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Exercising Influence Cross-functionally to Drive Product and Service Excellence

Posted: December 9, 2017 at 1:54 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

G U E S T  A R T I C L E

Exercising Influence Cross-functionally to Drive Product and Service Excellence 

If you are a Quality and Compliance professional, you are very likely a proponent of the idea that senior management’s commitment is essential to the successful implementation of any Quality Management System (QMS). Leadership commitment is considered so critical to the success of the QMS that in fact, the ISO 9001:2015 standard and other regulations give significant attention to this area.

However, it is not only senior management’s commitment that plays a critical role in the architecture and engineering of the QMS. It is every employee’s commitment to the QMS that propels the strategy for long-lasting success even further. This is reflected in ISO9001:2015 where it states that “Top management shall demonstrate leadership and commitment with respect to the quality management system by engaging, directing and supporting persons to contribute to the effectiveness of the quality management system”.

It then becomes apparent, that as Quality and Compliance professionals, we must become finely skilled at strategically exercising influence across functions to engage the organization in our commitment to quality and support top management’s efforts to do the same. We must be able to articulate the value of quality practices to our colleagues at all levels and functions to ensure our business processes align with the needs of the QMS.

Here are some tips on effectively exercising influence as avid proponents of your organization’s QMS:


Propose win-win scenarios

When people understand what’s in it for them, they are much more likely to respond positively to any request you make. Make sure you clearly illustrate the benefits for the company, department and/or individual you are trying to influence. For example, if communicating with a commercial team, focus on the benefits the QMS might bring to their customers by improving their experience with your products or services. If facing an operations audience, you may want to focus on highlighting the benefits of increased productivity and decreased rework.


Be persistent

A good influencer understands that it takes time and continued effort to achieve results. Driving the message of the benefits of the QMS is about establishing a culture. Introducing new practices and ideas is clearly not something that happens overnight.  People become emotionally attached to what they are used to. Fortunately, habits are a result of repetition, so any attempt to change them will require the same repetition that instilled them in the first place. Workshops, talks, informal conversations and emails are all great ways to continuously drive your message. Stay focused and positive. Keep in mind that you are on a mission and don’t ever give up. 


Get the timing right

Yes, you need to be persistent but never irritating. If you cross that line, you will risk losing the respect of your colleagues. A social event might not be the right setting to discuss the validation of your water filtration process. Pressuring someone to respond to your request for key performance indicators in support of a Management Review Meeting when you know they just got off the phone from a disastrous meeting that you also attended is not wise either. Get people in the right frame of mind and you might be surprised with their response.


Don’t just tell them “what to do” or “what not to do”. Ask questions instead

Imposing orders on colleagues is often not well received. Try asking questions in a way that leads your audience to answer in support of your idea.  For example, instead of telling someone to report customer complaints, ask them why they believe it is important to share customer feedback within the organization.


Understand your audience and anticipate challenges and/or questions

Diversity is at the core of humanity. Each individual forming a part of this world we live in has a unique genetic make-up and has had unique life experiences that have shaped their behavior and outlook in life. That is exactly why as a quality leader hoping to influence your colleagues to embrace the benefits of the QMS, you need to take the time to understand the personality, culture and believes of your audience. That might give you a hint as to what sort of things they might pose as counter arguments and have responses prepared for each. It may also give you some insight into what factors they consider valuable in their decision-making process.


Use facts

Facts are the heart and soul of influence. Just as you could not survive without a beating heart, an argument does not stand a chance without proven and objective facts. When facts are compelling, it is difficult for someone to say “no”. 


Build a relationship

It should come as no surprise that we tend to help those we appreciate. Building relationships lays out a strong foundation upon which collaboration can be built. Show people that you not only care about your success, but that you also care about theirs. Think of other functions as an extension of yours and not as an opposing force.

The complexity of human nature does not allow for one perfect approach to succeed in the realm of influencing; however, these behaviors lay out a good starting point. Depending on the situation and who you are dealing with, some things might work better than others. Just remember, the attempt is always worthwhile when it comes to supporting your quest for QUALITY!


About the author:

Eliana Pouchard, CBA (ASQ) is a Medical Events Specialist with Johnson and Johnson. Eliana is a quality assurance professional in the pharmaceutical and biomedical industry. Click here to see Eliana’s profile on Linkedin.

Copyright information: The article has been published with permission from the author. Title picture is not associated with the original writing.


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