In a quality-orientedDilbertcartoon (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?

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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 ofBasic Job Qualifications for a Senior Quality Managerin 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 havequalitypersonnel. Companies that have poor quality personnel are much more likely to have poor quality products. The responsibility begins at the top.