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 Quality Management

The New CQO

Many organizations find it easier  to create the title chief quality officer than to find someone who can actually do the job.

by A. Blanton Godfrey

The role of the quality director has changed dramatically in the past few years. Not long ago, quality manager jobs were some of the least desired positions in the organization.

In the past few years, the job has quickly evolved to chief quality officer, which, in many companies, often leads to divisional presidencies or even to CEO. But many organizations find it easier to create the title chief quality officer than to find someone who can actually do the job.

The job has expanded in three dimensions. First, the technical skills required continue to grow. Only a few years ago, the set of skills needed were defined as simple statistical methods, sampling and auditing, quality reporting, statistical process control and understanding of testing and inspection. Knowing an industry's specific requirements was enough.

The technical skill set has grown dramatically. Now the quality director must know not only the basics but also be an expert in benchmarking, reengineering, cost of quality analyses, Baldrige Award criteria, theory of constraints, reliability engineering, analysis of variance, analysis of means, customer satisfaction and loyalty, failure mode and effects analysis, and many other statistical, engineering and operations concepts.

Second, the quality director also must be an expert in quality culture, organizational dynamics and change management. Often, the most critical task for the director entails working with the senior management team to make radical changes in attitudes and motivation, cross-functional working relationships, customer interactions, collaboration and teamwork, creativity, empowerment and commitment. The director is frequently called upon for help in overcoming resistance to change and in creating open sharing across the organization.

Third, the quality director must be an expert in business skills. Many quality directors now actively participate in strategic business planning and annual business operations planning. They are called on to integrate quality goals and objectives into the strategic objectives, strategic goals and annual goals. They are expected to understand financial management, capital investment, key competitive issues and the organization's critical success factors. They are asked for advice on determining the organization's priorities and deploying key resources.

Unfortunately, few of today's quality directors are well-equipped for these exciting and challenging new tasks. Many are one-dimensional at best. They often spend their time in their comfort zones enhancing their strengths.

     Companies cope with this in several ways. Some recognize the quality director's lack of breadth and promote a new person with the needed skills to be the old director's boss. It is common now to see new vice presidents of quality with strong business skills or human resource skills put in over the traditional quality director with strong technical skills. This sometimes works well when both realize their strengths and appreciate the other's talents. In many other cases, neither recognizes or values the opposite's skills. The traditional quality director refuses to accept leadership from someone who doesn't know the difference between an X-bar chart and a p chart, and the business manager refuses to take seriously someone with no line experience.

A second approach is just to throw someone new into the job and expect them to gain the other skills somehow. Since change management is critical to the organization at this point, someone with advanced degrees in organizational dynamics becomes the new vice president of quality and human resources. This person quickly staffs the quality department with others who have similar skills. But quality system development, quality and reliability engineering, and business planning are put on the back burner.

A third approach is to create new departments, with each focusing on part of the job. So instead of having a chief quality officer, the company has a director of quality, a director of customer satisfaction, a director of reengineering, a director of quality assurance, a director of reliability and product engineering, and who knows how many others. Thus arises the ludicrous situation of all these directors fighting for turf and budgets, while each tells the CEO that the company's main problem is the lack of cross-functional management and cooperation.

A few companies face the problem head on. They carefully define the job and the skills needed. They select a new CQO with many of these skills and create an aggressive and detailed plan for gaining the other skills. They select a staff to support the new CQO with the collective skills needed by the quality office and create a high-performance team to drive the company's quality efforts. Some even commission extensive studies to define this new role of the corporate CQO and the CQOs reporting to each strategic business unit president. For people in such companies, these are truly exciting times.


About the author

A. Blanton Godfrey is chairman and CEO of Juran Institute Inc. at 11 River Road, Wilton, CT 06897. He can be reached by e-mail at godfrey@netaxis.com.

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