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Advancing as a Quality Professional

11 May 2015
CQI's Simon Feary discusses the CQI's plans for repositioning the quality profession, and leading it into an exciting new era.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve discussed the CQI’s plans for repositioning the quality profession, and leading it into an exciting new era. We have the opportunity to make a difference at the highest level. In this first in-depth look into the CQI Competency Framework, I will explain why good governance is critical to an organisation’s success and how quality professionals can play a crucial role in its delivery.

Governance essentially defines what and how things should be done, and being certain the approach is fit for purpose. It is about having a clear intent that is documented through a suite of policies, processes and plans, and is established with reference to all stakeholder requirements – whether it is at the organisational, functional or product/service delivery level.

No other profession is addressing the issues caused by poor governance. We know governance is a key area of concern, particularly from society’s perspective when confronted with stories like the NHS Staffordshire Hospital scandal.

The Francis report, which summed up the public enquiry into Staffordshire hospital, said: “Organisations have the responsibility to detect and redress deficiencies in local management and performance where these occur. It does not need a public inquiry to recognise that this elaborate system failed dramatically in the case of Stafford. As a result, it is clear that not just the Trust’s Board but the system as a whole failed in its most essential duty to protect patients from unacceptable risks of harm and from unacceptable, and in some cases inhumane, treatment that should never be tolerated in any hospital.”

Society is demanding that organisations get better in this area and they will respond, but they need help – our profession is best placed to provide that help.

The real challenge for organisations is making sure the defined intent is fit for purpose and that all stakeholder requirements are clearly understood. At an organisational level, it’s easy to focus on a particular stakeholder – sometimes at the expense of others – but this is usually a mistake.

Organisations that only look after their customers and shareholders often see their reputations become severely compromised because they haven’t properly respected the needs of their employees, suppliers or the community where they operate – or indeed the law.

The role of the quality professional is not to take direct responsibility for establishing good governance, but to question whether governance is effective.

The quality professional should challenge the organisation or the product/service delivery team in two important ways:

  • Ensure the organisation or product/service delivery team have properly identified all their stakeholders and associated equipment.

  • Establish the policies, processes and plans that fully address these requirements.

When an organisation or delivery team have new stakeholders, perhaps through starting to trade with a new country or customer, the quality professional has a particularly important role to play.

In these instances, they should seek to establish that the stakeholder’s requirements are fully understood – perhaps they have particular legislation or regulations that must be complied with.

In these instances there is usually a need to develop policy and process in order to address the additional responsibilities, which are now incumbent on the organisation. A good example of this in the defence sector is the need to comply with International Traffic in Arms Regulations when contracts with the US are accepted.

Compliance with this kind of regulation depends on developing policies and processes that mandate new activities and controls.

Governance is a growth area because it has the most significant impact in terms of organisational robustness and protecting/enhancing reputation. We are best placed to develop organisational capability in this regard because our profession is already heavily involved in things such as BMS, quality management systems, certifications and standards.

We have to raise our game so we can better engage with organisations to ensure their framework for governance is better than it has been in the past.

Governance is the foundation stone on which all other activities in an organisation are built. Therefore, if you do not have clarity of purpose, then you must accept that any outcome is possible, and of course, you have no basis for improvement.

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By Simon Feary, CEO of the Chartered Quality Institute