Barriers to Continuous Improvement
As a frontline manager or supervisor of quality within a RTO, you need to be aware of barriers that industries or organisations can place in the way of continuous improvement. This well help you deal with difficult situation as they arise.
Common barriers relate to:
- Lack of systems to support continuous improvement e.g. policies and procedures, systems to document continuous improvement processes, methods for gaining customer feedback, processes for training or retraining staff.
- Lack of management commitment, which can lead to inadequate staff or financial resources being allocated to continuous improvement activities.
- Lack of commitment by staff to continuous improvement often due to a limited understanding of the relevance of continuous improvement to them.
- A she’ll be right” attitude by staff and management which shows that the organisation has a culture where planning is not valued and where there is resistance to change
Because continuous improvement is part of a change process, it is important for people who are involved in change to understand:
- The need for change
- The processes that lead to change
- Their part in the change process
People are often threatened by change, especially if they feel it is imposed on them. It is your responsibility to help them work through change constructively and actively.
You need to:
- Help them understand how continuous improvement affects them – communicate openly with them and present information in a way that makes sense to them
- Give them plenty of opportunities to ask questions and discuss issues
- Listen to them – listen to their concerns and encourage them to talk about the concerns they don’t articulate. If you can address their concerns, do so. If you can’t, explain why you can’t.
- Involve them in each step – from identifying opportunities for improvement to developing plans for improvement and reviewing these plans
- Use these people as a resource – you can learn a lot from them
When introducing change, look out for people who are enthusiastic and who want to be involved – they can help you work with people who are less positive.
What should be audited?
When conducting quality audits, auditors are not only auditing the system but the processes that are carried out and achieve the goals stated in the process. The emphasis in the AQTF is not on determining whether or not a process is in place but whether or not it has been implemented and is effective in achieving the outcomes determined by the RTO and those outcomes sought by industry. It is not satisfactory to simply review a policy or procedure and not address its implementation, nor would it be considered appropriate not to discuss the functions and outcomes with the users of the policy or procedure.
A procedure is audited by verifying compliance to the written procedures, checking to see if who does what, when, where and how is the same. Additionally, the auditor should check to see the effectiveness of how the requirements are being met and looking for opportunities for improvement.
The audit process should be:
Systematic – a clear system about the process of the audit and what is being sought to determine quality/compliance/best practice – must establish an appropriate sample (would you audit everything all the time – no!) – the audit process must support the audit findings and place emphasis and confidence in the decisions of the audit team.
Outcomes focused – what are the outcomes sought by a policy or procedure, what are the outcomes sought by a training program or piece of assessment, what is the learner expected to be able to do once they are identified as competent.
Evidence based – this does not always have to be a piece of paper – evidence can be gathered from the results of evaluations, data analysis, through discussion with staff/students/stakeholders.
Flexible – you need to be flexible enough to explore a range of evidence and have the auditee explain where necessary how a particular system/process achieves the required outcome – focus on the position of who you are auditing and remain objective in how your audit progresses and the type of evidence you are seeking.
Focus on continuous improvement – this is where your risk management should come into play. If you feel there is a particular process/system that is not 100% compliant or of high quality, what is the risk to your organisation? Is there a systematic approach that you can put in place to rectify the issue through a process of improvement?
Fairness – openness – transparency – This is of utmost importance – discuss general issues – ask group if they have been in an audit situation where the auditor was not using these principles.
For Internal Audits
- Do not audit your own material. If you audit your own material you risk not seeing the issues – always have someone else audit anything you have designed or developed. Those of you operating on your own are going to have to be more objective and critical than larger organisations
- Use a Technical Expert. This is not always possible but they are the ones who are going to be able to advise you on whether or not your assessment is going to achieve the level of skills and knowledge required by workplaces
- Record everything and Document Improvement Requirements. Goes without saying – this will drive your decisions on improvement and how to go about it – it will be an ongoing record of the achievement of quality continuously improved systems
- Implement systems to monitor improvements. Risk assess everything – by doing a risk assessment you will be able to determine timeframes and justify change particularly to staff involved in using the system
Source: Learner resources for Diploma in VET Registration and Management developed by Narelle Duncan (Anntek).