Last week I was at the House of Commons event celebrating World Quality Day (pictured above). This is the third year we have held this event and as in previous years we were at capacity. The audience featured many familiar faces plus, encouragingly, more than a sprinkling of younger folk. Many of whom were female. This last point is really relevant as it is evidence that we are beginning at last to challenge the profession’s historic ‘pale, male & stale’ demographic.
The format was a panel discussion followed by a Q&A session, the audience being invited to provide the questions. Alongside me on the front bench was Estelle Clark, the CQI chair and chair of this session. Amongst the panel was Chris Sexton, the CQI’s President.
The event was a success, the panel providing good insights with excellent interaction from the audience. But some of the questions left me frustrated and uneasy – in mulling it over afterward it became clear that we are missing something which is, an understanding by our members of the challenges this profession is facing and what their institute is doing to address those challenges. What has become obvious to the CQI Executive over the last two or three years, is still unclear for our members – so here goes.
This profession, and by implication our institute, has three main challenges.
- That ‘quality’ word – our stakeholders, or at least the majority of them, do not understand quality.
- A profession lacking skills in some key areas, and that is the view of those stakeholders who do know what quality is.
- The global quality community – where we should be singing loudly from the same hymn sheet, we are all singing different tunes, or not singing at all.
Bundled together that makes a formidable problem statement and explains why quality is absent not only from the boardroom but from management agendas.
So what is your institute doing to address these challenges?
First, with the help of stakeholders who do understand quality we have developed a competency framework. This is hugely important, as it is the foundation for key deliverables;
- A credible criteria for membership and a suite of learning and development products that complement the journey from prospective member to mature professional.
- Second, we are spreading the quality gospel, which involves a mix of good communications and by getting some heavyweight organisations to buy into and to publically back our cause.
- And finally we have begun selling our mantra of Governance, Assurance & Improvement and repositioning quality to our fellow travellers in the global quality community.
My colleagues and I in the Executive, can and are doing all of the above. We have developed a clarity of vision about what good looks like. We know what we need to do to make this a reality. But equally we know we will struggle to achieve good without a membership that is plugged into and who support our ambitions. So our communications must be directed not only at the outside world and our stakeholders, but also internally. We need to be confident that as we are stepping into unknown territory we have, right behind us, our informed and supportive members.
So next year when we celebrate World Quality Day, I look forward to different discussions – ones that focus on our progress against challenges that do not need to be articulated, because they are now well understood and accepted.
Simon Feary is the Chief Executive of the Chartered Quality Institute.