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Tim Lozier

Quality Insider

Picking Apart the QMS on the USS Enterprise, Part 2

When the captain yells, “Report, report!” over the din, how does he keep it all straight?

Published: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 - 11:17

In our last episode, we looked at how the crew of the USS Enterprise might have employed quality management systems (QMS) to help streamline their processes, mitigate risks, and foster continuous improvement throughout the galaxy. Now we will continue our “trek” and look at some of the other areas that might have been covered within the Enterprise’s QMS.

Adobe Systems

Employee training. Starfleet Academy is said to be the finest in the system, and all recruits come out of it with a wealth of knowledge. No matter what the problem, there always seems to be a crewmember who not only knows how to fix it, but has an endless capacity to create a mundane analogy to explain a complicated process: “We have to reverse the polarity of the tachyon pulse to divert the energy back into the enemy’s tractor beam, causing a feedback loop that will break the link between the two ships—like putting too much air in a balloon.”

Ah, now I get it!

Training in your organization may be a bit more involved. Employees don’t instantly and correctly understand a company’s processes and operations their first day on the job. A QMS is ever-evolving, and as new processes and standard operating procedures are introduced, employees need to be trained. It is important to track this training and link it to these new procedures, so that when revisions are introduced, employees will automatically be notified of the training, and they can immediately be knowledgeable. A knowledgeable and trained employee reduces the risk of potentially adverse events in the future.

Risk management. Although it’s not overtly expressed, the Enterprise crew conducts risk assessments all the time. Whenever they encounter a  hazardous situation, whether it’s a Klingon battle cruiser off the port bow or an impending supernova destined to threaten an entire civilization, they weigh the risks before taking action. Sometimes risks are life-threatening, like the Kobayashi Maru, or they are paths to success, but no matter what the event, risks are assessed. I would have loved to see Mr. Spock throw up his five-scale risk matrix during an episode, but again—not great television.

The concept of including risk management as part of a QMS is a growing trend, one that is seen in many standards. Risk in itself is a great decision-making tool, and many organizations implement risk assessment to help quantify the systemic challenges facing their business. Risk assessment provides an objective and repeatable method of taking adverse events and plugging them into a formula that will help display potential outcomes. This enables companies to streamline their corrective action process, improve quality in design, and process and foster better and more “logical” decisions.

Reporting. The Enterprise crew is always reporting. “Status report, Mr. Sulu” is forever ingrained upon my memory, and it never occurred to me (until now) how much these folks were reporting to each other. Watch the shows, and you’ll see—everyone is reporting. With a ship as big as the Enterprise, Capt. Kirk (or Picard or the other guy, Scott Bacula’s character), cannot possibly walk to each area and get involved in every little thing going on. It was up to the ship’s officers to report on their respective positions and give the captain the data he needed to run the ship. (Did Mr. Data report the data, or was Data his own data? It’s an interesting question.)

datacartoon.jpg

With all the data within a QMS, it’s critical to have a reporting system that provides a way to make sense of all the information within the system. Software that facilitates enterprise reporting provides a central location that allows visibility about trends and opportunities for improvement. Reporting must not only look at tactical data, but also strategic data. Having a system with reporting tools built in provides users with the ability to make decisions on immediate needs as well as also weigh long-term risks and take preventive action on potentially adverse events in the future.

There you have it. I could go on with this, but I would be violating the Prime Directive. Although not expressly mentioned in any of the Star Trek episodes, I firmly believe that these space explorers of the 23rd and 24th centuries had a QMS in place, in order to maintain peace and tranquility in an unforgiving and cruel universe.

A QMS can provide your organization with the tools necessary to continue to improve operations, manufacture high quality products, and boldly go where no company has gone before.

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About The Author

Tim Lozier’s picture

Tim Lozier

Tim Lozier is the director of product strategy for EtQ, in Farmingdale, New York. He has extensive experience in the software industry, and has been involved in the creation of leading-edge technologies in user-interface design and development. He began his career in digital marketing before taking a turn into software design and marketing at Quark Inc. Since then, he’s never looked back—helping to foster the development (and blog about) leading quality management software solutions.