Without a quality system, quality assurance is at best a guess, with no basis for continuous quality improvement.
The first requirement in quality assurance and improvement is the presence of a quality system. With a quality system in place, quality assurance is possible: and the outcome of quality assurance is continuous quality improvement.
Quality is the degree or standard of excellence, especially a high standard: the totality of the attributes of a service or product that meets the requirements of the user of the service or owner of the product.
A Quality system is a series of actions designed to ensure consistency in approach, process and output.
A basic quality system is Total Quality Management (TQM), defined as the extent to which your organisation meets, or exceeds, stakeholder expectations and requirements.
TQM is defined as:
- the extent to which your organisation is able to identify stakeholder needs and expectations – quality of research
- the extent to which the total unit design of your organisation’s programs and services meets or exceeds stakeholder expectations – quality of design
- the extent to which your organisation is able to provide and continue to perform, function and operate as intended – quality of conformance
Quality control is the internal method of avoiding a deviation from the desired or required situation, or the method of altering or changing the situation to achieve the desired or required situation. A key factor in any system is ‘control’, and there are two sorts of control:
- the maintenance of an existing situation, bringing it back to normal when it deviates, and
- the introduction of change into a situation, whether by making alterations to the existing situation or by creating a new situation
Quality assurance is the result of quality control, in that there is certainty as to consistency in approach, process and output through the quality system. This includes ensuring that all repetitive functions or activities are consistently performed or carried out to the same desired or required standard. An audit or assessment process is the usual means of check quality assurance.
Continuous quality improvement indicates an active commitment throughout the organisation to improving – rather than simply maintaining – the desired or required degree or standard of excellence. The 3 basic stages are:
- increasing your organisation’s knowledge and understanding of stakeholder expectations and requirements
- improving the design, so that the mix of features afforded by your organisation’s programs and services more closely match stakeholder expectations and requirements, and
- improving your organisation’s ability to consistently perform, function and operate more closely to the design.
The outcome of a quality system is that the organisation has a sound basis for applying the basic philosophy of quality assurance, a clear set of guidelines for quality systems and processes, a means of satisfying contractual obligations, and readily available guidance and direction.
How do ‘quality’ and ‘risk’ relate to each other?
The basis of quality is that there are procedures and systems in place to ensure:
- consistent and replicable standards
- consistency and replicability of improved standards
- assessment and resourcing of identified risk factors, and
- avoidance or management of risk.
A risk factor is present where there is likelihood that a product or component will have to be:
- re-worked – requiring further attention and therefore involving further cost and inconvenience, or
- replaced – resulting in loss, wastage or inconvenience.
A risk factor is present where there is a likelihood that a service or program will be:
- ineffective – unable to achieve the purpose for which it has been designed
- inefficient – result in or contribute to an unwise use of resources, or
- sub-standard – failing to meet or comply with advertised or required quality or standard of delivery, process or outcome.
Factors that can contribute to risk – and should be subject to quality control:
- unwise, unexplained, unnecessary or unplanned change
- disagreement, misinterpretation or misbehaviour among or between stakeholders
- failure or delay in communication or information dissemination
- inadequate, inappropriate, incorrect or vague information or instruction
- non-availability of relevant information, plant, equipment, materials, facilities, tools
- failure to protect the needs and interests of the organisation and the separate and particular requirements or expectations of each stakeholder
- failure to comply with legal, statutory or contractual requirements, duties or obligations
- unacceptable behaviour on the part of decision-makers – including conflict of interest, lack of confidentiality or unwise use of information
- lack of appreciation or understanding of immediate, short-term and long-term constraints relating to such factors as finance, time, space, distance, technology and available resources
- inexperience, undue haste, emotional stress, internal or external pressures, inadequate resources, unwise decisions, insufficient care, bad timing or bad luck
- inadequate or inappropriate processes and procedures for:
- needs analysis
- task and territory management
- service/product/program/component design, costing, budgeting, scheduling, implementation, management and evaluation
Four Critical tools in risk management
A consistent decision-making process and style, particularly in relation to the assessment of options and implications: the issues of risk avoidance, risk management and quality control are dependent on consultative yet incisive decision-making
A policy on policy-making to ensure that all policies and procedures are designed, discussed, endorsed, resourced, communicated, implemented and evaluated in a consistent manner
Business practices – ensuring that the following basic business practices are in place throughout the organisation:
- strategic and business plans
- budget estimates
- cashflow projections
- financial controls
- key performance indicators, measures and assessment
- risk avoidance/management procedures, and
- quality assessment and continuous improvement procedures.
Total commitment to the value of an organisation-wide system and procedure to ensure and sustain a consistent and replicable quality of product, component, service, or program, with efficient and effective procedures in place to either avoid or manage risk