Is a General Approach to Quality Management Still Possible?

I’m been moved to offer this question up for pondering as a result of a few things I have seen written about modern quality management. Naturally people have ideas, and some people even feel confident enough to say it is this or that. My first reaction is to try to work out what they are saying, then I try to reconcile it with my own direct experiences of working virtually everyday with a very wide range of organisations, and to try to see if their view fits. I’ve noted that it never does, and I think I might have worked out why.

There can be no general approach. It’s a myth.

Human animals can cope with simple, non-complex things easier than they can complex things. Therefore there is a natural motivation to simplify things wherever possible and, when this can be done, I’m all for that, who wouldn’t be? The problem is, you can’t do that with everything. Some things are multi-dimensional, dependent on variables and just DIFFERENT. I think Quality Management is drifting in that direction. There may have been a time when life and markets were simpler and less complex, so at one point a general approach might have been more feasible, but I am starting to think those days are gone. Maybe long gone, and the sooner we realise that, the sooner we can stop looking for something that can never exist and point ourselves at a more practical revised approach. The simple reason I think there can be no general approach is purely because as I go from job to job, organisation to organisation, country to country, I find I just can’t adopt a general approach. I need to work out a few things and ask a few questions before I can even know what the job is half the time. Then I have to cut my cloth to suit my cap – this is the reality. It’s a complex world, not necessarily a bad thing, I quite like it, but the days of the sausage machine approach to quality management are almost gone. These are the days of the smart solution.

So what does that mean for a profession already struggling with its identity? Maybe it needs to get smarter, cleverer, more sector specific. Maybe it needs to forget about a small number of general tools and think about a large number of sector specific tools. Maybe it needs to think more about context (both cultural and type of business) and start creating people who are able to think on their feet, to LISTEN before they start preaching, to articulate and to understand the concept of “best available option”. Who knows. Frankly what the profession calls itself and decides of its strategy is of no importance to me anymore, because as I said, my main concern is my next job, and I need to work out what the heck it is

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