Quality Management: Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody
You have probably all heard of this story and so I thought I would relate it to the world of quality management and to one that resulted in the company buying our software to ensure it didn’t happen again!
I started my association with the Quality domain over 15 years ago whilst working with an EHSQ application. My role was to help implement the application for the customer. I got the opportunity to work with some of the worlds largest organisations in industries ranging from food and drink, to pharmaceuticals, and to mining. During some of that time, I worked for the British Standards Institution (BSI) so I gained an in-depth knowledge of the issues that many companies face when trying to implement a QMS. This enabled me to understand that most of the time the continual cycle of improvement (Plan, Do, Check, and Act process) ultimately relies on people to carry out tasks in a timely manner. The tracking of whether this was taking place provided one of the biggest headaches for those responsible, usually the Quality Manager.
So here is the story - there was an important compliance task to be done before a re-visit from a regulatory body. The Quality Manager assumed that the Director of Regulatory Affairs would do it, however the Assistant Quality Manager could have done it, in the end nobody did it and the regulators, having given them six weeks to resolve the issue, suspended their licence to operate.
The Director of Regulatory Affairs got very angry about this because they thought it was the Quality Managers job, but the Quality Manager thought the Assistant Quality Manager would do it. In the end nobody did what anybody could have, but if they had an electronic quality management system (eQMS) everybody would have known who was doing it and when they had done it (or not done it).
I think it’s important to distinguish between intention and action. In the end we are all judged on the latter, but you need to ensure transparency across an organisation for the intentions that are mandatory and the actions that are vital. You also need the ability to ensure that people are aware of their responsibilities, or rather ownership of their actions. Having an eQMS such as Q-Pulse acts a little like the cardboard cut-out of a police officer in my local store: it reminds you that you are being watched!
Agility is another important factor in the struggle to stop things dropping through the gaps and being forgotten – business is a dynamic process and when you need to look ahead and re-assign ownership of actions to others, whether this is because someone has left the company, or has been moved in the organisation, a window to see what they were responsible for and who you can re-assign to, is a comforting view to have.