Published: 11 May 2020

Nina Abbassi, CQP FCQI, Owner and Director of Abbassi Ltd, speaks to Daniel Moore about how she is continuing to deliver training to the quality profession and the lessons to be learnt so far from the coronavirus pandemic.

Daniel Moore: What changes have you had to make as a result of the lockdown to continue delivering your consultancy, auditing and training to the quality profession?

Nina Abbassi: We are in the process of adapting, by means of making some of the face to face (training) services online. However, this takes time and investment, which coupled with the uncertainty of the length of time that the lockdown and social distancing will be in place, makes it difficult to decide how much to invest. Nevertheless, it has helped me understand the demand and benefits of giving our customers other options, such as virtual training and eLearning, which we will continue with after the outbreak.

DM: Has the delivery of the Quality in Construction course, which you developed with the specification from the Construction Special Interest Group (ConSIG), been affected by the lockdown?

NA: Yes, very much so. This was launched recently and it soon proved to be a popular and much needed course. We had several delegates booked on our classroom-based courses in April and June, but we had to cancel the courses to protect our customers, associates and the public from the risk of infection. However, this course is one of the first ones that we developed for online virtual delivery.  

We have teamed up with experts in online and virtual training to turn the classroom-based material into a fun and engaging virtual delivery.  We booked some delegates for our first course on 27-28 April and will follow with courses on 27-28 May, 9-10 June and one per month thereafter. We will continue with the online training but will also hold classroom-based training once the officials have decided it is safe to do so.

DM: From a quality perspective, what challenges have you had so far as a result of the coronavirus?

NA: In my opinion, one of the main challenges is that there seems to be more of a focus on productivity right now, instead of quality. This worries me, because if ever ‘right first time’ mattered, it is now. Can you imagine a product recall in this environment? Or an environmental disaster? And we can see and hear every day how the social responsibility of everyone and every organisation is being put to the test.   

DM: As a quality professional, what lessons have you learnt during this pandemic?

NA: The pandemic and the magnitude of its impact on businesses and society has highlighted and confirmed the value of several aspects of quality management, quality tools and techniques; some of which the quality professionals might have had challenges in getting buy-in from their top management. For example, the consideration of the external and internal issues when identifying risks, and understanding that this needs to be a robust and dynamic process; planning of changes, and having a robust change management process, capturing the right data and accurately analysing it for better decision making.

In my opinion, the biggest and most important lesson is that “product quality” alone is not going to help sustain business, as we see how many products are of no use during the pandemic.

The key is to concentrate on ‘organisation quality’ which goes further to identify its purpose and the skills and resources needed to achieve it; and to be ready to evolve and adapt.  Examples are those organisations that are currently putting their skills and resources into producing a totally different product or service to what they were doing before. Rolls Royce, for example, is in the process of developing ventilators for the NHS, while Burberry is designing and delivering gowns for hospitals.

This also highlights the importance of the supply chain, which a quality organisation would have identified and put measures in place to manage well. Another lesson is therefore to work more in collaboration with other organisations and not just in competition with each other.