If you’ve spent any time in business, you’ve heard the buzzwords: Lean, Six Sigma, and Total Quality Management, but Continuous Process Improvement is more than buzz when adequately implemented.
The great grandfather of continuous quality improvement, Edwards Deming, was fond of saying, “94% of outcome problems reside in the process and not in the people who are part of the process.”
Deming’s realization that process was at the heart of problems – and his championing of emphasizing employee involvement and teamwork, working to measure and systematize processes, and reducing variation, defects, and cycle times in production – is credited with building back the Japanese economy after WWII. Solid proof that Continuous Process Improvement works.
Continuous Improvement of Processes Isn’t Just for the Factory Floor
What is continuous quality improvement in translation? Building a process of continuous quality in your LQA (Language Quality Assurance), instead of relying on inspection as a last step, increases the quality of translation and creates a stronger bank of communication assets for every market you’re active in. But creating this pattern of excellence requires a 3-step shift in mindset.
- Replace Start/Stop to Go with the Flow: Building a Framework for Real Continuous Improvement Process
The first challenge is a shift in mindset to see LQA as a workflow and not simply not a pass/fail. Many companies see LQA as just one more task box to check – often at the end of an extended launch plan where the timeline and budgets have already been stretched. This leads many to make “acceptable” lapses in translation quality under the belief that the fix will take too long and cost too much.
When Metrics are Lacking, a Commodity is Created
The pass/fail mindset leads many to see translation as a commodity product. That, in turn, drives translation vendors to be more cost-efficient by cutting services and lowering performance to meet the lowest acceptable quality level.
But a good LQA provider can help shift the pass/fail mindset by setting the metrics of success: Tying accuracy to customer satisfaction and showing the potential results of improvement, be it-long term cost savings or faster future project timelines, as a result of adopting a continuous improvement process in the translation workflow.
The Assignment of Metrics Creates Goals – and Goals Naturally Evolve Process
Think about your personal life: If the question is, “Are you a runner?” The answer is yes or no, and the qualification to be a runner is very broad (running across the street last week technically qualifies you as a runner, after all.)
But if the question is, “How am I going to complete a marathon in 3 hours?” You’ve now set a goal and automatically begin to adopt a process improvement plan – you’ll be searching Google and have a periodized training plan at your fingertips in no time.
- The Process Ownership Key: Not just Responsible for the Result, Able to Affect the Outcome
Once you have a framework of quality that flows, you are free to re-frame people’s responsibilities so that they are not simply liable for a task but an integral part of the flow that can affect the end result.
Without ownership, the natural human instinct is to deflect responsibility – the blame game.
A Continuous Improvement Process with an action-oriented plan and clear goals that empower people consistently achieves better results. It encourages each member of the team to be an active member of the process – shifting people from an “Inspection-only” mindset of pass/fail, where they are simply trying to avoid having the blame placed on them, to a place where they feel empowered to be a part of the process and be proactive.
This is the heart of Chilistore’s Language Ownership Program, where we sit down with the entire team to make sure translators and the rest of the localization team all see the results – and all have a stake in creating the best outcome.
- Connecting Owners to Make Feedback More Effective
Too much distance between Subject Matter Experts and translation professionals negatively affects quality. The more chance there is to interact, the more nuance and meaning the translator can gain and the better the end translation will be for the end user.
Our goal is to make the loop between project members so seamless readers never realize what they are reading is even a translation. And, yes, that can actually be done.
Skipping the Spreadsheet for Direct Feedback and More Natural Results
Traditionally, the feedback on translation quality comes in spreadsheets. It’s fast and easy to transmit information this way, but it comes with a downside: comments can be rushed, lack context, come off stronger than intended, and sometimes be a bit disrespectful.
There’s a myopic approach to this commenting format as well because, usually, it’s feedback on a single issue or instance, and the broader messaging can be lost. The commenting process can quickly become an arbitration where the overall quality of translation suffers.
The Better Way to Close the LQA Loop? Face-to-face Communication
We’ve found the LQA process flows far better if we can create transparency between translators and the SMEs in a company. Working directly ensures all reviews are relevant and fully productive.
In addition, when SMEs interface directly with translators, they share the quality goal. They can create a proactive translation process that quickly overcomes the pass/fail mentality because each stakeholder shares the goal and has a relationship with a partner they can depend on.
In short, the LQA process improvement is about connecting people and sharing a vision that empowers change.
Let’s Make Some Change Together
Want to learn more about creating continuous quality improvement in your LQA? It’s what we’ve been helping companies do for over a decade. And we’d love to explain how our Language Ownership Program can help you too.