Acknowledging that quality assurance is an integrated process; here we endevour to delve into some more best practices to help empower you and your company with the ability to achieve its goals and objectives.
3. There is often no accountability
Once you have done your best to involve all relevant parties in the quality assurance procedures, your next task is to keep your finger on the pulse.
Management needs to make sure that the QA staff are accountable for success and failure.
The deeds of the QA staff need to be monitored and made known.
A report of the activities and outcomes of the QA staff’s work is a good way to make sure that they are made responsible for poor performance, or given the due credit for functioning well.
With that said, do not fall into the trap of merely documenting success and failure.
With accountability there need to be consequences for whatever results the QA team produces. Be sure to actively intervene if QA is consistently not meeting desired standards, and reward good performance to highlight the value of QA to the company.
If QA staff are doing their job properly that might go unnoticed, do not make the mistake of undervaluing their role!
Once again, it is important to maintain open transfer of information, so that the effectiveness of QA practices can be monitored, and adjustments made as they are needed. On that note, do not be too quick to blame personnel. When people are blamed they may become more likely to conceal problems, rather than attend to them by bringing them to light. First be sure that the details of the procedure are not at fault, and that clear communication channels are open to rectify mistakes. Only with constant feedback can future mistakes be mitigated.
This is an area where assumptions are dangerous. Don’t assume that processes are being followed, or that the current way of doing things is always fine. Check in.
4. Not looking around you
Even if your quality assurance procedures seem to be working fine, and you have integrated QA and open channels of communication, you may still be falling behind.
Best practices are called that for a reason.
They are tried and tested and shown to improve the success of companies. However, they are always progressing, and so should you.
Do get complacent with what you have, or let hubris stand in the way of taking note of what works for others.
Seeing what works for those in a similar field may greatly improve your business, through incorporating useful ideas, tools, or technologies they have that you would not necessarily have come up with. This is particularly pertinent in terms of technological advances and environmentally friendly practices, both of which are seeing rapid, astonishing developments around the world.
Naturally, success is contextual – no best practice will fit perfectly for everyone.
This creates space for molding best practices to suit your specific objectives. However, be wary that excessive experimentation, and both blindly following and completely ignoring outside advice, may be detrimental.
Stay competitive by making sure that you have at least what your competitors have, and then add more and improve on existing ideas to give yourself the edge.
To remain competitive you must remain vigilant of opportunities for innovation.
5. How often do we fail to pick our battles wisely?
All along I have emphasized that QA procedures are a team effort.
You do not have the time to meet with everyone, answer all emails, and be everywhere at once. You also desire time off.
The good news…
You do not need to do everything on your own!
You can pick your battles to optimize expenditure of time and money.
When you do not have the requisite expertise, hiring a 3rd party company may be the way to go.
This could free up time and some responsibility, allowing you to focus more on what you can manage. This will allow for all-round improvement in QA, generated by including more hands and minds to focus on doing and assessing the quality of specialized work.
For QA, picking your battles may also mean critically assessing the whole process and deciding what most needs attention and monetary investment.
This brings us back to those important trade-offs…
Determining the priority level of each part of the quality assurance process will allow the optimum allocation of time and resources. This will rely on clear objectives for QA, and the standards set for each step of the process;
- Carefully consider which parts of the QA process are the most vital, and label them.
- Generate feedback from the differential investment, and tweak the investment as needed.
- Be flexible, and cut your losses.
- Meet acceptable, achievable standards – you do not need to be perfect in every minor detail if the product is still successful.
With these five (See part one) potential shortcomings of your buying office’s approach to QA in mind, you will hopefully be able to improve your quality assurance procedures to meet higher standards.
As a final note; Remember that QA is not quality control. QA is a multi-tier concept, which needs involvement from the beginning: from management defining the desired outcomes of the product to the production team streamlining the production process, to assessing the final product is acceptable and distributed efficiently.
QA is not just testing the product works, which would be the objective of quality control.
Buying offices need to be concerned with more than just the final product. Build quality into the product up front by involving representatives from all vital levels of the product (design teams, funding agencies, production managers, and consumers), so that QA is preventative, not an afterthought.
Do not make QA about putting out fires, make it a process that means that you can focus on solving problems before they arise. This is not only easier but more cost and time effective.
We have spent some time delving into some of the basic quality assurance procedures and how applying these to your operations will help alleviate some of the internal challenges that you currently experience.
What do you think?
Have you applied any of these QA steps? Are there any more that we should add to this, if so what are they?