Following on from our downloadable content: Quality Principles and PDCA Cycle, our Principal Associate Colin MacDonald answers the top questions he gets asked…

What is a Quality Management System, and why have one?

This is a common question that management or individuals ask, and a fair one.

Anyone who knows me – whether a colleague or a client – knows I explain this in easy-to-understand terms (like my well-known Scandinavian building block analogies), my philosophy is why make things complicated; some ‘consultants’ use buzz words to bamboozle, I don’t.

Like my favourite television advert for a certain varnish product – ‘it does what it says on the tin!’, I like to keep things simple, so lets me break down the question.

What is a Quality Management System (QMS)?

Basically, it’s yours and your organisation’s commitment to your customer(s) that you provide confidence to meet their requirements and deliver a quality product, service, systems, and processes on a continual basis in relation to the appropriate standards and regulations. The keyword in bold, remember the PDCA Cycle?

So, why have one, and who is responsible?

Good question. It’s more than just a list of documented procedures and processes – the QMS links to every facet of your organisation’s performance no matter how big or small you are, therefore driving a quality culture throughout and ensuring everyone is responsible for quality. It’s organic, living – it’s not a case of simply implementing it and thinking the job is done. Remember the word in bold previously – continual?

I use a term I call ‘The 5C approach’ (think of it as the fingers on your hand which combine to give a firm handshake – remember them?), which includes the aspects below:

  1. Confidence – in you as an organisation to deliver.
  2. Compliance – to appropriate regulations and standards.
  3. Communication – documented processes, a readiness to utilise feedback for improvement.
  4. Challenging – by continually reviewing the QMS and adapting.
  5. Charting – defining, improving, controlling processes and training opportunities as well as the organisation’s direction.

These are all high-level goals that an organisation must be aware of when implementing a QMS, no matter what size you are or what industry domain you are in, from vaccine manufacture to “driving” a cylinder shaped bus in the sky.

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