Re-Positioning the Quality Profession: Part 1
For all organisations, the delivery of high-quality products and services is essential. The consequences of failure to deliver can be highly significant in today’s world of increasing customer and stakeholder expectations, regulatory oversight and the use of social media to broadcast success or failure.
So why is it that every day when we open the newspaper we are greeted by failures caused by ignoring the basics of quality? Resulting in harm to society, damaged lives, wasted money and ruined organisations and reputations.
Organisation’s don’t deliberately set out to fail, so something clearly is not working. It’s obvious the quality message is not resonating with business and industry nor with government. So what are the reasons behind this? Because the message is flawed or confused, we are failing to put it robustly, or is it because those who practice quality within organisations fail to follow through and ‘walk the talk’?
We at the Chartered Quality Institute (CQI) think it’s a bit of all three. As a profession we seem comfortable in middle management or on the shop floor, happy to avoid the accountability that goes with being in the Boardroom. The professional bodies who oversight the profession’s standards, including, I have to accept, the CQI, have been content with qualifying individuals who struggle to operate at senior levels. And the message has historically been couched not in the business language understood at senior levels, but in technical terms more suited to the shop floor.
All this has to change if this profession is able to deliver to its potential. And we are absolutely convinced the potential is considerable. Change doesn’t happen of its own accord, it must be led and the CQI has undertaken to do just that. To lead the profession into greater relevance, to make quality an inhabitant of the boardroom, to have the profession regarded as an essential component of decision-making and setting business strategy, to make the benefits of quality understood by those whose hands are on the levers of power.
We are aware the challenge is significant and our vision unlikely to be realised quickly. And because we operate in a global economy, it’s not just the profile of quality within the UK we seek to change, it is the quality landscape globally.
To put it mildly, our ambitions are considerable. So why have we taken it upon ourselves to reposition the world’s view of quality and those who practice quality? There’s two parts to that answer; the President Kennedy response of ‘we do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard…’, in other words because we can and we think we should.
We recognise our responsibility as a professional body is to set and maintain standards. But the other reason is perhaps even more valid, it is quite simply what our stakeholders have demanded of us. We have embarked on some fairly wholesale changes within the CQI over the last few years and included within these, is a strategy of identifying and engaging with our key stakeholders. Part of that engagement has been them telling us what they want from the profession and what they are not getting now. The message has been unequivocal and very clear; as a profession we are not cutting it. So the voice of our customer is the other very compelling reason for this undertaking.
We are delighted with the invitation by NQA to contribute our thoughts through this publication and over the coming months we will flesh out our intentions in greater detail. Having a vision is a good and necessary start but the real work is in the underpinning detail. And our progress so far has indicated there is no shortage of that! We have a long journey ahead of us and this journey isn’t confined to those of us who work here at the CQI, it involves all who are members and all who have some aspect of quality in their job.
You can view guidance on delivering quality standards through ISO 9001 or view real business case studies.
To find out more about the challenge the profession is facing and what the CQI is doing to drive change visit the CQI website.
Authored by: Simon Feary
Simon Feary is the Chief Executive of The Chartered Quality Institute (CQI). Following a career as a chartered biologist and later in management, Simon joined the CQI in 1994 to head up the International Register of Certificated Auditors. Today he is focused on leading the CQI to tackle the challenges facing the industry today and in future, head on.