Cosmic Lessons in Quality Management
“For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen.” Much like The Universe, a good quality management system does not happen overnight. Sometimes, it takes a whole hour before anything happens, and it can be frustrating when you want to see results. Patience aside, some other gems of advice that can be gleaned in regards to quality lessons include the following:
- Don’t Panic. This applies to pretty much all processes that use software, not just quality tools. Many get stressed when it comes to the thought of implementing anything automated or seemingly complicated – especially if it requires any sort of change. The very buzzwords of ROI, scalability and integration are daunting to laymen, and as it is often office managers and even entry-level employees who need to use the system along with higher ranking employees and managers, the need to avoid stress is even more vital. The lesson here is to design and create your system, and then start with the highest level goals and work downwards to ensure that you keep focus.
- Less is More. Now is the time to keep things simple and easy to use. Remember those entry-level employees? They need to be able to understand your processes and use the system without struggling. Ideally, you want to design a quality system that can be scaled to meet your business needs as they change. Flexible, easy to adapt solutions are the best way forward. Focus on building a system that starts simple and then grows bigger as you go along and as employees learn and progress.
- If the Answer is 42, You May Have Asked the Wrong Question. In the Guide to the Galaxy, Deep Thought famously states that the answer to life, the universe and everything else is 42. In real life, you need to be very clear on what questions you need to ask to get the results you want to see. Asking the right questions, and having the right processes will result in the right answers too. When you are seeking a quality system, be sure to find out exactly how it will help your company, and make sure that the system suits your processes. If your system isn’t configured to your needs, you know you are asking the wrong questions (or you are getting the wrong answer).
- So Long, and Thanks for All the Frills. Your quality system should be easy to install and use with minimal programming. Systems that have all the modules you need, such as CAPA, competency testing, audits and document control for instance, will be far simpler to work with in the long run, and therefore more effective. Any added frills that do not add real value can be left behind – these may end up complicating things without offering any real benefits. Focus instead on modules that meet your business needs and incorporate proven, industry best practices, and remember those cosmic dolphins and their fish.
- Tracking for Life, the Universe and Everything. You may not have all the answers to life’s biggest questions, but you can at least track the things that matter most to your business. Reporting is the best way to keep abreast of all data on employee compliance, audits, performance levels, customer complaints and even overall goal setting. Data is your secret weapon when it comes to improvement, and tracking data makes all the difference between a successful strategy and a bombed strategy.
If you have not gotten the chance to read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, we hope we have managed to avoid any obvious spoilers. Do yourself a favour and grab a copy of this legendary book – it will give you much to think about.