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Building a quality culture

Published: 28 Nov 2022

A quality culture is at the heart of any successful organisation. Consultant and communication coach Lesley Worthington outlines the key building blocks to achieve it.

Sustaining quality talent


The CQI’s recent Workforce Insights research revealed that only 16% of 16–34-year-olds in the quality profession chose quality at the start of their working life. With this in mind, John Jack, Laboratory Specialist in Quality Laboratory and Clinical Operations at LifeScan, discusses the importance of quality apprenticeship programmes.

Author: John Jack, Laboratory Specialist in Quality Laboratory and Clinical Operations at LifeScan
  • Opinion
  • LifeScan, based in Scotland, provide products and services in blood glucose monitoring, for people with diabetes and related conditions. Due to the specific nature of medical device regulations and the remoteness of the Inverness manufacturing facility, LifeScan is not immune to the talent shortage facing the entire quality community.  

    Faced with this challenge, in 2016 the quality team at LifeScan launched their Quality Engineering Modern Apprenticeship programme in conjunction with the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI). Based upon the successfully established Engineering Apprenticeship at LifeScan with a distinct quality focus, the programme has developed into a successful talent pipeline for the next generation of quality professionals. 

    Developing the next generation 

    The four-year Engineering Modern Apprenticeship programme consists of a year at college studying engineering and business full-time, a further two years studying quality and business improvement techniques, and a final year of work experience and the option to continue studies to degree level.  

    The key function of the apprenticeship is to create well-rounded quality professionals, with experience in multiple areas of quality. Typical rotations last six to nine months, and students spend time developing in operations quality, supplier quality, customer quality, product quality, compliance and software quality to name a few departments. This means that by the end of an apprenticeship, there is a range of opportunities across multiple quality careers. LifeScan’s quality apprentices have contributed to international improvement projects, participated in audits by well-known regulatory bodies (including FDA and DEKRA) and also supported science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) events at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. These same apprentices have also won awards such as Manufacturing Apprentice of the Year at UHI and an Emerging Talent award at the CQI International Quality Awards.  

    Maintaining the quality talent pool 

    LifeScan’s apprentices have proven on a local and international level that they are capable of becoming the next generation of quality professionals. This is also the case with other organisations that have had success with quality apprenticeship programmes, such as Nuvia and Sellafield. 

    Apprenticeships are the future of talent development and retention. According to Skills Development Scotland, 92% of apprentices stay with their employer for at least six months after they have completed their programme. (Skills Development Scotland, 2022)The opportunity to gain meaningful work experience alongside working towards qualifications and earn a wage is becoming more and more appealing to young people, and the quality profession needs to take advantage of this. 

    Apprenticeships have changed dramatically in the past 30 years. The inception of foundation apprenticeships (for school leavers), modern apprenticeships (in association with learning institutes) and graduate apprenticeships, for those who have earned degrees previously, has created many opportunities to hire a diverse population of people with a range of experience. The differing types of apprenticeships mean organisations can train people in a role to a number of degrees with varying levels of commitment and cost, to whatever suits their needs best.  

    The talent shortage faced by the worldwide quality community needs action. As demonstrated by LifeScan, Nuvia and other companies’ programmes, ‘taking a chance’ on apprentices has paid off and created well rounded and respected quality professionals.  

    As a quality community we should work together to sustain a pipeline of quality talent, not just for our respective companies and industries, but for the profession as a whole, and the apprenticeship pathway is undoubtedly part of that future. 

    Read the 2021-2022 Workforce Insights research findings.

    Using quality tools to do the right thing


    Paul Vaughan CQP FCQI, creator of the Quality Tool Selector, takes a practical approach to this year’s World Quality Week theme by looking at how quality professionals can use their tools to do the right thing.

    Author: Paul Vaughan, Head of Quality at Emico
  • Opinion
  • As hopefully many quality professionals are aware, this year’s World Quality Week theme focusses on ‘doing the right thing’. For me, there is some important groundwork that we should all be doing, and that is determining if our perception of the ‘right thing’ aligns with that of our organisation, as well as the expectations of stakeholders. I believe that the departmental purpose analysis tool, which evolved out of the total quality management era, helps facilitate this groundwork by asking the following questions: 

    • Are we doing the right things? 
    • Are we doing them right? 
    • Can we do them better? 

    Quality and problem-solving tools can and should be used to ensure that we do the right things and, as C. S. Lewis once alluded to, not just when people are looking.  

    Quality tools to help determine what is right 

    Quality function deployment, or the voice of the customer, is a great tool for identifying our customers and interested parties’ ‘take’, or perspective. In addition, there are a number of process tools to ensure that our quality conscience is clear by doing the right things.  

    A good inspection and test plan, although not necessarily labelled as a ‘tool’, is an ideal method for ensuring that suitable controls are in place wherever possible. An organisation should look at implementing governance processes like inspection and test plans, which if structured properly, should reduce the chances of someone doing the wrong thing. Alternatively, a poka-yoke-type approach to an activity can set parameters in a decision-making process that make it impossible for a wrong action or deed to be taken.  

    Human error 

    Sadly, there will always be a human element in the instances of doing the wrong thing. I suspect that if you employed an identifying and eliminating tool like an inter-relationship analysis on why we do the wrong things, the solution would likely be to ‘eliminate’ the human factor, which is a somewhat unpalatable outcome.  

    So, some solace can be found in the application of quality tools to, at the very least, identify what is – and that we are doing – the right thing. The Quality Tool Selector would be a good starting point. Although it is dynamic and arguably still in its embryonic stage, it has been developed to provide a compendium of quality-related tools to assist the quality professional in selecting the right tools for the right job, time, and environment.  

    Find out more about the Quality Selector Tool. 

    How the International Quality Awards can drive internal improvement


    Ahead of the International Quality Awards 2022, we hear from one of this year’s judges, Kate Smith, Managing Director at Capella Associates, as she looks at how applying for an award can be used as a self-assessment and benchmarking tool in order to improve your organisation.

    Author: Kate Smith, Managing Director at Capella Associates
  • Opinion
  • Making improvements is all about moving from where we are today, current state, to a future state. It involves taking steps to close gaps that we’ve identified for ourselves or that others (often customers) have shown us. However, if there are no gaps, then there’s nothing driving us to change – no future state that we want to achieve. If we want to improve, we need to be continuously seeking gaps and closing them.

    Identifying the gaps with tools

    Self-assessment, using a documented framework, and benchmarking, are great ways to help identify improvement opportunities. There are lots of frameworks that could be considered, and larger organisations often have their own documented system that sets out best practice. Typically, organisations use several frameworks to ensure, and assure, that they’re meeting the requirements of all interested parties. At Capella, we use three main frameworks that all incorporate third party annual assessments:

    • ISO 9001:2015 to assure our Quality Management System.
    • Cyber Security Essentials to cover the specifics of this critical aspect.
    • Ofsted Inspection Framework to cover all aspects relating to the delivery of adult apprenticeships.

    In addition to these, we use the CQI’s International Quality Awards to support our self-assessment and improvement activities. We saw the CQI’s International Quality Awards as an opportunity to take a fresh look through a different lens and to ask a new set of questions. It’s the asking of questions, then gathering and analysing evidence that enables us to do a good job of the ‘check’ stage of plan, do, check, act. This needs to be done openly and constructively, rewarding (and certainly not ‘punishing’) those who have found gaps. Done well, this forms a hugely powerful base for a quality and continuous improvement culture, where nobody is afraid to ask things or find problems that need to be resolved.

    Learning from feedback

    Through applying for awards, we open ourselves to the scrutiny of experts and this takes courage. However, again, the seeking of opportunities and grasping hold of them demonstrates, from the top, that these are the right things to do, and it sets the standard for the way we want everyone in the team to operate.

    Feedback from award entries provides a useful resource for informing plans and priorities and this supports the setting of targets. Anything that’s data-backed will be more credible and more likely to gain buy-in from others. Then there’s the positive feedback that recognises great work. Even when we feel something we’ve done is good, affirmation from others is wonderful, especially when a load of hard work was required to reach that point. The pinnacle of course comes with being shortlisted and, even better, winning. The excitement and pride that this brings is enormous. Our winning certificates are displayed for all to see on the office wall and bring a smile to my face every time I look at them. We also proudly share our success with our customers, current and potential, and this adds to their confidence in us as a provider. The same goes for our team members and their confidence in Capella. The certificates help us stand out from the competition.

    So, having won a few awards and been shortlisted for others, does that mean we’ll start looking for another set of questions? We’ll certainly be applying for other awards in the future and will remain open to other opportunities. For example, through my involvement in one of the CQI’s International Quality Awards judging panels for the last couple of years, I’ve had the chance to work with some great people and to see the excellent work that others are doing. It’s a fantastic opportunity for all of us. When we remain open and eager to learn from each other, we have the best chance of success in the long term, and sustainable improvements are what we strive for every day.

    Learn more about the CQI's International Quality Awards. 

    World Accreditation Day: From words to actions


    For World Accreditation Day 2022, Emanuele Riva, Chair of the International Accreditation Forum and Chair of the International Network on Quality Infrastructure, looks at how accreditation can help in moving from words to actions in relation to sustainability.

    Author: Emanuele Riva, Chair of the International Accreditation Forum and Chair of the International Network on Quality Infrastructure
  • Opinion
  • The theme for World Accreditation Day 2022 is ‘Sustainability in economic growth and the environment.’ When it comes to sustainable objectives, certain words and phrases have grown in popularity, such as ‘decarbonisation, digitisation, decentralisation’ or ‘people, planet, prosperity’. However, the concrete actions we have taken, and will take, are what matter. This year, I will take the opportunity to show how accreditation is key to moving from words to actions, in relation to sustainability.

    The International Accreditation Forum (IAF) has recently launched a new working group on sustainability, in order to facilitate the shift from words to actions. The goal of this working group will be to have an immediate and real impact by understanding what is needed and doing it, whether that is directly or by activating partnerships even outside the IAF. We will have the opportunity to have a direct discussion between all the main players in the accreditation area, such as IAF members, International Standards Organization (ISO), British Standards Institute (BSI), International Laboratory Accredication Cooperation (ILAC), United Nations Development programme (UNDP), Assurance Services International (ASI), World Bank and World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

    Data is key

    It is also crucial to emphasise the role that a worldwide database on the certification of management systems would have in promoting sustainable finance.

    Data is essential. It's something we've been hearing about for some time now. But why is it important in this context? Mainly for three reasons:

    1. To be able to demonstrate, with concrete evidence, the value and contribution that the conformity assessment sector can give to the market. To date, there are various studies, of a predominantly local nature, which demonstrate what the concrete contribution can be in business performance between certified and non-certified companies, in terms of productivity, safety at work and export capacity.
    2. To know the market trends, in terms of general or sectoral trends, including the turnover of the information and communications technology sector.
    3. To provide regulators with updated and complete information on the implementation of sustainability policies, so that the effectiveness of the measures adopted in a certain area can be measured.

    If we are to make informed decisions, we need data, and so not only will a database be important, but also an analysis tool.

    Single organisation project

    I am pleased also to announce that the IAF and ILAC are in the process of becoming one organisation. The real reason behind this project is the desire to increase the ability to listen, and to provide serious and tangible answers, in the face of the objectives set by the 2030 Agenda. Joining forces means greater political weight, ease of being impact, and will allow us to become the drivers of change in accreditation.

    A regional approach

    Finally, I believe it is important for the International Network for Quality infrastructure (INetQI) to not only focus on international policies, but to focus on regional ones too. For this reason, I welcome the idea of a ‘regional’ Network for Quality infrastructure (RNEtQi). International policies often need targeted and precise solutions, which only a regional structure can satisfy.

    All of the above projects and developments in the accreditation sector are projects that will contribute to a more sustainable future: a new IAF working group on sustainability, a regional Network for Quality infrastructure (RNEtQi), a database of management system certifications and an analysis tools that will follow, the new ‘One Organisation’ between IAF and ILAC. These are all projects that will help transition from words to sustainable actions.

    Are you interested in sustainability? Why not join the CQI's Sustainability Special Interest Group.

    CQI Volunteers: celebrating another year of growth


    For Volunteers' Week, Sonia Dunand, Professional Networks Manager at the CQI, revisits the hard work and success of the CQI’s volunteers over the last 12 months.

    Author: Sonia Dunand, PNET Manager at CQI
  • Opinion
  • We want to say a big thank you to all our incredible volunteers. The CQI Professional Networks community keeps on growing and today we have 345 volunteers tirelessly supporting the quality profession. 


    From hosting hundreds of online events and organising meetings to share knowledge, to providing peer support through challenges, our volunteers have given hundreds of hours over the last year and helped us widen our reach worldwide. We also want to thank the Construction Special Interest Group (SIG) for giving us invaluable insight into the Building Safety Act and the Membership Council for designing and launching the Maturity Model designed to ensure that we can provide the support that is needed when it is needed. 

    The many activities delivered by our Branches and SIGs have reached thousands of quality professionals across the globe, enabling members to share knowledge, access professional development, and be part of scintillating debates and conversations during a difficult transitional covid year. 

    As we all navigate our way to the ‘new normal’ post covid, we have seen some return to in-person events. The Derby and Nottingham Branch held a site visit, the Yorkshire Branch held a hybrid event and the Audit SIG is currently planning and organising their hybrid Audit Conference taking place on 15 September 2022. 

    Since last year’s Volunteers' Week, we have continued to build our volunteer community and are delighted to have launched four new SIGs: 

    • Sustainability SIG  
    • Renewable Energy SIG 
    • Health SIG 
    • Audit SIG. 

    A celebration of  Volunteers' Week 2022

    National Volunteers' Week is taking place from 1-7 June 2022 and it is a great opportunity to acknowledge the incredible work that volunteers do for the CQI.  

    We are hosting an online social event to bring volunteers together to show our appreciation, recognise our ‘Professional Network Champions’ and play interactive games. If you’re a CQI volunteer, visit the  website  and  social media  to find out more about, and get involved in, our activities throughout the week. 

    Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and volunteering  

    The CQI’s volunteering programme welcomes volunteers from all areas of our CQI and IRCA membership, regardless of your location, grade or career stage. There is a role for everyone. We’ve also invested in digital technology to bring volunteers across the globe closer together, and we look forward to doing more work with volunteers this year to investigate how to further embed the principles of Equality, Diversity, Inclusion in our activities. 

    Learn from a mentor in your field  

    We also want to harness the wealth of experience and knowledge that we have in our existing membership to inspire and guide others in their career progression. The CQI’s mentoring platform is one of the ways in which we do this. Since it was launched in 2019, our mentoring scheme has received a high level of interest from members. A large pool of roughly 1,000 members are registered as mentors, and many are ready and available to support less-experienced professionals at the varying stages of their quality career.

    Want to become part of our vibrant volunteer community?

    If you’d like to find out more about volunteering at the CQI, please explore our volunteering opportunities or get in touch with us at [email protected] and we will take you through what’s involved, the training and resources you’ll receive, and how you can make a difference.

    Meet the volunteer: William Rankin


    To celebrate National Volunteers' Week 2022, William Rankin CPQ FCQI, IRCA Lead Auditor and Senior Quality Leader, shares his experience as a CQI volunteer.

  • Opinion
  • I am a Senior Quality Leader for a global satellite company, where I am responsible for designing and deploying integrated management systems for our global business to support our customers across all industry sectors. I have over 18 years’ experience in the quality profession and have worked across four different industry sectors from pharmaceutical, oil and gas, to nuclear fusion and laterally communications. I have been fortunate enough in my career to develop my skills to become a multi-skilled Lead Auditor across five international standards, and this is crucial in my current role to develop our internal capability to support our customers.

    Volunteering roles at the CQI

    I am the Chair of the Audit Special Interest Group, (SIG) a committee member of my local Thames Valley branch and an active member on the Content Advisory Panel.

    I started volunteering with the CQI about four years ago at the Thames Valley branch. I had recently moved back to the area and wanted to meet new people and once I attended the first event, I immediately offered my support to the branch, and it was the start of my CQI volunteering journey.

    Volunteering has been a passion of mine for many years whether through professional institutes such as the CQI or through local community initiatives. I find the experience rich and rewarding particularly by inspiring people and giving something back, but you also get the opportunity to learn from likeminded professionals, it really is a two-way unique experience.

    Finding the time

    The main challenge as a volunteer is time, particularly if you are like me and want to support activities across various spectrums. You need to find the balance between work and life to keep up with your commitments. The CQI and also the volunteer teams that I am involved with have always supported me though if time has become a challenge, you really do have a great network of support to allow you to flourish as a volunteer.

    My greatest volunteering moment

    All my volunteer experiences are a highlight to me, and they all bring different positive experiences, but it was a special honour to be appointed chair of the Global Audit SIG in May 2021, this new global team was created to grow and influence audit with no boundaries. The officers and committee involved are a delight to work and learn from, and we have something special in the making with our inaugural Audit Conference scheduled for September 2022.

    If you are considering volunteering, my advice would be: don't delay! You have the opportunity to be part of building something special, and the CQI offer a platform for you to be successful and have fun along the way!

    Are you interested in the CQI's volunteering opportunities?

    Quality is the key to investing in our planet


    This International Earth Day, Gregorio Acero CQP MCQI, Chair of the CQI’s Renewable Energy Special Interest Group, looks at how quality professionals can support the move to a future of sustainability.

    Author: Gregorio Acero CQP MCQI, Chair of the CQI's Renewable Energy Special Interest Group
  • Opinion
  • The theme for Earth Day 2022 is “Invest in our planet”, but how are quality professionals contributing to this? We, at the Renewable Energy Special Interest Group, are convinced the traditional role of quality is critical to achieve a sustainable future: assurance, governance, improvement and leadership are, as they always were, the cornerstones for swift and successful innovations and investments ensuring we leave a better planet for generations to come. 

    Supporting the transition to renewable energy 

    Currently, many of the sustainable energy main original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are struggling – this information is readily available in the public reports online. Put simply, they are not a profitable business. This lack of profitability is leading to a reduction in investment, preventing innovation and improvement, and even jeopardising investment committed to new factories, products and projects.  

    Reducing the cost of poor quality, by applying an adequate assurance process, is key to increasing certainty in the business case for shifting to sustainable energy sources. This increase in certainty should prevent governments and companies from looking for excuses based on possible business risks.   

    In order to reduce the cost of poor quality, the renewable energy sector needs strong standardised processes that have been agreed at a sectoral level, better data capturing and analysis capabilities across the value chain, and a professional quality workforce. It is in our hands as quality professionals to stand up and change this. 

    Quality’s role in delivering goals  

    The role of the quality department in governance is crucial. Today, many companies promise ambitious goals related to sustainability, which are never actually carried out. This occurs not because of a lack of will or bad intention, but because of a lack of strong, independent, operational governance carried out by professionals with real knowledge of the operations. It is in the hands of quality professionals to drive this forward. It is not a function of the compliance department or the finance department, both departments are usually too far removed from the day-to-day to efficiently carry out this operational governance. 

    The quality department enjoys a privilege that practically no other department has and that is to be close to the problems. It is a privilege because the seed of innovation lies in the solution of existing problems. It is down to quality professionals to ensure that the problems detected are professionally analysed, and innovative solutions that eliminate or mitigate these problems are provided. Quality professionals may not be in the best position to develop solutions themselves, however, they have the skills to ensure these solutions are correctly identified and implemented instead of being satisfied with adding more control or accepting solutions that lack the innovation necessary to be truly sustainable. 

    Finally, we should highlight the leadership skills a quality department must have to ensure all the above points are embedded in the company's management systems. This leadership can only be achieved if quality professionals are reliable partners in the business and this requires continuous improvements in our knowledge. If we are not perceived as professionals with adequate knowledge to have a valid opinion and generate results, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to carry out our mission. 

    Quality professionals are committed to leave a better planet for generations to come and have the tools and knowledge to achieve it.  

    The Renewable Energy Special Interest Group

    Are you a CQI or IRCA member who wants to develop their knowledge, and actively contribute to the objectives of the Renewable Energy Special Interest Group?

    Continuing risk-based audits during a pandemic

    Published: 8 Jul 2021

    Gordon McNeil, IRCA Principal Auditor, has conducted audits globally in a variety of industries, including nuclear, defence, aerospace and civil aviation. He shares his experience and advice on how remote audits can continue to be conducted during the Covid-19 pandemic.