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When I say quality manager, of course I’m talking about the department he or she manages as well.
I’ve been in the “quality business” for fifty years now. That’s right, fifty years. Much of my career—from source inspector to quality engineer, to corporate director of quality—was spent in other people’s operations. The one problem that I've observed in all those years is that nobody really knows what the quality manager should do.
Why the confusion? To start with, the title of quality manager is a problem. Manufacturing makes things, engineering designs things, and purchasing buys things. So, does the quality department quality things? I don’t think so, and that’s part of the problem.
In a few companies, the quality manager is a real member of management. In others, the quality manager is the one who ends up owning other people’s problems, chasing around trying to solve them, and getting someone to do something. I observed more of the latter than the former. So then, what should the quality manager and the quality Department do?
First, let me tell you why I know what the quality manager should do.
I have had the title Corporate Director of Quality at three major corporations. Two of these were very large companies with many, many different businesses and thousands of people. I learned quickly that my power came from convincing someone that I had power. In truth, in two cases, I was powerless and penniless. My main job was to figure out what to do about problems that someone else created, be a troubleshooter, plus placate the customer. We all know that one person can’t possible knows how to solve all the problems. Much of my time was spent as the whipping boy so customers could release their anger. In both cases, I reported to the vice president of manufacturing services.
Product quality was not important to the management of either company. I was happy to leave both. One is now gone.
When the third corporation contacted me, my first question was “who does this job report to?” I was told that it reported to the vice president of business development.
I said, “Thanks but no thanks; I have enough problems.”
I was asked where it should report. I told them, “To the person responsible for quality, the boss… the big boss.”
When the reporting relationship was changed to the president and chairman of the board, I accepted the job. I reported on the same level as the group executives, who had division general managers reporting to them—who had plant managers reporting to them. Hiring me at this level sent a message that the president was serious about quality.
Almost at once, changes were made. All division quality managers suddenly reported to their general manager. The same was true of plant quality managers. I didn’t request or require this, it just happened. Monkey see; monkey do. Within weeks my 20-point quality system and a quality cost reporting system were implemented. No one argued; I never had to demand anything.
During many, many plant visits, I always dealt with the general manager, with the quality manager sitting in. I never relieved the general manager of his responsibility for quality; I never accepted ownership of any problems. When I was told about a problem, I always asked, “What are you going to do about it? The general managers always knew their quality cost numbers, and were delighted to report quality improvement activities to me and to the boss. The division quality manager positions became a direct reflection of mine. Quality was now important and the reduction in quality costs and problems showed it.
I had a real budget and real money to spend without any hassle. This let me get personal computers into plants long before they caught on with the rest of the world. At that time, the Radio Shack Model III was hot stuff. I might add that the corporate information systems guy was very unhappy about this, but I reported to the president, and he didn’t… case closed.
When a new president came on board, he changed the organization to the typical corporate structure with quality reporting to the vice president of technical stuff. Within weeks, I resigned the job, and started The Crosby Company. There, I have spent 25 incredible years working with and helping wonderful customers—mostly quality managers. My former company is gone. That’s two out of three.
Here’s what I did in my last job, and what I think every quality manager should do. It’s the only way a quality manager can make a contribution to his or her company.
1. The quality manager must be a real manager and report at the same level as the managers he or she measures and reports about. In other word, the quality manager should report directly to the person who is responsible for quality; the big boss.
2. The quality manager should be part of the business and the business planning function. He or she should sit in planning meeting and have a say about the business plans—not just the quality department, but all plans that affect quality. Of course, the quality manager should have a business plan too. There should be a quality section in every business plan of every unit since everything the company does—from hiring, to facilities, to suppliers, to new products, and more—all affect quality.
3. The quality manager should be a part of product or service design, and have a say about original designs and effect of changes.
4. The quality manager should inspect and test the product or service at various stages of production, gather information about performance, make reports using statistical analysis, and track corrective action.
5. The quality manager should have a say in the selection and performance of suppliers, to the point of supplier visit surveys and audits.
6. All things like statistical process control, calibration, inspection plans, and inspection belong to the quality manager to conduct in a professional way.
That’s it. That’s my prescription for a happy company that is truly interested in delivering the product or service that it promised its customers. People at all levels want to be proud of their company and the products or services. It takes strong management with a Zero Defects performance standard to run such a company. I believe that most people want to do a good job, and will do so if given the wherewithal to do it. There will be a few stinkers, but they won’t last with a Zero Defects performance standard. In my book, The Zero Defects Option, I list the Seven Principles of Defects Prevention necessary to prevent defects. You should know about those. Also, read my previous Quality Digest articles about attitude and getting employees involved. It all fits together.