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Career advice for would-be Quality Managers

R

rudolfnco

#1
I’ve been going through the wealth of information in Elsmar and thought I would present my situation here for your opinion.

I am a Quality Coordinator at a company located here in the States with HQ in another country. Because I am bilingual, I was lucky enough to get hired and have been working here a little over a year now.
We are in the refurbishment industry for high-tec equipments and have about 40 employees. My manager is a Quality Manager from HQ who speaks very broken English. Now, HQ regards ISO certification as just a sheet of paper with no benefits (reading through the forum, ours is not the only company to have this attitude) and QM is just a department responsible for holding up a façade during customer audits.

The past year has been rough, having had no prior experience in the manufacturing type industry and having never even heard of ISO before. But a lot of research, embarrassment, and just pure guts got me through a surveillance audit, meetings trying to convey the importance of quality, conference calls with customers, etc. On top of that, I am still in my 20’s with very little work experience let alone having zero experience in quality, which makes me less convincing to other mangers/engineers in my company. But I digress…

It is one thing to lack the proper knowledge in Quality, but what really trumps me is my lack of knowledge in the ins-and-outs of our processes. I noticed my boss is out of touch with what’s going on in the company (we are out of the loop on almost everything, including customer requests/complaints) and would suggest general concepts in meetings that make this completely apparent.

So my questions are:

1) As a Quality Manager, how much of the finer details do you have to know about your processes? (Keep in mind the size of our company and that we have procedures that diagram the input, output, and the general process flow) Do you ever find yourself not having a voice because you are “out of touch” with what’s going on down in the fab?
2) I don’t see people becoming a Quality Manager fresh out of college, because realistically they would lack the experience/knowledge to be in the top management (as required in the ISO 9001:2008 standard). So what do you think would be some good experiences for someone with little/no experience in Quality Management to have, in order to become a Quality Manager themselves?

I ask these questions because I am at a fork in the road and am debating whether I should spend some time working in all different areas in the fab with the process engineer guys.

Any thoughts?
 
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Jim Wynne

Staff member
Admin
#2
2) I don’t see people becoming a Quality Manager fresh out of college, because realistically they would lack the experience/knowledge to be in the top management (as required in the ISO 9001:2008 standard).
I don't have time at the moment for a full response, but I wanted to point out the fact that ISO 9001 does not even mention the title of quality manager, let alone specify that a QM must be part of "top management." What it does say is the the management representative must be a "member of management."
 
J

Jason PCSwitches

#4
I started much like you, in a company where ISO was just a piece of "unnecessary and expensive" paper. I was thrown into a position where I was for the most part the MR, but the title was held by another senior employee. We had over 100 employee's and I was about 4 years out of college with 6 or so years of management experience.

Just because you have the title "QM" doesn't put you in charge of your QMS, unless that has been communicated to you. In advance, if the attitudes towards quality are as you say, it is very difficult to change long running culture. However, use this as an opportunity and take it to your advantage. I did.

You should get involved and learn as much as you can. Are you auditing? If so, you have the perfect cover to get involved in processes that you normally wouldn't. Don't let the frustration get to you, you may find you can learn a great deal more than you imagine, while getting the experience to back up that other expensive piece of paper, your degree!! Books & Reality have vasts differences, and hands on involvement at this level is hard to come by. Remember, as you will find out, this is more than "Quality Management", it's "Business Management". Once upper-management understands this, things can get much, much better.

I'm not making light by no means, but this isn't that hard to grasp (Quality Management). As you are finding out, it's the people not the techniques that are the most difficult. Make the most for as long as you can and your value will increase in the market, Good luck, keep us posted.

By the way, you are correct about the cove, use it.:agree1:
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Wes Bucey

Prophet of Profit
#5
I don't have time at the moment for a full response, but I wanted to point out the fact that ISO 9001 does not even mention the title of quality manager, let alone specify that a QM must be part of "top management." What it does say is the the management representative must be a "member of management."
Jim is on target here. The role of Quality Manager is NOT just making sure an organization gets a sheet of paper to hang on the wall. Before ISO came along and long after it disappears, organizations will need the skills and functions of Quality Managers, whether the word "quality" is in the job title or not.
 

Golfman25

Trusted Information Resource
#6
As Jason pointed out, it is really about business management, not quality managment. This is why we don't have a "Quality Manager." If your processes are robust and everybody understands the need to satisfy the customer's requirement, then a QM is just a "scapegoat" position. People point to him and say it is his "responsibility" when in fact it is everyone's responsibility.

Rightly or wrongly, for many people "quality management" means checking parts to print specs. That's what they grew up with. As "quality" has evolved it has encroached on business management. This has caused uncessary conflicts. IMO things would go much smoother at the management level if the "quality" title was dropped and something else substituted.

So really, you need to have your role defined within the company. For example, you mention involvement in customer requests/complaints. Why should you be involved in customer request/complaints? Is that or should that really be your responsibility? What does your company want you to do -- just manage the documentation? The answers will be different for each company. Depending upon your defined role, you can then decide if the position suites you or push for changes. Good luck.
 
A

arios

#7
Although I am an ASQ CQMgr, I have not been a Quality Manager myself, but because of my job I have had the privilege of meeting many Quality Managers.

What I have learned to admire in several QA Managers is their commitment. They are holding a front line position which demands constant leadership and knowledge and they also have a great opportunity to develop and influence others.

It would desirable that they have to know details of each process, however getting to that level of knowledge may not be practical. Instead, they should be able to handle a team of engineers, and supervisors, and maintain good interaction with other staff members and managers to keep the focus on quality improvement.

It looks like this job demands lots of efforts. A QA manager may not be likely to have a boring agenda. His or Her role demands either quick reaction to unexpected quality issues as well as good planning to keep constantly thinking on the future improvement steps.

My sincere congratulations and recognition to all those QA Managers on the front line taking care of Quality improvement projects, relations with customers, lean initiatives, CIP's, day-to-day challenges, developing new QA engineers, interaction with suppliers and ISO audits, coordinating management reviews, etc. etc. :applause: :applause: :applause:

Alberto Rios
 

Big Jim

Super Moderator
#8
I started much like you, in a company where ISO was just a piece of "unnecessary and expensive" paper. I was thrown into a position where I was for the most part the MR, but the title was held by another senior employee. We had over 100 employee's and I was about 4 years out of college with 6 or so years of management experience.

Just because you have the title "QM" doesn't put you in charge of your QMS, unless that has been communicated to you. In advance, if the attitudes towards quality as as you say, it is very difficult to change long running culture. However, use this as an opportunity and take it to your advantage. I did.

You should get involved and learn as much as you can. Are you auditing? If so, you have the perfect cover to get involved in processes that you normally wouldn't. Don't let the frustration get to you, you may find you can learn a great deal more than you imagine, while getting the experience to back up that other expensive piece of paper, your degree!! Books & Reality have vasts differences, and hands on involvement at this level is hard to come by. Remember, as you will find out, this is more than "Quality Management", it's "Business Management". Once upper-management understands this, things can get much, much better.

I'm not making light by no means, but this isn't that hard to grasp (Quality Management). As you are finding out, it's the people not the techniques that are the most difficult. Make the most for as long as you can and your value will increase in the market, Good luck, keep us posted.

By the way, you are correct about the cove, use it.:agree1:
In support of what was posted here, I would like to add that once top management understands how powerful of management tool ISO 9001 is, they begin to embrace it. The concept of the process approach, quality objectives, measuring and monitoring the processes, strategic planning from taking assessment of the state of the company and determining where to go from there (management review) is not unique to ISO 9001. It is just good business practice.

If you can somehow get them to see the benefits of fixing problems in such a way that they don't keep repeating so you don't pound your head against the wall over the same issues day after day, you may have a chance in getting them on-board.

And if you don't, you are preparing yourself to serve a company that will appreciate those benefits.

Hang in there.
 
T

terranceyu

#9
Yes, IMO, you must spend some time in the fab to keep up with the situation and listen to what they said, and also able to filter those information. By the time, you are the most suitable person to voice and suggest the possible corrective action in relavent area such as defect rate, internal failure cost, reliability, performance etc accordingly. Your reputation wil be increase significantly, and this is where you build your experience and confidence.

Personally, I would not think little experience in QA field is not going to make you Quality Manager. It is a matter which you can or can not solve the company problem, where the boss always talk about their money. Here is my take, as this is how I do, and I benefit from it: You should brainstorm with the bunch of professional guys from respective dept, perform the cost evaluation, drive corrective action, to reduce those unnecessary waste and cost, reducing QC while implementing QA procedures where introducing Poka-yoke into process, and present all the results in the dollars and cents, which makes sense to management, and gain public recognition.

Just believe in yourself!:cool:
 

Jim Wynne

Staff member
Admin
#10
1) As a Quality Manager, how much of the finer details do you have to know about your processes? (Keep in mind the size of our company and that we have procedures that diagram the input, output, and the general process flow) Do you ever find yourself not having a voice because you are “out of touch” with what’s going on down in the fab?
Learn as much as you can about not just what your company does, but the industry in general. There's a difference between being able to make a clock and knowing how clocks are made; you might not be able to do the former, but understanding the latter is critical and will help you immensely in the future. At some point a quality manager will need to know when the information he's given is reliable and when someone is blowing smoke. Assimilating this knowledge will involve getting burned, so you can't be afraid of hot things.

The more you know about what the people in your company actually do for a living, the more you'll be able to recognize how to help them to do a better job. Make sure that the requirements are realistic and understood, and that people have what they need (including knowledge), and then let them do their jobs with a minimum of interference.

2) I don’t see people becoming a Quality Manager fresh out of college, because realistically they would lack the experience/knowledge to be in the top management (as required in the ISO 9001:2008 standard). So what do you think would be some good experiences for someone with little/no experience in Quality Management to have, in order to become a Quality Manager themselves?
As I pointed out in an earlier post, the standard is no barrier to being a quality manager. If you want to gain experience, watch, ask questions, and learn. As Deming often pointed out, most managers are paid to make things worse. You can't learn how to make things better unless you have a reasonable understanding of the processes and the barriers. Leave your ego at the door, acknowledge your own ignorance, and work towards incrementally eliminating it.

I ask these questions because I am at a fork in the road and am debating whether I should spend some time working in all different areas in the fab with the process engineer guys.
It's very unlikely that you'll spend your entire career with your present employer. Use your time there (as much as you can) to learn. Not just in terms of production processes, but everything you can about how the business operates, from order-taking to shipping. You'll encounter things that you know are wrong or dysfunctional and not be able to do anything about it, despite your best efforts, but when you move on you'll have valuable insights that you can take with you. Knowing what works is a function of knowing what doesn't work.

As far as book larnin' is concerned, you should have at least a basic understanding of probability and statistics, and know where to go for help in those areas (like here :D) when you need it (and you will need it). Someone else suggested a look at ASQ's BOK for quality management, and it's OK as far as it goes, but it's mostly platitudes and offers up an idyllic picture that's seldom, if ever, realized in practice. There really is no substitute for experience.
 
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