From my perspective, the human side of quality is at least as important as the technical perspective. One can teach people to use quality tools but can’t teach them to have passion, dedication and commitment.

How does one “grow” to be a quality professional? Recently I met a young man at a conference who had just been promoted to quality manager at a small manufacturing company. This gentleman had been very successful on other assignments and had demonstrated a desire to learn. The company asked this person to assume the quality manager position. However, he had no idea what he needed to know to be a competent professional in the quality field.

This is not a new story. There are many similar situations where someone has been given a great opportunity in quality and wants to succeed. Almost everyone I’ve talked with wants to know where, or how, to begin and what is expected. Depending on skills, experience and overall knowledge, the recommendation centers on an eight-step program.

1. Join the American Society for Quality. ASQ is an organization dedicated to quality. Join the society and one of the local sections to network with other quality professionals. There is great power in the alignment and synergy.

2. Benchmark and leapfrog. Read all of the quality-related magazines and publications. In time, professionals end up figuring out there are trends occurring in the industry. Manufacturers should apply the information to their own situation or company-that provides the benchmark. They can then leapfrog ahead, anticipating where people are going in order to come up with that “new twist” on their own. Everyone becomes a winner.

3. Learn from the masters. Any discussion of length about quality is going to include Juran, Deming, Feigenbaum and Crosby. Who better to learn from than these quality giants? Any quality professional is expected to know and practice the philosophies of these extraordinary men.

4. Master the quality tools. If a manufacturer is going to be in quality, he has got to understand the various quality tools and how to apply them. Not every tool will be applicable to each situation, but as a package, they are critical to process improvement as well as one’s credibility as a quality professional.

5. Build your base. It’s important to seek new opportunities and experiences. This helps to build an understanding of the business while at the same time provides the opportunity to apply tools that have been learned along the way. That base will add stability and will directly correlate with future advancement.

6. Be passionate about quality. No quality professional can survive or be successful without being passionate about quality. It takes passion to do what is right for the organization, the customers and the organization’s shareholders. Always strive to do what is right for all stakeholders and one can never be regretful of the decisions he helps make for the business.

7. Test your skills. One such way to test skills is to take the ASQ certification exams. While certification will give quality professionals credibility, the true importance lies in the journey of learning about quality.

8. Take time to mentor others. Quality professionals have an obligation to share their knowledge. Take time to mentor others, helping them along the path to quality professionalism by sharing knowledge, skill and insight. At the end of the day it is about people.

Becoming a quality professional is a journey, not a destination. It takes a lifetime of learning and dedication. The future is in adding value and prevention, not in reaction. Think about it…