Intelligent Quality Management


I contribute to a lot of on-line forums about quality management, most of them on LinkedIn. If there is one recurring theme that strikes me it is the apparent inability or unwillingness of some practitioners to think things through. It is so frustrating reading the pompous and impractical statements some people make. Things that make no sense when put to the rational test. Statements made from such an academically contrived perspective, they present an argument nobody ever needs to win. I am often left wondering if they actually understand the basic truths and facts of organisational and commercial life, and sometimes even life in general. Some of the things some people think you can get away with confronting top management with beggars belief, and there is a widespread consensus that people (from the same gene pool as you and I) who happen to work in “other departments” are unenlightened buffoons who need a good talking to about “quality”.

Those of you who have followed my posts will no doubt realise I do not get my kicks out of any specific technique. I don’t really get involved in highly technical or clever debates. I do, however, spend a lot of time trying to understand how things work. There are a few simple dynamics that have to be both accepted and understood. The main ones I can think of as I write include;

Cost versus benefit – Never expect anybody to do anything that seems like more work than it is worth. If something doesn’t sound very worthwhile, don’t expect an enthusiastic response.

Risk – a combination of the likelihood that a bad thing will happen, and its impact. If you don’t understand how risk works, you can’t hope to understand ….

Proportionality of controls – not every problem heralds the end of civilisation. Small problems, small solutions. Some problems might be so small and infrequent that we can even live with them. Electing simply to accept a negligible risk is usually just fine.

Real idiots are rare – This one is IMPORTANT. There is usually a good reason why people do what they do, and you might just do the same if you were in their position. Maybe you should try walking a mile in the shoes of these buffoons from “other departments” before you dismiss them

Top management ARE interested in quality – why on Earth would they not be? But they do deserve a logical and economically sound reason to put their money where your mouth is. And so would you if it were your money.

Different companies have different priorities – for example, if a company operates with a thick profit margin, efficiency is not likely to be its number 1 priority. Before you brand this as a disgraceful attitude, or “anti-quality”, try finding out what its actual priorities are and align your approach accordingly. Telling them you have found a way to save $10,000 might be like telling Elton John he can save the same amount by using one less bottle of Champagne each time he fills his bath. A generic approach is one size fits all, but it never fits anybody very well. Find out what the company is trying to do, and what are its priorities before you start lecturing on what’s good for them.

You can’t self-declare value or credibility – Credibility can only be earned or lost. Value can only be deemed by the recipient. Look close to home if people are seeing neither in you, your work or your arguments. It isn’t their fault.

I’m now looking for a tidy way to round this post off. I suppose “rant over” will do.

 

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2 Responses to Intelligent Quality Management

  1. Rob says:

    For me a quality management system just forms a framework to hang some decent business ideas off. It can help to stablise processes, make them more efficient and effective and such like but more often then not it dosen’t. After working in quality for 20+ years you become somewhat cynical.

  2. Shaun says:

    I’m not sure cynicism is such a bad thing, Rob. You have to see things for what they are, otherwise you end up being naive and deluded. You and I both know a lot of aspects of the “quality management system” is a process of putting stuff in place that the customer wants to see. If they say “jump”, we say “how high?”. Sometimes their requests have an obvious point, sometimes they can just be a whim of a particular second party auditor with no obvious benefit in terms of “quality” (whatever that is)

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