The two faces of the quality manager

In Strategic Quality by Willem BaeldeLeave a Comment

Many people within a company know only one face of the quality manager: the person who can always exactly pinpoint where failures are happening and how they could have been prevented. But when as a colleague you propose a solution for the problem that solution can only be implemented after thorough verification, validation and authorization by the right people. On top of that there has to be elaborate and documented evidence that all decisions have been taken by the book.

But in case of an audit or inspection within the organization that same quality manager is completely different. By all means the organization is presented at its best and potential imperfections are kept meticulously out of sight. The inspector only receives the answers to the questions posed and evidence is only presented after it has been thoroughly checked.

Of course the quality manager, being a member of management, will present the organization as good as possible during an inspection and thereby ensure continued certification or continuation of the supply of products or services to critical customers. But isn’t the picture too rosy and how is it possible that the same person that demands absolute perfection from peers tries and masks imperfections to the outside world?

To find an answer to this dilemma we need to have a closer look at the role of the quality manager within the organization. The primary responsibility is to ensure that customers can rely on flawless execution of the agreed quality policy. To achieve that one has to be critical and draw the attention to potential imperfections. On top of that certifiers, customers and notified bodies expect that the organization can always demonstrate that obligations are followed, hence the requirement for documentation and audit trails. It goes without saying that as a quality manager one has to obey the rules yourself. But at the moment of an inspection or audit there is no reason to show the inspector more than strictly required. Of course, answers to questions are honest and sincere but a question that has not been asked does not have to be answered.

Now it can even happen that during an inspection one or more nonconformities can surface without being noticed by the inspector. In such case there is no obligation for the quality manager to reveal those instances to the inspector. Nevertheless, an effective quality manager makes sure that these imperfections will be corrected immediately and in such way that they will never happen again. Although at first sight it seems that, by not pointing out potential or actual nonconformances to the inspector, risks are taken with the products or services supplied an effective quality manager makes sure that risks are timely mitigated and will never reach the customer.

In the end it turns out that the two faces of the quality manager can effectively work together and at the one hand ensure that the organization can continuously improve itself and at the other hand optimally reap the benefits thereof.

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