A Career in Quality “Get involved. Get involved right now!” Brenda Fisk, director, project management office, Software Quality Solutions, offered this advice during a recent interview with ASQ TV. In the interview, she was addressing her response directly to new quality professionals but these words are also applicable to quality veterans. The quality profession has existed for nearly threequarters of a century. In 1946, quality professionals rallied together to create the American Society for Quality Control. Throughout the association’s 68 years, the profession has evolved as roles and responsibilities have changed and expanded. In the early 21st century the quality practitioner had been firmly planted into the quality community as it became clear that, for organizations to thrive, quality professionals couldn’t work in a silo away from other, traditionally “nonquality” departments. To survive, quality must become everyone’s job. The statement on its own—“Quality is everyone’s job!”—has the look and sound of a slogan, a rousing, easily remembered and repeated, phrase. The fact is, according to ASQ’s past three research studies—The Future of Quality (2011), The Global State of Quality (2013, with APQC), and the Culture of Quality (2014, with Forbes Insights)—organizations have been making attempts to break down silos and get tools into the hands of everyone. The change can be painfully slow. It is a culture shift. Those outside of the traditional quality profession are asked to do “one more thing,” while the quality professional is left to question job stability. But there is a great need for the quality professional’s skill set. To make “quality is everyone’s job” a reality, the subject matter experts, the quality professionals, need to offer guidance and support every step of the way. The benefits can be many. “It’s a lot more collaborative than it used to be,” says Laura Methfessel in an ASQ TV interview. “I’ve only been doing this for seven years, and when I started at my company quality was still seen as (one) of the bad guys. But since [then], and since I’ve been able to train through ASQ, I’ve been able to take all those skills and bring them to our corporate culture. And now we have cross-functional groups. We are helping to promote quality basically from the bottom up and getting all our employees involved. And that’s how I see quality work going throughout the whole company, making everything work better.” Breaking down the silos is good for communication and business. It gets people teaming together, problem solving in more effective and efficient ways. When quality departments move effectively around to other departments, matters go smoother and quicker. These organizations have—or strive for—a culture of quality (see sidebar). “Generally what I have found,” says Jigar Vadia, manager of strategic initiatives, KYB Americas Corp., “is that when we think about quality, it is a very narrow understanding about quality in a manufacturing environment. Generally when thinking of quality, it is getting a customer issue, doing root cause analysis, and do[ing] corrective actions, which is an extremely important part of quality but not the only part of quality systems.” Vadia goes on to say in the ASQ TV interview that you can’t always think about how process won’t always show scrap and other tangible losses. You need to broaden your thinking to process quality. This type of thinking doesn’t usually start at the top, it comes from the quality professionals. And, the quality professionals have control in these areas to broaden their areas of expertise and value to the organization. Michelle Holly says it this way, “If you want something, go after it. Don’t be shy about it. Do what you can. Learn what you can because that’s the main thing.” Go, quality professional, learn, share. Get your career.
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