Quality Management & The Management of Quality

I’m going to try hard not to let this post turn into a rant, but it might, so apologies in advance.  The reason I have been moved to pose this question, and air my own views on it, is as a result of a few unusual comments I’ve seen posted on discussion forums under the “quality management” banner. As an example, recently I have seen people suggest that the following range of issues have resulted from a failure in quality management, specifically;

  • The world banking crisis
  • News International’s hacking scandal
  • The perceived botch up by the USA special forces whilst attempting to apprehend Osama Bin Laden

Seriously. People have posted questions on quality management discussion boards suggesting that better “quality management” (whatever that is) could have prevented these undesirable events

What is “Quality Management”?

My first reaction was to dismiss these things simply as a few people getting carried away. It has been said many times by many people  that if the only tool you possess is a hammer, you’ll see every problem like a nail and, superficially, this may just be what is happening here. However, it did make me wonder whether there is a wider question that we need to answer, and that one being “what exactly is a quality professional?”  The thing is, when I look at other professions, I see the members of those professions being defined by possessing some relatively specific and sometimes unique skill and knowledge sets, and I think in the past this may have been more true of the quality profession. These days the term “quality management” seems to be being used in at least two different ways. On the one hand we have the traditional “Management of Quality” usage, which historically has tended very much to be output focussed and concerned first and foremost with the management of variation in the delivered product or service. On the other hand we have this less well defined “quality management” where, in its loosest sense, seems simply to mean “managing in a quality way”. This second use appears to be applicable to any function or process and, putting it bluntly, means little more than not screwing up at work

I’m caught a little bit in a cleft stick with the whole thing. I can see an argument that any person in any job can apply a few simple “quality management” techniques to reduce the risk of screwing up, but where does that leave those people that actually call themselves “quality professionals” and seek to be rewarded appropriately for adding a value that others can’t? It effectively destroys the identity of the profession by diluting it across the entire professional spectrum

One thing that I am certain about is that people outside the “quality” fraternity do not share the feelings of those inside the fraternity about “quality management” being the universal panacea that is being claimed in some quarters. I could suggest that they might consider the idea that a good quality manager could have averted the world banking crisis as just a bit daft. Others I am sure, will disagree

Football is a game of opinions, so they say* …..

Rupert Murdoch dismisses suggestions that he needs a quality manager - a decision he would later regret

*They are, of course wrong, as it is a game of two halves

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