Every dog has its day, and the 1980s and 1990s were the best days to be a Quality Manager.
The Japanese were streaking ahead and everyone wanted a piece of the action and the certificate to go with it. You weren’t a gung-ho, on-the-ball kind of organisation if you didn’t have your very own Quality Manager at the top table. Quality systems were cutting edge and there was lots of enthusiasm for this new way of working. Good times.
Then the dark days dawned. The turn of the 21st century saw retrenchment on a massive scale. Middle management took the hit. Quality Managers hadn’t made anywhere near enough noise to ensure that the top brass understood and appreciated their value.
An holistic approach to problem solving, the ability to build bridges between departments and functions, a common sense approach to customers, the ability to listen, investigate and act… well, it’s just not very sexy, is it? And a bit abstract, maybe?
Quality Managers were shown the door.
But hey, the certificate has to remain on the wall, right? Enter the Company Accountant as The Unwilling Arbiter Of The Quality System. Added to an already full plate, and with little understanding of the needs of a healthy compliance system, this was never going to work out.
Okay then, how about another Senior Manager? The one who isn’t at this meeting and therefore can’t turn the job down? Yeah…
At this point the system is in a ragged state, and the External Auditor is pointing the finger. Of course, there is always a Quality Consultant ready to turn things around. The certificate remains but…
Sustainable systems, like relationships, require love, time and someone vested in their good health.
Quality is a finely balanced system – it takes years to create a good one and only months to stuff it up. It’s a shame that the value of a good system can often only be seen when it’s gone.
But here’s the thing - quality systems were never really about trying to keep up with the Japanese or keeping the certificate on the wall.
Strip away the graphs, the documentation and the checklists and you will find that at their core, quality systems are about meeting the needs of customers.
That’s really important, so I’m going to repeat it - quality systems are about meeting the needs of customers.
Consumer power is increasingly vocal and organised. Good news and bad news travels at fibre-optic speed. Social media can make you or break you. These factors are a rallying cry for more love for the quality system, not less.
This means that Quality Managers have got a fantastic opportunity to feel the love again. A manager whose prime function is to lavish time and care on a quality system will return the investment many times over. A healthy compliance system pays off in faster growth, improved productivity and increased profit.
Time to get gung-ho again, 21st century style.