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What Do Quality Managers Need to Know?

by Scott Paton

Last month we ran an article on SA8000, the new international social accountability standard. Our news editor, Elizabeth Larson, wrote what I consider to be a fair and reasonable account of this new standard and how it would affect workplace conditions worldwide. We received a few letters within days of the issue's publication that questioned why we would publish such an article.

These letters and others we've received on our coverage of ISO 14000 and  similar topics made me stop and think about what exactly is the job of a quality journalist. Ours is a difficult profession; we must cover topics that range from testing and inspection to registration to management, with numerous subcategories along the way.

It's a precarious balancing act. If we cover the inspection, testing and measurement side of quality, we get complaints from readers who aren't interested in those subjects. If we focus too much on international standards, such as ISO 9000, ISO 14000 and AS9000, we get complaints from those of you who would rather read about quality control.

What, then, should we cover? I approach the editorial content of Quality Digest from what I perceive the viewpoint of the "average" quality manager to be. What do quality managers need to know? Are they affected by ISO 9000? Are they involved in purchasing inspection and testing equipment? Are they interested in their organizations' environmental, health and safety issues? What do they need to know about calibration, software, training, personnel issues?

It's my firm belief that quality doesn't exist in a vacuum and neither do quality managers. To do their jobs well, they need to know as much about all the different aspects of quality as possible.

As responsible quality journalists, the editorial staff of Quality Digest has an obligation to research and report on all aspects of quality, even issues like SA8000. We assume that our readers want to know about developments in their profession and that they are willing to decide for themselves if those issues are relevant to their organizations and/or their profession.

As a trade magazine specifically covering quality, we often report on issues such as SA8000 ahead of general business media. We were writing about ISO 9000 years before anything was written about it in The Wall Street Journal. We kept our readers up-to-date on ISO 14000 long before other publications found it a topical subject. I believe our SA8000 coverage is no different. Quality managers who read Quality Digest need to know enough about SA8000 to determine if it's of interest to them and/or their organizations.

We'd like to know how you feel about all of our articles, news and columnists -- not just SA8000. Send me an e-mail message to Your feedback is greatly appreciated.


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