April 4, 2017
Paul Sanderson, Solutions Consultants Manager, MasterControl
“Quality management” is one of those terms that sounds so simple and esoteric at the same time, like DNA or free cash flow. I’m pretty sure I know what those terms mean until I start explaining them to someone.
I've worked in the quality software business for over 12 years, and I still don't know what to say when someone asks me what I do for a living. It generally goes like this:
Stranger: “What do you do for a living?”
Me: “I work for a software company.”
Stranger: “Oh, which one?”
(Most people associate the word software with giant tech companies like Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, and Twitter, so the other person usually perks up at this point.)
Me: “Um, MasterControl.”
Stranger: “Hmmm…What’s that?”
Me: “We make quality management software.”
Stranger: “What’s quality management?”
You get the picture. If you’re reading this article, you must be one of those who know what quality management is all about and what it entails. For most people, the term might as well be Greek.
If you’re a quality professional or if you work in a related field, then you’ll understand why I feel compelled to enlighten random strangers about our field. If I could keep their interest long enough, I could help them understand not only what it is, but how they can use it in their personal lives. Also, it will help them understand why they shouldn’t buy a product or service from an organization without a quality system in place.
Quality management is very practical. Most people already know how principles and practices inherent in quality management apply to everyday life, but they don’t actually think about those things. Why should they? When they buy an iPad mini or a Fitbit Blaze, they expect it to work properly. In other words, they expect quality. People tend to take quality for granted until there’s something wrong with a product or service.
Personal “Quality System”
We all want quality in our lives, but we (I’m a prime culprit!) often cut corners on our personal “quality systems” only to learn the hard way that doing so rarely, if ever, saves us time or money. When it comes to quality, taking a shortcut almost always causes pain, wasted time, and wasted money.
I’m going to provide these common examples of how many of us sacrifice quality in our daily lives. I hope they are relevant to everyone, whether a quality professional or not.
#1 The DIY Project: How many times have we tried to save time and money on assembling the crib, grill, or Ikea furniture, only to end up with spare parts? We can either use the poorly built item as it is only to see it break later, or disassemble the whole caboodle and start over.
If we apply quality management in this case, then we should build the furniture step-by-step with the help of the product’s written instructions (sometimes they even come in pictures). Don’t assume you can just wing it, and don’t take any shortcuts.
#2 The “Impromptu” Vacation: I love to not plan my vacations. Just get to my destination and be spontaneous. The idea is likely to appeal to your inner free spirit, until you arrive in Maui and the only lodging available is a shack pretending to be a B&B or a room at the Four Seasons for two grand a night. Whoever said you can’t have a bad day in Hawaii is wrong. Yes, you can have a terrible time in paradise if you don’t make a reservation. Next time, a simple risk assessment—asking what could go wrong and how likely those undesirable outcomes might be—ought to remedy such reckless spontaneity.
#3 Déjà Vu: I’m referring to the repeated mistakes that are preventable. Perhaps it’s leaving doors and windows open at home in your rush to beat the traffic every morning, or driving your car on empty for exactly the same reason. For me, it’s leaving things behind on planes, rental cars, and other places. I‘ve lost jackets, tablets, cell phones, laptops, and yes, credit cards.
Here’s how I’m going to apply quality management with this problem. I need to identify the root cause of my problem. Am I leaving things because of forgetfulness or carelessness or laziness? Perhaps all three? How can I correct the issue? Next time, I will make a visual inspection of every nook and cranny of the rental car before I return it. I will do the same before leaving a hotel room or an airplane.
The scenarios above may seem very elementary, but such is the nature of quality. Quality applies to every facet of our lives and not just to our jobs or the products and services we buy. Adherence to quality and the practice of quality management should begin with our personal lives. I know because that’s what I’m trying to do by writing this blog post—I’m documenting my personal CAPA.
Paul Sanderson is the head of MasterControl’s Solutions Consultants Group. He has spent the last decade helping almost 200 regulated companies choose the right eQMS based on their unique needs and implement it successfully. He has 12 years of enterprise software experience in the life science space.