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David C. Crosby

FDA Compliance

What Should The Quality Manager Do?

To have real impact, a quality manager must report to the Big Boss.

Published: Monday, August 3, 2009 - 04:00

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.

So, What Should the Quality Manager Do?

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.


About The Author

David C. Crosby’s picture

David C. Crosby

Dave Crosby is president of The Crosby Company, a firm he created to develop and deliver software and training in the field of quality management. His SPC software was the first on the market for the personal computer. His books include, How To Get Your People to Do Things Right, Quality is Easy, How To Run a Zero Defects Program, and The Zero Defects Option.

Crosby served as corporate director of quality for RCA Corp., General Instruments Corp., and Portec Inc. He was awarded the “Outstanding Civilian Service Medal” by the U.S. Army for his work with the Army Zero Defects Program. His web site is www.zdoption.com.


What Should The Quality Manager Do?

Thanks, Dave

Very insightful article hitting the core of the problems that Quality Manager faces. My two previous employers were following the right prescription you gave and I quite enjoyed. Well, that is until I moved to a bigger organisation that I am growing my career and only to find a very unbalanced system where Quality Assurance is made to report to the Production Manager. Goes without saying that I am active in the job market and were it not for the COVID-19, I think I would have changed jobs.



Quality Manager position

Previously my company had three labs, each with an independant Quality Management System and its own Quality Manager.

Then, the three QMSs got combined under one at the company level.

Do you know we can keep two Quality Managers. For the purpose of the ISO registration, one QM needs to be appointed by Management as the Management Representative, but is it a requirement at there is only one QM?


Priorities & Values

I have been Quality Manager for a manufacturer for 6 years, and in the first 4 years, I had experiences that ranged from complete fulfillment to outright dejection. After looking at the reasons behind this wide spectrum, it became apparent that quality was undoubtedly viewed as a business priority, but not as a company value. The difference here being that priorities change daily (if not hourly), but a company's values tend to outlast the typical employee's tenure. If the Quality Manager cannot convince management that quality must be a core value, then his/her workday will be out of their control, and likely ulcerous in nature. When I confronted management on this, they were initially defensive and wary, but quickly warmed to my viewpoint as I came with enough data and solutions to the quality dilemmas we were facing so that the majority of the legwork had been done; I was included in the decision-making process by showing not just a good understanding of the issues the company faced, but providing innovative and effective solutions to fix them. My workday can be chaotic and exhausting, but I always feel I'm an equal member of the management team.

I suppose that is why my signature tagline is:

"Be the change you want to see in this world."

Interested Article

i was working a Quality manager in a Hospital for the Past 5yrs, assessing the department and patient's feedback about our service and taking corrective action for the received feedback form the patients and timely informing the patients gives a customer retainment and improving theservices &it helpful for as to increase the customer database.
i have read these very interesting and helpful for us to update us in each level. i request the author to quote examples in the healthcare quality

R.SOMASUNDARAM MBA(Hospital&Health Systems Management)
Deputy Manager- Quality&HIS

They never learn


Thanks for your insightful article. I have been a big fan of, and have implemented many of your ideas and methods along the way, most notably at Motorola in the 80's and 90's. It always amazes me that, no matter how many case studies and success stories (both historical and current) are presented and published, many companies still think "we're different". Since my 20 years as a Motorola Quality Executive (where incidently, I had the benefit and success attributable to the kind of reporting structure you refer to in this article), I have tried to sell and implement these concepts at many other companies. Similar to your war stories, the ones who subscribe to these types of roles, responsibilities, accountabilities and methods predominately are successful. In economically demanding times and with decreasing product life spans and technology cycles, sustainability seems to be much more difficult, even for those successful companies. However analysis still proves that those with strong Quality Systems, that have stuck to the principles, are suffering less and in some cases prospering, even during these difficult times. Looking forward to more of your thoughts on these topics and thanks for your insight for the last 30 years. Congratulations on a great career.

Bruce J Hayes
Executive Advisor Group

Fantastic article

Dear David Crosby,

Fantastic article and you hit the bulls eye. I have always wondered 'what am I doing here as a Quality Manager' sometimes wondering when you hit a road block. The article is an eye opener. I am big fan of you and an inspiration for me. Thanks for this nice article.


Nice article

Dear David,
This article is perfect when it comes to what co-operates think now. Most companies are only concerned of revenues but not on quality. Because at the end of the day figures count and not quality. But at the end of the bizness its only quality that counts with customer.