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Quality Remix: More on Quality - More on Management

March 22, 2010
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My previous two columns have sparked some interesting and lengthy discussions on LinkedIn. The central themes of these columns addresses whether quality should be an independent function, and whether putting someone in charge of quality who has no experience in the field demonstrates a lack of respect for quality. These themes are closely related.

My previous two columns (here and here) have sparked some interesting and lengthy discussions on LinkedIn.

The central themes of these columns addressed whether quality should be an independent function, and whether putting someone in charge of quality who has no experience in the field demonstrates a lack of respect for quality. In my view, these two themes are closely related to one another.

A quality organization should have competent people who work in an environment where they are free to make sure that products meet quality and engineering requirements and are not under management pressure to do what is best for production and the company’s “bottom line.”

My blog, More on Quality, is about situations that should not happen, but do. Because of my experience, my blog is generally about what goes wrong in quality organizations, particularly large (aerospace) companies.

My comments are not intended to be universal truths. While the situations I’ve described are not common, they do happen….more often in some companies and perhaps not at all in others, but they shouldn’t happen at all.

When a person is put in charge of a technical function he (or she) knows little about, problems may result. If an aerospace company wants a competent QA department, they must have managers who are technically well-qualified and who also have experience in QA.

Working in aerospace quality requires specific technical knowledge in areas such as nondestructive testing (NDT), engineering requirements, stress analysis and applications involving metals, composites and other materials. The danger, here, is that a manager who doesn’t possess this knowledge still has the authority to overrule those who know a lot more about the subject than he does. The manager may make decisions that others advise him are wrong, but he has the authority to ignore their concerns.

It is not a certainty that a person with no experience will always do a bad job or that a person can't learn about a subject and eventually become a good manager-but, I maintain that it is not a good idea, especially in aerospace. Hiring a technically weak manager greatly increases the probability that wrong decisions will be made. It is unwise, risky and can lead to disaster.

This situation is not unique to quality; it also exists in many other technical areas. Would it be wise to have someone managing a stress engineering department without an engineering degree and with no experience or qualifications in stress engineering? That situation also could lead to disaster.

It has been my pleasure to work with a lot of excellent QA engineers and managers in my career, but I’ve also encountered some incompetent ones and a few who were corrupted by their desire to please upper management. As much as we would like to believe that everyone has the integrity and competence they should have, some do not. Consider what the Wall Street financial organizations and large banks have done in recent years…and probably always have done.

In recent history, two space shuttles were destroyed in large part because people in positions of authority made decisions regarding technical issues that they didn’t understand.

Toyota is now facing a huge expense because of multiple recalls involving thousands of cars. Toyota’s management has apologized for ignoring a problem after it was brought to their attention numerous times for several years. The car company has been looked on as an industry leader in quality-but they failed to deal with the problem. They have admitted that they put production and profit ahead of safety and quality.

Fortunately, only a small number people were reportedly killed by the Toyota accelerator problem, and this was only a small percentage of those who experienced the malfunction. If a critical part in a commercial airliner fails during flight, everyone aboard could die.

Companies that allow an unqualified person to be a quality manager do not understand the extent of specific knowledge that is required, have no respect for quality, or don't want a quality department that will interfere with production.

Let's continue this discussion. I'd like to hear your continued thoughts!

More on Quality in a few months.
Read all More on Quality postings here.
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some words

moyassar
March 25, 2010
I agree with you, when we seeking about the professionals we not found hem in quality department, in these department we found whose learning background was engineering or biology or chemical I think we must fined a managerial background at least one person

some words

moyassar
March 25, 2010
I agree with you, when we seeking about the professionals we not found hem in quality department, in these department we found whose learning background was engineering or biology or chemical I think we must fined a managerial background at least one person

quality as scapegoat

cathy
April 6, 2010
been in quality for 20yrs - let's be serious - "quality" is just a buzzword management likes to say - but production is all that matters. if something goes wrong - then the QA department is there to be the scapegoat.

Understanding Risk, Process, and overall "clear communications" in a system

George
April 7, 2010
QA functions are a organized proactive and reactive set of activities in defining the reality of human beings managing an activity for a desired result. As organizational common sense has no defined measurables - I would add key components are comprehensive evaluation of risk and risk reduction/management through source activity - management systems,design, tooling, supplybase, assembly, etc; technical competency in understanding actual processing, people management, customer needs, and regulatory needs that all offer opportunities for miscommunication if missing. Consistent applied business ethics are required and as such societal and organizational politics are often contributing factors to many result variances and often disasters. Decisions have consequences as such understanding input requirements, process, output reality, and overall management is as much human integrity and tecnical knowledge - short changing the needs often brings issues either way.

Don't totally agree...

Santiago
April 12, 2010
A QA manager as any other manager is a leader, and as a leader a fundamental responsibility is to have the right person in the right position. So it is the manager's responsibility to make sure his people is certified in whatever their function is, so, instead of having the QA manager getting certified in NDT then in heat treat then ....etc., I would rather assign to my QA manager the responsibility of have his people certified, and have him develop his habilities as leader. Of course as Quality Manager he has to have a good level of knowledge and experience, but does not need to be the expert, his people have. I have seen (and fired) Quality managers with a very high technical knowledge (several tech certs) that "tell" his people what to do, avoidinig with this their own development. QA manager does not need to be the expert but has to know what to ask. thanks delia103@hotmail.com

Food Safety

Anna Ashmore
April 14, 2010
Nice Reading. Thanks. LRQA helps bring integrity, independence and world-renowned recognition to your assurance claims. Quality-ISO 9001 Training Environmental-ISO 14001 Training Greenhouse Emission Management Training Food Safety Training http://www.lrqausa.com

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