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Redefining quality professionals for the next generation

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Published: 20 Jul 2017

Richard Kinslay, PCQI, quality engineer, shares his vision on helping budding talent understand the significance of quality.

I'm often asked, “What is the most important priority when it comes to creating a culture of quality?” I think my reply often surprises people. 

To promote a culture of quality, we must start nurturing the next generation of quality professionals. To do this we must ensure that they understand and appreciate the true value quality adds to any organisation. 

It is our responsibility as quality professionals to understand that we must change the way in which we try to promote a quality culture, otherwise we have no chance of instilling, igniting and inspiring young talent into the quality profession.  

For too long now, quality has had an image of men in brown suits and brown ties, wearing glasses, with thick moustaches, who walk around all day cradling a clipboard, just auditing and ticking boxes while everyone around mutters, “Oh no, not Quality again!" 

OK, so maybe this view on a quality professional isn’t that realistic, but it concerns me how little of an understanding young professionals have about quality. 

Just the other day I asked a fourth-year electrical/mechanical engineering apprentice how quality is taught at his university. He replied, “We do one whole module on it, we've learned about some blokes called Shewart and Deming.” 

“Excellent,” I replied, “How are you finding it?” 

“It's OK, but I don’t really get it and I don’t think our lecturer does either.” This sums up the problem that quality professionals are facing today. This lack of awareness is what we have to invest our time in changing. 

We have to ensure that the true meaning of quality is understood and embedded in our working cultures, and where better to start than with the professionals of tomorrow? By targeting the next generation of quality professionals or any up-and-coming professional for that matter, we can be confident going forward that a true understanding of quality will be ingrained in them and their organisations.

We are leaders of cultural change and improvement who constantly strive for the best

This will not be an easy road to travel. How can we promote a quality culture or career when all of the country’s young talent is taught by lecturers who they believe “don't get it” and the students themselves openly admit that they don’t really get it?  

These are their first steps as budding young professionals and this is when the next generation of talent should be absorbing the true message of quality so that this way, no matter what role they take in the future, they understand and appreciate the importance of building quality into whatever they do. 

Instilling a proper understanding of quality in budding professionals is a good place to start. This would help the next generation of talent to appreciate the importance of applying quality in their work, regardless of which industry they pursue.  

Our main focus within our places of work must be to ignite a passion and desire in the next generation of quality professionals and other professionals. We must understand that this is our first duty. Auditing, process adherence, checking and signing documents and box ticking should be tools in achieving the bigger picture. 

We must lead by example and focus on providing strong leadership in our organisations. Through leadership and a positive attitude, the effort of change decreases significantly. We are responsible for igniting passion, opening doors, teaching and engaging all employees at every level. We must spend time painting a quality culture but we must ensure that the artwork we create is appreciated by all and if that means painting a few different pictures then so be it. 

We must demonstrate that the ‘auditing box-ticker’ image simply isn't true. We are leaders of cultural change and improvement who constantly strive for the best.

We must become inspirational leaders and role models who drive change, improvement activities and teach the true worth of quality so that it will be understood by all. Only then will people engage and start promoting quality. More importantly, the next generation will want to be a part of it ... even our electrical/mechanical apprentices that currently don't really get it. 

Richard Kinslay, PCQI, is a quality engineer

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