Tottering Quality Management The Quality Portal :: Guest Author Series
"... abolish the post of Quality Assurance Manager in all ISO certified
The concept of Total Quality Management (TQM) took the corporate world
by storm almost two decades ago. There were many reasons for it, but
the most important one being European Union's move to allow imports
only from companies with ISO certification. International Standards
Organisation (ISO) rose from anonymity to become a household name in
the corporate world in no time. All types of business and organisations
started looking for certification of their goods and services to keep
up their exports. Till then 'quality' was at best a desirable
attribute and only Japanese companies paid any attention to it as a
policy. But the rush for ISO certification changed all that. Many good
changes resulted but many more unwanted tendencies surfaced. Two
decades down the lane it may be a useful exercise to retrospect on the
issue. Did ISO certification bring about any desirable change? Is it
necessary to continue with it in its present form? TQM is tottering and
drastic steps (by ISO) are required if the good effects of quality
movement are to survive.
E r r o n e o u s C o n c e p t s
There are two aspects to Quality Management - Quality Assurance (QA)
and Quality Control (QC). Ever since the advent of mass production and
assembly lines, QC has been an integral part of the industry in the
developed world. It sounds thoroughly logical to have someone or some
system to control the quality of things produced in mass. Systems and
procedures for QC vary from industry to industry. Non-Destructive
Testing (NDT) of items, even if done on a random basis, is good for
both the produced and user. It is no surprise that the concept of NDT
caught on and developed into a full fledged engineering activity of its
own. There is absolutely no dispute on the need to have the various
levels of certifications in this field to maintain the quality of
It is the deceitful cousin (i.e., QA) that is suspect in the eyes of
industry observers, especially in the services sector. We all know that
it is possible to take any horse to the water front, but it is always
upto the horse to drink it. Quality in an organisation is of a similar
nature. We can have perfect systems & procedures for quality, but if
the employees are not willing to follow, the whole system will fail to
deliver. All companies in the services sector are victims of this
syndrome. When the quality movement started, some shady agencies
deceived their clients by promising that a quality assurance system, a
quality certification and a quality assurance manager can ensure
quality of the output. A QA system is as good or bad as the quality of
those who implement it and no company with sub-standard employees can
provide standard services even if there is an ISO certified QA system
and an expert QA Manager in place.
The most significant development in the rush for quality has been the
unprecedented growth in the number of certification agencies. From a
few international players the number has grown in hundreds the world
over. The initial few had a bountiful harvest when the rush started and
that provided an ugly model for numerous 'operators' to try their
hand at a low-investment-high-return business opportunity. The simple
fact that most of the new certification agencies have their principals
in Europe and it was the European Union that triggered the quality
juggernaut makes the whole exercise suspect.
R e d u n d a n t M a n a g e r s
The single most beneficiary of this erroneous concept of Quality
Assurance has been a set of professionals masquerading as Quality
Assurance Managers (QAM) in ISO certified companies. They first descend
on the victims (desperate for ISO certification) in the form of experts
or consultants willing to assist in getting the initial certification.
It goes to their credit that they do a useful job at this stage. In
most companies, there will be severe shortage of expertise to document
the procedures they follow in a systematic manner. This vacuum is
easily filled up by the so-called ISO experts and consultants. After
marathon sessions with the employees, an acceptable and auditable
quality system is set up. Then these quality consultants (sometimes in
the form of a full fledged company itself) spend months after months
conducting mock audits, feedbacks and corrections, until finally the
whole system is ready for offering to an accredited external agency for
certification. It is always up to these ISO consultants to conclude
their deal by 'arranging' a smooth audit and certification as per
The dubious and redundant aspect of quality management starts from this
point. In order to maintain the certification and withstand the
periodic surveillance audits of the external agency, most companies are
too willing to accommodate these consultants or experts in the form of
a Quality Assurance Manager. Guidelines of ISO have made it easier for
these 'redundant' managers to report directly to the Chief
Executive in order to keep "Quality" as a high level and
independent function in the organisation. And that makes it easier for
these climbers to stay on forever. Most of the time, their work is
reduced to arranging 'facilities' for the external auditors and
'taking care' of them during the audits. Both these efforts do not
necessarily contribute to the quality of the host organisation is a
simple fact that misses the attention of the chief executives. In fact
they are counter productive and retrograde. In the long run almost all
such companies end up uneconomical thanks to their misplaced
overemphasis on quality rather than profit. Quality is meaningful only
in a profit making company and all the efforts for it must subordinate
the ultimate objective of making profit.
D e s i r a b l e C h a n g e s
It is time that the policy makers at ISO started thinking in terms of
pulling their systems of auditing and certification out of the
'suspicion net' they have fallen into. There should be strict norms
for authorisation of certification agencies and stricter ones for the
way they conduct business. Recertification and surveillance audits
should be more frequent and conducted in a transparent and professional
manner. Qualification and integrity of the auditors must be thoroughly
scrutinised. More than a profession of its own, auditors must be chosen
from peers in the industry itself. Those who have not done mending by
themselves can never audit or certify a mender.
There are several changes required on the part of the users of these
certification agencies as well. The first change that is inevitable
must come from the realisation that a Quality Assurance Manager in an
ISO certified organisation is actually impeding quality rather than
promoting it. Once written procedures are available and initial
certification is over, all further revisions must be carried out by the
owners of the procedures. And owners of quality procedures must be
operating departments themselves and not the Quality Assurance Manager.
In most cases, once the ISO certification is over, the employees carry
on with their usual work leaving the quality aspects to the QA Manager.
This is not correct. The best way to avoid this scenario is to abolish
the post of Quality Assurance Manager in all ISO certified companies.
Internal audits must be carried out by the procedure owners themselves
and external audits by accomplished auditors of integrity. If ISO
doesn't see darkness at the end of the tunnel now, it would be
disaster that awaits ISO certified companies in the near future.
both the producer and user. It is no surprise that the concept of NDT
While it IS true that the ideal is that the owners of the process
drive process improvement through control of the procedures, Auditing
practice dictates that those doing the work cannot - for objectivity
reasons - audit their own work. This is a basic principle in Auditing
that has been around forever, and it ain't gonna go away any time
Further, the Quality System at any ISO certified company MUST undergo
ongoing review to ensure suitability in the light of changing business
climates. Whether your company is growing or downsizing, the system
frequently requires adjustments and fine-tuning to fit the moving
target of the business model. People doing the work are genreally
oblivious of the "big picture". They simply do not have the tools, the
knowledge, the time, or the mandate to try and effect changes in the
system itself. Inability of the system to adapt to the changing
environment that it exists in will see your company de-certified VERY
Any Quality Assurance Manager that is doing his or her job properly is
worth their weight in GOLD. I come from the world of REGULATED medical
device manufacturing. If you don't want to lose your shirt in a
lawsuit, or have your plant shut down by authorities such as Health
Canada or the US FDA, then you better have a Quality Assurance
Manager, and that person better have all the people properly trained,
and all the required records in place. All of this comes under the
title "Due Dilligence". Fail to perform due dilligence, and you could
find your self on the short end of a long lawsuit - one that could see
you out of business and unable to make ANY profit.
Sure there are going to be leaches and hanger-on-ers. But they get
weeded out in time. One ISO Registrar put it to me like this years ago
"Does your position in the company add value? If it does, then you
must be qualified, and you must be auditable. If you feel that your
position does not add value for the company, then you might want to
warm up that resume sooner than later."
So, as I am a Quality Manager, I always frame my job in terms of what
value I am adding for the company. It is every bit as important to
engage in "due dilligence", and preventive activities as it is to
enegage in profit making activities - since failure to do so can erase
all profit that was ever made. So I balance my time by maximizing the
value that I add. I engage in prevention, I engage in direct profit
generation, and I engage in enhancement of customer service. I keep
the ducks lined up, and I act as a coach to everyone in the company to
assist THEM in making the "right" decisions on a day to day basis.
Last year when I sucessfully lead us through our ISO13485:2003
upgrade, I personally thanked every employee in the company after we
passed the audit. One junior person asked me "why?". I told him that
this success was more about HIM that it was about me. Without all of
them doing the good work, my job would not be possible. He was quick
to point out that without my ongoing facilitation for all of them,
that THEY would not have been in a position to do as well as they had.
And he is correct.
As to redundent managers, I would suggest that a LOT of senior
management is redundent! The #1 complaint I have had over the years is
that senior management does not see the value in quality because they
do not provide sufficient resources for quality to do the job
properly. Without sufficient resources, QA is tied up in knots, we are
unable to put systems in place that measure and directly tie the value
added by quality back to the bottom line of the company. So I submit
that senior management is merely paying lip service, and in many cases
passionate lip service, to quality initiatives. Many senior managers
are on a power trip. They have no intention of losing control of
things and being subordinated by the rules of a quality system - even
if failure to do so means reduced profit for the company.
I've had it up to here with people taking pot-shots at QA when the QA
department is underfunded and understaffed while the engineering
department is all fat & greasy with lots of resources to spare. Too
often the role of Quality Manager is really the role of "scape goat".
I looked at a possible job at one such company a couple of years back.
They had gone through 4 Quality Managers in 3 years. I managed to talk
to an employee of that company out of office hours. The real story?
The company was cutting corners. When Customers complained to
management, management was blaming the Quality Manager! Managers were
either fired, or they saw it coming and left before the crap hit the
The fact of the mater is that the position of Quality Manager is
required, and does add value. However, just like all other jobs, you
can't get the job done if you don't have to tools to do it.
External Audits by notified bodies and registrars are disruptive to a
business. Having these audits more frequently will simply slow
processes down, reduce throughput, and impede the ability of people to
do their jobs effectively and allow the company to make both quality
products and profits. And this would be exacerbated by the absense of
a Quality Manager to facilitate the audit for the External Audit Team.
I don't know who you are my good fellow, but your approach is as
suspect as it is naive. Looks to me like you are stiring the pot, and
pointing the finger square away from you and at other people.
I can't vouch for other managers. However, I can tell you that I add
so much value for my company that I got a promotion and a raise while
downsizing measures were being undertaken and others were being laid
off. The CEO of my company recognized the value I add IN WRITING, and
on my paycheque. There can be no stronger endorsement of a job well
done than this.
Is my position as a Quality Manager redundent? Not only do I not think
so, but the person who counts - the CEO and co-owner of the company -
does not think so either. Every dime he pays me comes out of
"hip-pocket national bank". You can bet your life if he thought I was
not adding value, my position would have been eliminated a LONG time
I would agree that some companies have ISO certifications that are worthy of
an Enron. I think it is because, there is a reluctance to tell a customer
that the certificate is going to be revoked. Hard to grow the business
without customers. Sound like Arthur Anderson?
"NewMan" <cloaked...@NOSPAM.yahoo.ca> wrote in message
>Why is it that so many Quality Assurance Managers believe that the must
>reply to posts about the redundancy of their job? I have never heard this
>sort of defensive whining from an Accounting Manager.
For me at least, it is because I have worked in Quality for well over
15 years, and for a half a dozen companies. The predominate theme was
that Quality is a "necessary evil". Indeed, for 3 of these companies,
when push came to shove, Quality was sacrificed - even though they all
professed to have commitment to Quality. Fortuitous for me as I
despise a company that says one thing and does something different
that borders on unethical.
Even my current company regards Quality as a "necessary evil". The
difference with this company is that they are in a regualted market,
and people like Health Canada and the US FDA have the gun to their
head. "Thou shalt have a Quality System, and a Management
representative for that system." And, fortunately, they will NOT
accept that the president, owner, production manager, and head of R&D
all being the same person can NOT also be the Quality Manager.
When it comes to Accounting no one questions it because these are the
people who deal with the money directly. The value that they add is
obvious. The bean counters deal with the money so that the Engineers
in R&D can play and get paid. Quality Assurance on the other hand, is
too often viewed as getting in the way of Engineers who would much
rather be working on the next great mouse trap than documenting the
project they just - supposedly - finished. Without Accounting you
cannot tell if you are making profit or not, you cannot know for sure
if there will be enough money to pay people at the end of the month.
These are pressing and important issues to be sure!
With Quality Assurance, your company can survive for some time without
it. It is NOT clear that the presense of QA has minimized defects of
losses. People have the mistaken notion that QA is a "nice to have"
rather than a "have to have".
There is no doubt in my mind that if there was not a regulatory
requirment for my position, that "Management" would look seriously at
eliminating the position to save money.
I look at a local company who is in the same market segment. Thier QA
Manager left last summer to go to a better job. Fair enough, it was a
good move for him. His system was in good shape. These guys have been
putting off the hiring of a new manager to save money! Their
Registrar's Audit is in July. They still have not filled the position.
IF they filled the position in the next 4 weeks (unlikely), then that
would give the new Manager less than 2 months to do a complete system
audit, and bring ALL other system requirements into line prior to the
External Audit. This is shoddy Management at its best. They know damn
well that by waiting they save money. They also know damn well that by
waiting, they system falls out of compliance, and that the new hire
will face 16 hour days to get things back on track. Real committment
to Quality there!
Accountants have been around since the damn of time. They, along with
Lawyers, Doctors, and Engineers have entrenched themselves as
"Professionals". Quality Assurance has not been around that long. Many
people without the requisite grey matter have trouble grasping the
concept - and many of these people are the Managers that decide if QA
should be "cut" or not. Quality Assurance has a long way to go and a
tough road to hoe to prove their value.
If I thought that QA was as valued as Accounting, then there would be
no "defensive whining" at all. I don't like the word defensive, but I
guess it is actually just that. I am defending "my turf" as it were -
my value as an employee. As a QA Manager I do add value in a variety
of ways. It is my sincerest hope that QA will eventually attain the
same standing as Accounting and Engineering in the business world.
When it does, I will sleep a little better at night.