Friday, 4 March, 2022
CQI CEO, Vince Desmond, looks at recent quality failures to explore the growing relevance of this year’s World Quality Week theme, ‘Quality conscience: Doing the right thing’.

This week, we announced the theme for World Quality Week 2022 – an annual campaign celebrated by the CQI which raises awareness of the quality profession. It is set to take place this year from 7-11 November, and the topic, ‘Quality Conscience: Doing the right thing’, could not be timelier for the quality profession, organisations and society at large. A brief look at a series of recent quality failures suggests why professional bodies ought to focus on soft skills, not just the hard stuff. 

Learning from recent quality failures 

Just this year, I have watched the Netflix documentary Downfall: The case against Boeing on the controversy around the Boeing 737 Max, attended a talk by Nick Wallis, the author of The Post Office Scandal, followed the Theranos trial in the US, observed ‘party-gate’ at 10 Downing Street and followed progress of the investigation into failures of maternity care at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust.  

The role of leadership, values and culture

All of these are examples of quality failures in operational governance and assurance. However, what we can learn from these recent cases is that failures in areas such as leadership, behaviour and culture moved organisations to cover up problems and, ultimately, led to the destruction of organisational reputations and people’s lives.  

Setting the professional standard 

Professional bodies, such as the CQI, set the standard for the body of knowledge and the code of conduct. At a recent round table organised by the Professional Associations Research Network, CEOs of professional bodies, including myself, met to debate the idea of trust in professional expertise. The consensus was that the risk to the public perception of professional expertise lay more greatly in a lack of trust in behaviour and ethics than a lack of trust in competence. Therefore, the challenge for professional bodies is to rebalance the emphasis between the code of conduct and the body of knowledge, and how they support members with both. 

The quality profession    

This year’s World Quality Week theme is a good opportunity for our community to reflect on both doing the right thing as a profession, and how we help support organisations to do the right thing.  

Some still hold the outdated view that managing quality is purely about the ‘toolbox’ of policy, process and systems, however, it is leadership, culture and values that truly underpin any defined system of work. Although these areas can be the hardest to navigate, they are the key to doing the right thing. I look forward to the debate as we lead up to World Quality Week in November 2022.