Oklahoma's Quality Assurance Experience:
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By Deborah K. Boyer
oday's correctional agencies are faced with many challenges — prison overcrowding, staffing shortages and an ever-increasing demand to operate cheaper, better and faster. Correctional agencies must find ways to operate more efficiently and effectively and reduce costs, while ensuring public safety remains the top priority. As the second largest state agency in Oklahoma, with more than 4,600 full-time employees and a fiscal year 2008 budget in excess of $535 million, the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (ODOC) is faced with similar challenges. In an effort to proactively address these challenges. Director Justin Jones created a Quality Assurance Unit in January 2006, Why create a Quality Assurance Unit in a government agency such as ODOC? John Ryan, in an American Society for Quality (ASQ) white paper titled Making the Economic Case for Quality, discusses a review of Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award applicants by the U.S. General Accounting Office. The U.S. Congress asked the GAO to examine the impact of formal quality management practices on the performance of U.S. companies. The principal finding was: "Companies that adopted quality management practices experienced an overall improvement in corporate performance. In nearly all cases, companies that used total quality management practices achieved better employee relations, higher productivity, greater customer satisfaction, increased market share and profitability," Ryan further states, "The study also identified six common features contributing to improved performance that appeared consistently among the companies' quality efforts: customer focus, management leadership, employee involvement, open corporate culture, fact-based decision-making and partnership with suppliers,"' Many of these same factors are found within the vision statement...