Understanding the challenges…

Simon Parliament

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.

  1. That ‘quality’ word – our stakeholders, or at least the majority of them, do not understand quality.
  2. A profession lacking skills in some key areas, and that is the view of those stakeholders who do know what quality is.
  3. 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.

4 thoughts on “Understanding the challenges…

  1. Hannah Murfet

    As part of the ‘sprinkling of younger folk’ it was a great event and it was fantastic to not only offer some insights at the end but for so much focus of the debate to turn to engagement with the next generation of quality professionals. This year has been positive and I am but there will be plenty of opportunities to come.

  2. PaulS

    Firstly I am pleased the WQD event at the Houses of Parliament went well. It would be good to have a summary or transcript of the session to be able to evaluate the nature of those questions that caused Simon such concern and to be able to relate that to the clarity CQI Executive has evidenced with the 3 challenges it proposes we, the profession, face.

    I have some issues with the way these are presented and will counter with my own take on the current employment market for QPs because, after all that is what it is. Each CQI member wants her membership to be seen to be of value to prospective employers. The xCQI initials after her name means something in terms of what they can expect from their prospective employee. So here goes:

    1. Most prospective employers do ‘get quality’ (they are running successful businesses satisfying a majority of customers after all) they just don’t understand a QP’s role in delivering quality.
    2. QPs are easy to pigeonhole. We are the document guys and gals and prospective employers hire other people to do ‘real’ work.
    3. QPs want to be all things to all people and voices heard are unsurprisingly not the same. Employers want solution providers and currently cannot determine how the various badges QPs wear solve their problems.

    I continue to be interested in how my Institute will take me and fellow members into this brave new world and look forward to seeing how it does it. Coming from the ‘pale, male and stale’ section of the membership I’ve seen a number of ‘new and improved’ initiatives over the years to the point where I now keep my head down and do my own thing. Like Lawrence I find this form of reference from our Institute CEO a little disappointing. Nevertheless, when I have my own picture of CQI Executive’s new clarity of vision and some small evidence of their constancy of purpose I will surely plug in to CQI’s ambitions.

  3. Laurence Teague

    I completely agree that a campaign needs to be undertaken to raise the profile, importance, understanding and influence of Quality. I have been working in Quality for 13 years now and hope I have made some progress in this.

    If we are found to be “stale” then we should address this but I do object to the implied criticism that there is fault in being “pale” (ie white) and male. I am not a member of the political correctness zealots but can we please move forward without sexist / racist tags that other demographics would certainly not tolerate.


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