Online Edition - June 2000
Issue Highlight - Safe
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--In addition to the inherent difficulties associated with disseminating quality assurance and quality control, adding R&D magnifies the complexity. R&D is not necessarily a finite process yet it possesses many similar qualities. Utilizing standard controls can be difficult and many times inhibitive. Nevertheless, I have seen many organizations fall short on R&D initiatives because the product expectations and quality standards were sacrificed for time-to-market concerns. This situation clearly illustrates the need to utilize both quality assurance and quality control techniques. In order to accomplish this merger, the organization must support an enterprise-wide belief and commonality toward the concepts of quality and excellence. The premise of the question and the base upon which my response is formulated can be found in the concept known as Quality Function Deployment (QFD).
--To summarize the definition I would say this: Quality assurance is a macro behavior that should be embraced by the organization. Under that umbrella many forms of quality controls should exist. These controls can range from statistical process controls to QFD and ISO. All efforts should roll up and be consistent throughout the organization.
--An ideal quality organization values excellence, trust, compassion, competence, realism and accountability. You will find the true meaning of quality when you execute your corporate initiatives against the backdrop of these principles. In addition, you will soon find that quality is not external to business process; it is inherent.
--The ideal organization should also promote cross-functional communication which perpetuates shared expectations, agreed upon standards and in turn, harmonious operations. This type of structure takes the "got you" out of quality and replaces it with a "how can I help you" attitude. Although this sounds great on paper, do not be fooled by the difficulties when attempting to implement the change. Capture what is working in the company, define what is broken and work to close the gaps. As you concentrate on the mechanical attributes of the change, maintain focus on the people. Your structure should identify competency gaps and have a plan to fill them. One of the biggest mistakes is trying to enhance quality by shifting process or structure only. Do not forget the need to move people and process in a parallel task.
--It is also important to assure alignment with the corporate vision and philosophical norms. Nothing is more frustrating to staff members than a quality effort that represents lip service only. As the accountable practitioner, you may have to fight the good fight first, and then deliver the message. Once this alignment is complete, everyone, including management, is accountable. However, you will soon see they are accountable to much more than a quality assurance or control standard. They are now accountable to a quality norm.
--The answer to your question has now come full circle. A good quality effort is made up of varied components and each of them is imbedded in the fabric of your organization.