid on quality controls should start with creating a universal understanding of what quality management looks like. In other words: Creating quality management capabilities. 

From there, you can continually develop it in your organisation by: 

  1. Engaging leadership to understand their pain points 
  2. Creating a co-owned process for building capability between HR and leadership 
  3. Assessing the gaps in quality management capability at the individual level 
  4. Identifying organisational capability maturity for prioritisation 
  5. Embedding training in the flow of work, so quality management becomes BAU 
  6. Consistently reviewing your methods. 

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