A trip over to dictionary.com reveals the definition of “Assurance”
- promise or pledge; guaranty; surety
- full confidence; freedom from doubt; certainty: to act in the assurance of success
That would seem to place any function related to “Assuring” an outcome at the forefront of the activity it oversees. After all, a process can yield a poor outcome, and we should be interested in preventing poor outcomes to the point of rendering them impossible, not simply catching them as they occur.
Consistent with this train of thought, the Wikipedia entry for Quality Assurance indicates:
“Quality assurance (QA) refers to the planned and systematic activities implemented in a quality system so that quality requirements for a product or service will be fulfilled. It is the systematic measurement, comparison with a standard, monitoring of processes and an associated feedback loop that confers error prevention. This can be contrasted with quality control, which is focused on process outputs.”
If assurance is an action that guarantees an outcome by instituting the behaviors and practices that prevent defects before-the-fact, then why is the Quality function often nothing more than an inspection-focused group of box checkers, assigned the responsibility for auditing work? In most environments defects, while lamentable, are still acceptable – as long as they don’t get passed through to the end customer.
While it’s nice to catch errors, however, it’s even better if you don’t need to. To achieve that level of Operational Excellence, however, requires a whole new understanding of creating an environment where defects are something to be prevented, rather than detected. What doesn’t happen very often is an examination of the mindset that allowed the upstream errors to occur.
There are many scenarios under which the necessary conversations for fundamental Quality Assurance do not happen. I will provide a few of those possibilities, as well as some advice on overcoming them, in part 2…..
Today’s guest post was written by David M. Kasprzak. David has worked with all levels of management in large commercial organizations and government agencies on budget development, project planning & performance measurement. Over the course of his career, he has realized that it is the qualitative elements of work that determine success or failure. Based on this realization, he began to explore the principles of Operational Excellence and Lean process improvement, and apply those concepts to other areas of both work and life. In 2010, David created the My Flexible Pencil blog to share his ideas on these topics.
A husband and father, he lives with his wife and 2 sons in Litchfield, NH where he continues work in project controls, contemplate methods for improving the workplace, and seek his own sense of work/life integration.
Please check out My Flexible Pencil and leave a comment below if you liked this article. You can also connect on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, subscribe via e-mail (right side bar), retweet, digg, or stumble this article. You can check out my Facebook page and continue the discussion there as well. Your feedback is appreciated.