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Quality Assurance? Or Quality Management?

June 27, 2008
by pwillging
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I’m always intrigued (and sometimes confused) by the poll question that appears in the upper right hand corner of this site. Todays is: “Are you satisfied with your facility’s quality assurance program? How might it be improved? Well, are we talking here about quality assurance? Or quality management? And what’s the difference? And, if you have the latter, do you really need the former? I see quality assurance as a process whereby one attempts, after the fact, to determine what went wrong. I see quality management as a process whereby leadership attempts to keep things from going wrong in the first place. It’s data-driven, staff-empowered and customer-focused. While quality assurance might have a role to play, I would suggest that it’s only as one of a number of data sets designed to feed the quality management process itself. It’s kind of like mock surveys – something else I’ve never really been a fan of. What’s the good of discovering deficiencies after the fact (even if you catch them before the surveyors arrive)? Better to have a quality management system in place that will help avoid them in the first place. And before you jump on me as a misguided academic who’s never had to manage a community, let me assure you that the thought came to me from a respected colleague who’s run more than her fair share of deficiency-free facilities. But, let’s talk about it!

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When multiple disciplines come together and share in the fquality assurance process, varying points of view bring different perspectives to the table. As long as manangement uses the QA process the spot errors before they happen and review to prevent errors happening again, then QA and QM are working as they should.

Paul, you are right the process should be called Quality Management (QM). I disagree, however, that Quality Assurance (QA) is finding what went wrong after the fact.

QA is or should be an important part of the QM process to monitor that the actions taken to prevent bad things from happening really work and if they work are being carried out as intended. Demming, Juran, six sigma, etc. all have feedback loops to continuously improve QM. I believe that is what QA should be.

Paul, very interesting topic and you got my attention.
In the last 15 years the quality field went through a significant transformation.
From Quality Control (reactive) to Quality Management (proactive) design for six sigma, lean principals, 5S programs and beyond.
Today's internet technology is allowing us to search and learn about pretty much anything we want in matter of minutes before connecting to the intended service or product provider. Having said that .... expectation and awareness went up accordingly.
Our society needs quality systems or techniques that will effectively " add value " which consequently will lead to famous paramount of " quality satisfaction".
Most of us are seeking more than tangible quality. We want to know if manufacturers are using harmful products or substances, are they " green" , the origin of fabrication, are they a social responsible employer, etc.
(I would change the old jargon "we are what we eat " to..... " we are what we actually do " )
I may come across as an "environment evangelist "but you will be surprised that I am actually deeply involved within the manufacturing field.
Regardless if you call as quality management or quality assurance at the end of the day we will be seeking (sometimes without even realize) products / services that will " add value " to our organization but also to our society.

pwillging

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