What Advice Would You Give a Quality Rookie? Readers Respond.

Paying it forward

Quality Digest

November 24, 2021

As part of QD’s 40th anniversary hoopla, we wanted to hear from those in the quality field. Tribal knowledge is real and valuable. What you’ve learned as a quality professional can help others starting out in the field. Here are words of wisdom from readers respresenting a diverse array of industries.

“Whatever you get exposed to, do it right the first time. Preparation is key. Being preventive is way cheaper than corrections. Take your time. If there is a stomach discomfort for whatever information you are getting, pay attention to it because most likely there is an issue to iron out.”
Alicia Scott, service quality manager, ABB ELPC

“1. Be teachable and trainable: Don’t be a know it all but strive to be a ‘learns a lot.’
2. It’s acceptable to find yourself in a place where you don’t know about an issue, but there is no reason to not know a second time (especially about the same issue, and this ties in with No. 1).
3. You will make mistakes. You are human. However, have the integrity to admit the mistake and accept the consequences.
4. In improving the processes, don’t forget to spend some time, energy, and effort on yourself. (This links with No. 3 somewhat).”
James Fenton, quality lead, Dark Threat Fabrication

“Working in quality requires good data, but the key to success is understanding people.”
Deb Chacosky, departmental clinical quality manager, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

“Quality and quality assurance are moving targets. Never think that you know everything there is to know; tomorrow you might meet a slightly changed material, new people, a new tool, new interpretations of regulatory requirements. Every parameter may change. Do your best to stay on top of it all. Every day.”
Dorthe Wallin, QA/RA manager, Cortex Technology

“Include those closest to the process in improvement efforts (don’t compromise). You can identify which best practices to implement separately, but it’s critical involve frontline workers to determine how to implement them. They know the systems and tools to tag on to—such as adding to existing checklists rather than creating new ones—and live the workarounds and barriers that undermine quality and efficiency. Without including the frontline, new processes will not be as practical, and you will have difficulty sustaining improvements.”
“If I gave a second tip, it would be this: Don’t worry about the category or type of tool. Use what makes the most sense to identify and solve the problem.”
Susan Peiffer, performance improvement specialist, Hospital Sisters Health System

“50 + years in the business have taught me to kept it simple. You don’t need high-tech software or massive data gathering. Your employees know what the biggest issues are; they just need someone to take ownership (facilitate) and get people’s buy-in and involvement to help solve the issue.”
Michael Shillott Sr., Operations, production, and quality manager, retired

“The true job of the quality professional, in my opinion, is to provide accurate and concise information as to the state of whatever is being evaluated within a given set of parameters. When doing so, don’t ever be afraid to challenge your results. This will not only ensure you provide accurate and concise information; it will also increase confidence in your results to your customer, be it the worker, management, external customer, or anyone else you are providing information.”
Jason Martin, quality services, Stark Industrial

And here are some classics from quality experts and QD authors:

“The descriptive statistics taught in introductory classes are appropriate summaries for homogeneous collections of data. But the real world has many ways of creating non-homogeneous data sets.” —Donald Wheeler

“All processes should have a defined customer whose needs and expectations are understood and are being met.” —H. James Harrington

“A few weeks ago during a training session on root cause analysis, one of the attendees asked: ‘Can we use the same technique to figure out why something worked really well?’ We’re too eager to ask, ‘Why did something go wrong… and who should we blame?’ instead of, ‘Why did everything go so well, and who can we thank?’” —Denise Robitaille

“Engineers belong in factories and laboratories. Black Belts and Green Belts belong in the dojo.” —Tom Pyzdek

“I’m often asked, ‘What do we work on first, tools or culture?’ I answer, in context of the Toyota Production System, that neither has substance without the other. They are two sides of the same coin. We need to learn them together.” —Bruce Hamilton

“All others bring data.” —W. Edwards Deming

“Working in an environment without visual information sharing is like trying to reach a destination by driving 100 miles without a map, on a road with no road signs, no traffic signals, and no lines down the center of the road. You can probably make it, but you are likely to pay a terrible price.” —Gwendolyn Galsworth

“The only prerequisites needed for the statistics that will solve 85 to 90 percent of your problems? An ability to count to eight, sort a list of numbers, and do basic arithmetic. It’s about a mindset, not a tool set.”
Davis Balestracci

“When you issue an NCR, you are doing it to track and quantify the nonconformances, defects, or issues causing your production or service operations to lag. But the story should not end there. The biggest benefit of tracking NCRs is the ability to see how your operation’s performance is changing from week to week, month to month, and from product to product.” —Miriam Boudreaux

“Many companies are so eager to create an easy-to-understand measurement system that they forget that if it is useless, it doesn’t matter who understands it.” —A. Blanton Godfrey

“The smart CEO uses the brand promise to align all of the activities of the organization; that promise guides people, processes, products, and systems.” —Annette Franz

“Management’s product is the entire organization.” —Phil Crosby

“Any material we purchase that does not emerge from our process as a saleable product is waste, regardless of whether it is an environmental aspect. Henry Ford looked for ways to use everything—as but one example, waste wood became Kingsford charcoal and other wood distillation products—even though he could have legally thrown into the nearest river whatever wouldn’t go up his smokestacks.” —William Levinson

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For 40 years Quality Digest has been the go-to source for all things quality. Our newsletter, Quality Digest, shares expert commentary and relevant industry resources to assist our readers in their quest for continuous improvement. Our website includes every column and article from the newsletter since May 2009 as well as back issues of Quality Digest magazine to August 1995. We are committed to promoting a view wherein quality is not a niche, but an integral part of every phase of manufacturing and services.