Quality is a discipline with its development and foundation of knowledge. Quality managers are realized through their contribution to the benefits of organizations and society. They must recognize the traditions and orientate to future challenges. Managing practices, business ecosystems and cultural foundations will entail increasingly speed and agility incorporated with networking, complexity, knowledge, learning, etc. as opportunities and restrictions.
University degree is good foundation for quality managers, including theoretical basics that help cope with complicated phenomena of practice. Knowledge and awareness should be refined from passive knowing towards capability to critical evaluations and synthetic implementations.
Quality managers need close contacts with the CEOs of their organizations. Their success is ensured by CEOs’ active role in organizations’ quality management.
Quality managers should maintain cross-disciplinary networks, including collaboration with stakeholders, expertise communities, science world, standardization, benchmarking partners, and national quality movements.
Quality managers should imitate effectively and innovate courageously in implementing practices.
These views are based on my own experience and learning during some 50 years’ activity with professional quality questions.
The challenging quality profession
Ultimately quality profession must always be understood and considered from the business practice point of view. Scientifically quality is a specialized discipline that has its own great teachers, conceptual foundation, guiding principles, recognized practices, scientific and educational traditions, recognized achievements, and the way to develop. A quality manager should be aware of the traditions of our discipline.
Today we also can recognize in the field of quality some antagonists who perhaps have got frustrated with the too superficial or stiff practices driven by some questionable experts. Also some organizations or people have tried to avoid using the word quality and used instead of it some other expressions, e.g. excellence. Quality managers must be able to live with them without loosing identity.
My personal focus
I would like to consider this topic from the basis of my own practical experience and particularly for the needs of the business of different kinds of organizations. Quality management is a real thing only if it is practices in an organization.
I was already involved with certain quality questions during my studies at Technical University of Helsinki some 50 years ago. After that I have been involved with the business life, e.g. as the corporate level Vice President of Quality Integration at a big service company (Sonera Corporation) from 1990 to 2003 and before that as a lower level quality manager or quality expert at the company. That means all together more than 35 years in that company in business related quality activities.
Additionally after that period I have been involved with quality related activities in small companies and public service organizations. It has been beneficial that in addition to quality discipline I have been involved with another related managerial discipline of information security management. A longer term understanding of the quality issues in the context of business management and familiar with the development of business management discipline and business environments are necessary for the success of quality managers. Of course it is not possible that young quality managers had these merits, but these should be set as learning targets.
In addition to the business connections, I have been involved with the general quality, reliability and information security management standardization and the activities of the quality related societies including the Finnish Society for Quality, EOQ (European Organization for Quality), EFQM (European Foundation for Quality Management), and IAQ (International Academy for Quality).
I think that this kind of experience may be seen relevant also for understanding the future development of the profession. What will be different in the future compared the past, relates strongly to increasing importance of time, speed and agility together with networked collaboration, complexity, knowledge, learning, serendipity, etc.
When looking at the development of a specialized discipline in practice you must always understand your living and operating organizational environments, business branch, and cultural basis of the society, and also to understand how difficult is to get out of these bonds (see figure).
Quality manager and his/her activity
University level basic education is a good foundation for a quality manager. Even theoretical general basics are useful for quality managers in practical positions because it is then easier to understand complicated phenomena in practice. Quality manager should develop his/her knowledge and awareness continuously from passive knowing towards capability to critical evaluations, argumentation, and synthetic implementations (see figure). It is beneficial to understand how individual and organizational learning takes place.
Regarding the organizational position, a quality manager should have a close operating and recognized contacts with the CEO of the organization. Quality manager’s success is ensured by the CEO’s understanding his/her top management’s role in taking quality into account in the business management. If the CEO is not committed to quality, there are no possibilities for the success of any quality managers. I have experiences also this during my own career. In this case it is better to the quality manager to move to another organization in order to avoid frustration or sidesliping to superficial actions.
Orientation and action outside the organization is very important and instrucive for quality managers. This includes collaboration with:
- International quality management expertise communities
- Contacts with science world
- Standardization community
- Benchmarking with other organizations
- National and regional quality movements
A quality manager should maintain expertise networks inside and outside his/her organization.
Today professional quality collaboration is and should be global. Quality managers should network with orgnizations through cross disciplinary collaboration. Wide knowledge basis including cross disciplinary know-how (see figure) is the must of the quality managers today. This includes:
- Own skills
- Networking with the others who know
- Continuous learning, especially informal learning is more important than the formal training and educational programmes or certificates.
This ensures multi-perspective views (see figure) to serve his/her organization in striving for excellence in business performance. If the quality manager is only maintaining a quality system certificate, he/she does not fulfill the requirements of a real quality manager.
Quality managers should be able to imitate effectively and innovate courageously in adopting and implementing quality management and quality assurance practices. Innovation should be understood as an important and traditional part of the quality management, not as its “new wave” or as a completely separate discipline.
Quality manager's service process and product
Quality manager should create his/her own systematic operative approach within his/her organization for serving organization-internal customers.
Quality management (QM) aspects directly relate to quality in organizations at large and phenomena in all business processes. Normally organizations’ quality manager and his/her QM function have responsibility to deal with quality questions organization-widely. We prefer a “Quality Integration, QI” approach in order to get quality practices happen in all business processes in a professional way according to the organization’s business and quality policy. QI process is one of organization’s support processes. Its owner is the quality manager and it provides services to organization’s all business units and processes. QI process provides professional quality solutions to organization’s all business processes. Quality manager and other experts of the QM function are the key persons in the QI process and customers in organization’s all other business processes.
- Anttila, J. (2004), “Thinking strategically about the learning of an organization towards excellence”, (Applying Senge’s approach of organizational learning for quality management)
- Anttila, J. (2007), "A creative business-integrated application of the ISO 9000 standards in Sonera Corporation, Finland", In Moosa, K. and Shariff. I. (Eds.), Practical guide to ISO 9000:2000 Quality management system, Ibrahim Publishers, Lahore, Pakistan
- Anttila, J., Savola, R., Kajava, J., Lindfors, J. and Röning, J. (2007), “Fulfilling the needs for information security awareness and learning in information society” in proceedings of the 6th Annual Security Conference, Las Vegas,USA
- Anttila, J. (2008), "Qua vadis quality profession? - Challenges of the information society to quality management" in proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Productivity and Quality (ICPQR) Conference, Oulu, Finland