Quality Management – What do other industries do?

As professionals, one of our key considerations should always be how other disciplines and industries approach a problem. Project management, and quality management in industry, are two disciplines worth considering.

I did some research and came across some interesting insights. Quality is defined as, ‘the level at which a product, service, or result corresponds to the requirements’. However, what if one complies with the requirements, but the product is still defective? Quality means that there should also be no defect. A defect is a flaw not anticipated by the requirements. In quality management, it is accepted that regulations do not cover all possible cases or combinations of actions, i.e. ‘grey areas’. The quality gurus then debate whether a defect in a grey area is, in fact, a defect. Their rule of thumb is that, the fewer cases of the defect, the less severe it is.

It is agreed that no product or service is without defect. The severity of each of the defects is determined, and agreement sought on which defects warrant the time and money spent to contain them.

The level of the defects is agreed upon at different levels, similar to risk assessment, in terms of ISQM1. A product can’t go to market with a high number of high-severity defects.

It is also accepted that a product that fits all the requirements, with no defect, does not necessarily make the client happy. The end user is also a stakeholder in the process.

The product should fit the brief. Not every phone should be an iPhone, and not every building a palace.

One needs to respect the expectations of the client. You may end up with a low-grade, high-quality product. The grade suits the requirements of the client.

The way we conduct our audit practices, and regulate our profession, needs to adapt as a matter of urgency, so that these principles are instilled. First-class students join the profession with a pass mark of 70%, say, but are expected to perform at 100% from day one, regardless of the complexity or circumstances of the audit.

A firm may perform low-risk, low-fee audits, which are regulated for the same level of ‘defects’ as high-risk, public interest audits. The profession urgently needs a guideline, in line with the ‘agreement’ by quality managers in industry, regarding the level of tolerable findings (‘defects’) for different levels of audits (‘products’).

Let’s take heed of the quality management principles, and not try to re-invent the wheel.

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