Quality Blog

Quality Remix: More on Quality - Quality Mismanagement

January 26, 2010
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In a quality-oriented Dilbert cartoon (by Scott Adams Oct. 11, 2007), the “Pointy Haired” boss states that he values “loyalty over competence.” Unfortunately, this is true in some aerospace companies and not just in the quality department. Did Scott Adams work where I did?

To view the strips Click Here and Here.

Quality management positions are sometimes filled by itinerant managers who have moved from job to job and have had no training or experience in quality. These “migrant workers” are put there because they needed a home when their previous employment ended or because they were demoted or removed from their last position for poor performance. Quality departments are sometimes used as a dumping ground for unwanted or failed managers and being sent to QA may be viewed as a career dead end. The only qualification these people possess is that they are viewed as compliant and loyal to upper management, and they will do whatever they are asked in order to keep their jobs.

Putting someone in charge of quality with no background or experience in it, demonstrates a lack of respect for the quality function and a lack of integrity and ethics in both the person who offers the position and in the one who accepts it.

In several cases I have seen a quality management position taken by a person who has decades of experience in manufacturing positions where he was always at odds with QA, as it impeded him from reaching his manufacturing goals. One must assume he was given the position to make sure that quality issues would no longer impede manufacturing, rather than making sure that parts met quality requirements. This is like the “fox guarding the hen house” isn’t it?

A friend of mine once told me that at the beginning of his career as a quality manager at several different companies, his new bosses told him his prime direction was to reduce inspection costs. It was clear to him that his performance would be evaluated primarily on his success in reducing costs and not in meeting quality requirements or improving quality. To his credit, he took quality seriously, and didn’t stay in any of those positions for very long.

If I were to write a list of Basic Job Qualifications for a Senior Quality Manager in an aerospace company, it would be include the following:

  • Technical degree (B.S., with M.S. preferred) from a respected university
  • 15 to 20 years experience in quality positions of increasing responsibility
  • 5 years experience as a quality manager or senior (lead) quality engineer
  • ASQ training/certification and/or experience and certification, preferably Level 3, in several methods of NDT
  • A demonstrated commitment to, and enthusiasm for quality

    Unfortunately, I’ve seen several senior quality mangers in aerospace companies with none, or maybe only one, of these qualifications. Shocking, isn’t it?

  • Some quality managers I’ve known made me think of the joke about the “Post Turtle” in which a turtle is put up on a post and is unable to get down. The final comment is, “You know he didn’t get up there by himself; he doesn’t belong up there; he doesn’t know what to do while he is up there; and you just wonder what kind of idiot put him up there to begin with.”

    Unfortunately it’s not a joke when someone is in charge of a technical function he knows nothing about, and when a question arises he has to ask someone else-who may have a similar lack of training and qualifications.

    People should not work in quality unless they have proper education, training, certifications and experience. Quality departments must have quality personnel. Companies that have poor quality personnel are much more likely to have poor quality products. The responsibility begins at the top.
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    Not always the case...

    January 27, 2010
    As Oscar Wilde put it, "Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes." While I agree with some of Mr. Burleigh's comments in the above article, I don't think this should be an established generalization about all, or even most, individuals in the quality and compliance arena. The example of a "...quality management position taken by a person who has decades of experience in manufacturing positions where he was always at odds with QA..." I think we agree, does give that sentiment of the "fox guarding the hen house". However, let's consider an alternative scenario. What if a recent college graduate began a career in quality? Now, let's assume this person is truly starting at an entry-level position and is provided the mentoring support as needed from within their quality group. While doing plenty of research to be knowledgeable about regulations and guidances, as well as working with the teams to assist in answering questions, could this person not gain the experience to lead a quality group? Surely there is a benefit to having experience in being a nail before a hammer, but how many mistakes could be avoided if the hammer only knew how to be a hammer? Frankly, I think it depends on several variables. The individual responsible for quality, for one, because that person may or may not care about the quality aspect. And, while that person may care but not yet have the expertise readily available, he/she may be able to identify resources that would provide the appropriate guidance. Furthermore, the culture within an organization is also worth noting. If an organization truly finds itself embracing a culture of high morals and values, and acts upon those characteristics, then quality should clearly resonate with all individuals involved. Quality is a shared responsiblity, and as such, everyone has an obligation to uphold whatever standards are in place. Sometimes we just need to think outside of our tactical role and consider our strategic impact, as that may help us level our footing with those receiving our guidance and will likely help us in our endeavor toward excellence.

    Not even usually but sometimes

    Doug Burleigh
    January 28, 2010
    My comments were certainly, and fortunately, not meant to be a generalization about all QA managers. My column generally covers what shouldn't happen...but does. Unfortunately these comments apply to a few and those few can do a lot of damage, especially in companies that make critical parts. If a recent graduate accepted an entry level position in the quality field and were mentored and eventually gained 10 +/- years of experience in QA, I would think the person could be considered for a higher position in QA. I don't know of any 4 year colleges that offer degrees in Quality (I could be wrong) and only a few that offer much NDT training. So most people learn Quality Engineering "on the job". The problem comes when someone is put in charge of something he doesn't understand. He then usually relies on others to tell him what to do. He doesn't know good advice from bad advice. Hence the "post turtle" analogy. Companies that allow this to happen don't understand how Quality works and the extent of knowledge that should be required. Or they have no respect for quality or don't want a strong quality department that will interfere with production.

    I disagree

    Dirk Huff
    February 5, 2010
    Doug, In my opinion, your statements are narrow-minded, arrogant, and self serving. " Putting someone in charge of quality with no background or experience in it, demonstrates a lack of respect for the quality function and a lack of integrity and ethics in both the person who offers the position and in the one who accepts it." With this statement alone, you have determined that I do not have any respect for the quality function. It also dictates that I have a lack of integrity and ethics. I would like to thank you for pointing out my personal failings. I do not think you will find anyone who knows me will agree with you. Also, in your Pedigree list, you do not include any need for subject content knowledge beyond a bunch of certifications, theoretical exercises, and some sort of experience. What about knowing the subject, it doesn't say anything about content knowledge for anything but quality, (quality doesn't pay the bills, good parts to your customer on time priced right pays the bills). Are these the same requirements for Aerospace Assembly Testing and Plastic Part Manufacturing? This is one of the biggest complaints I have with several non-functioning quality groups. The manager, (with all of the certifications, degrees, and laudatory comments from his professors), can make nice reports and charts, tell you what got screwed up yesterday, and usually speak well. But the same guy could not come up with a solution to save his soul. I have worked with people who have all of the degrees, certifications, and years in quality, etc that do a great job. They have taught me quite a bit. I have also worked with people who came out of production or sales, and completely turned quality around, from a real problem into a net positive. These were "managers", not necessarily "content experts". Your blanket statements are not worthy of this publication. So, to the Dilbert cartoon... Is your loyalty is to propagating the Quality Function instead of adding value, (quality is included in value). How are you any different that the looser in the last frame picking his nose? Are you guarding your henhouse? Quality and the tools that are used to achieve it are close to my heart. I love to learn. But I hate the spin and the politicizing that goes with some of the quality evangelicals. I will take quality and results over pedigree every time. If both are present, it is the best of all possible worlds. Thank you for the insulting, self-serving claptrap. My blood pressure was a little low. I'm feeling better now that I have responded here and at LinkdIn. Somehow I can imagine you on the post with your legs moving at crazy angles.

    We are professionals however in many companies they dont recognize it.

    Kreg Kukor littlequalityguru.com
    February 10, 2010
    I believe the 80/20 rule applies to the Quality profession and also to companies in search of Quality . I have found over the past 20 years organization that address quality as a profession also approach certification as a base starting point of a Quality system. Those who are looking at the mot cost effective employee not the best skilled or as most I have encountered still look at the Quality profession as a place for those ready to retire to nice to fire yet to out of date to make a difference. These organizations are readily and quickly Identified with their approach to Quality Certification process as the end of the journey not the base to build a competitive advantage from That said read Quality 3.0 in ASQ quality progress magazine, as the Author I have tried to predict the future of Quality and it will definitely cull out these types of hiring practices , as we professionals know and have grown to understand we are an integral hub to all business process , we are value add to our organizations and with Global change , technology change those of us who are professionals rise to the top of our organization and become information and metrics gurus for our executives. Simplicity , deployment , project management , customer and supplier interface, internal measures and leading change management , improvement processes , and cost initiatives all take a very special skill . Over the next 3-7 years the Quality profession will become a high level executive position values equally to CFO CIO and CEO ( CQCO , Chief Quality and Compliance Officer) Companies can no longer manage recalls and risk management as a actuary science with a dollar risk value . Customer perception , media , internet and global communication will become a larger impact on lost sales or customer perception finishing off organizations that do not understand the information highway. There are a couple of companies in the news today that have huge recalls which will cost them many dollars in repairs , easily predicted cost based on unit volume. The great unknown will be the loss of current and future customers. It is our time , as Quality Professionals to stand up and be counted , to contribute to companies with vision and a passion change is underway and it is up to us to lead that change through discussions like this , through blogs , articles , speaking engagements, supporting our local ASQ chapters and quality professionals . Kreg Kukor http://littlequalityguru.blogspot.com/




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