Is Your Cannabis Business Lacking a Culture of Quality?

Recently, there has been a lot of media attention surrounding internal problems within some of the major organizations within the cannabis industry. While these stories are disappointing, there are tried and true methods to prevent your company from suffering these same setbacks. The best way is to instill a Culture of Quality.

What is Company Culture?

Culture determines how a company responds to everything – internally and externally – both positive and negative. It is a set of shared values, guiding principles, behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs. that collectively contribute to a company’s daily operations.

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In most successful companies, leadership devotes time and resources early on to establish a formal company culture. Policies, procedures, training, and promotions are all based upon this culture.  However, culture can, and often does, develop and exist by default, especially when these steps are not taken.  Whether a company formally establishes values and a company culture, or whether the subject has never come up, there is not a single department or employee in any company that isn’t influenced by its culture.

What is a Culture of Quality?

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A culture of quality is a type of mindset within an organization. It guides how improvements are made to everyday practices.  In a quality culture, quality is not viewed as an output. Nor is it seen as something that only affects the quality management department and employees.  A culture of quality focuses on continuous improvement throughout every level of the organization, by leadership and all employees, as well as vendors.

Instead of focusing on minimum standards, quality parameters are established that create a competitive advantage.

Everyone is encouraged and rewarded for bringing forward ideas that improve the quality of their products, services, processes, and working conditions.

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There are standard values and beliefs that come out of a Culture of Quality. One of the most important being:

quality should be attained through the prevention of errors and defects, and not through inspections.

In a Culture of Quality, the focus is on prevention rather than fixing problems and damage control. Other aspects of a Culture of Quality include:

  • Customer focus
  • Employee involvement and empowerment
  • Open and honest communication
  • Data-driven, fact-based problem solving and decision-making
  • Long lasting quality improvement is attained by preventative maintenance
  • Continuous improvement as a way of life
  • Teamwork throughout the organization
  • Process management

Does My Cannabis Business Lack a Culture of Quality?

The first step in solving any problem is to first recognize a problem exists…So, how do you know if your business has a strong or weak culture of quality? The following are signs of a weak culture of quality.  How many can you identify in your company?

  • The company’s quality vision is either non-existent or has minimal linkage to business strategy
  • No formal mechanisms for collecting and analyzing customer and employee feedback
  • The importance of the company’s quality vision and values are not regularly discussed
  • Quality is not incorporated into company training, development, and messaging
  • Performance evaluations have no mention of or tie to quality goals
  • Managers do not appropriately emphasize or are resistant to quality initiatives
  • Company routinely falls short of its goals and performance metrics
  • Company lacks a sense of teamwork and collaboration
  • Employees do not understand how their role contributes to overall company success.
  • Little to no commitment to the company evidenced by high turnover rates, bad attitudes, and a lack of motivation
  • Employees mistrust leadership – employees regularly question management’s motivations, practices, and decisions and do not feel comfortable suggesting
  • Lack of empowerment shows up by employees commonly complaining about the lack of positive feedback and their ability to use their own free will to exceed expectations

Why Does My Cannabis Company Need a Culture of Quality?

As the cannabis industry continues to grow and improve, establishing a competitive advantage is not only helpful, but necessary.  Improving products, decreasing costs, and increasing efficiencies all lead to higher earnings and a committed customer base – while reducing overall risks.

A culture of quality improves all areas of a business. One easily recognized area of improvement is in the talent a company attracts. Dedicated, high-caliber employees impact the bottom line through retention rates and higher performance, but also determines the way your service or product is created and delivered.

According to CEB research, companies with a high culture of quality experience:

  • 46% fewer mistakes
  • 75% fewer “significant” mistakes
  • 75% fewer customer-facing product mistakes
  • For the average company—with 50 employees – the difference in having a high culture of quality can lead to more than $670,000 in added employee productivity.

How Do I Drive a Culture of Quality in My Cannabis Company?

In the words of Aristotle, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

It is important to understand that any initiative to improve quality is unlikely to succeed unless it is embedded in the entire culture of the organization.  In order to change culture, you must first change behaviors – not the other way around.

For behavioral changes to be effective, they must be small. Big, top-down directives such as “This is how it’s going to be” don’t work. However, focusing on changing small behaviors does. To change behavior, it is imperative to focus on the routine, as opposed to the result. For example, a commitment to collecting more feedback will soon be forgotten. Whereas, implementing one new feedback loop per week, stands a better chance of success.

When trying to change behaviors, think of planting cannabis seeds.  In order for the new seeds (behaviors) to take root, grow, and thrive, they need fertile soil and the right environment (a safe, learning atmosphere). Here are some basic starting points to consider:

  • Prepare the organization for change through open communication at all levels. Everyone needs to know what is going to change, when the change will happen, and why it is necessary.
  • Stop training people and start educating them. There’s a difference…you train your pets but educate your children. People need to know the why, not just the how.
  • The new behavior must be simpler than the old one…It must take less effort and less time, otherwise why bother? This means excelling at the basics to mastery level.
  • FOCUS on the processes. This moves from a “blame the person” approach, to a “blame the process and let’s fix it” mentality. According to the father of quality, W. Edwards Deming, 95% of all problems are due to variation in processes.
  • New behaviors must be practiced until they become habits that are done automatically. Recognition and rewards reinforce new behaviors, encouraging them to stick.

A culture of quality must be created, nurtured, and cultivated within an organization, in order for it to be sustainable…it all starts with a decision to try.

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