Quality Isn’t a 9-to-5 Job

Tools, applications are evident outside the workplace

by Christopher C. Miller

as a quality professional, I often think about how quality is embedded in people’s everyday lives. Looking back at my own life, I was shocked to learn how long and how much quality has had an impact on me—especially outside of work. 

My first quality position was as a lab technician for C.F. Sauer Co., a condiment and food spice manufacturer. I performed environmental swabbing, packaging checks, lab analysis of raw and finished materials, and facility inspections to make sure the company complied with all local, state and federal regulations.

But it was long before that job that I was first exposed to quality. In February, as I was reviewing my journal, I realized just how long I’ve been using quality tools and applications without even realizing it.

Practice makes perfect

One of the earliest examples in which I used quality tools and applications is when I was in band at two different high schools. Each band director persistently had us practice to make certain we had the right tonal quality.

I really noticed the importance of practice, however, during my time on the Academic Bowl team. The coaches made sure we practiced to be a successful team. The practicing paid off—we won the school’s first-ever county championship.

Since then, I’ve realized that one of the concepts used during those practices is a well-known quality tool—the plan-do-check-act (PDCA) cycle, or, as I call it, plan-do-check-adjust cycle.

After graduating from high school, I went to Clemson University in South Carolina. There, I got involved in Clemson’s Residence Hall Association, first as a treasurer and later as member-at-large, and I dealt with student issues in the campus residence halls.

There, I saw quality embedded in the meeting agendas, and I visited the halls to get resident feedback so campus housing officials could make the quality of life better for students. It was there that I learned the importance of feedback and communication between students and housing officials.

One way I was involved in improving the quality of life was by helping make the areas outside the residence halls safer at night. By working with several resident directors and housing officials, we had lights installed outside the buildings, which helped reduce the risk of on-campus crime.        

Thinking outside the job

Over the years, I’ve also seen continuous improvement used to make things better in my personal life. At my church, I make every effort as an usher captain to improve the quality of service for members and visitors so they can enjoy the church worship service.

An example of continuous improvement to make church service better occurred last year: Church officers moved the usher collection plates from an open part of the church office to a more secure place. This change led to more efficient collections, reduced the time for collections by five minutes, lessened the offering handling by one step and helped prevent robbery and theft.

Since May 2006, I’ve taken up editing for Wikipedia as a hobby. I’ve seen many quality tools employed on the website, including PDCA; audit follow-up on any discussions regarding articles, images, templates and categories; checklists on how to write, edit and delete articles and upload images; and continuous improvement to increase the quality and quantity of articles.

One example of article auditing occurred in March with a piece for a "good article nomination."1 I created and edited an article on the International Ski Federation Nordic World Ski Championships 2009. I worked with an editor from Norway and another from the Czech Republic to address concerns raised by a Norwegian reviewer to help the article earn the good article standing, which it eventually did.

In short, we may work in the quality profession, but when we think about it, we realize we’ve been dealing with quality all of our lives. I am passionate about quality because I want to make products, services and life in general better for myself and everyone else.

Reference and Note

  1. Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:good_articles. According to Wikipedia, "good articles" are articles that are considered to be of good quality, but which are not yet, or are unlikely to reach, featured article quality.

Christopher C. Miller is the second-shift quality supervisor for the House of Cheatham in Stone Mountain, GA. He received his bachelor’s degree in agricultural engineering from Clemson University in South Carolina. Miller is an ASQ-certified quality auditor and an ASQ member.

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