So the other day, I noticed the right headlight on my truck was out. I have no problem tinkering under the hood on small items such as this (I've changed headlights / fog lights in the past on my 2005 Tacoma with no issue – I still have my 'man card' ); however, I also needed an oil change, and there were already too many things on my 'honey-do list' – so I dropped the truck off at the shop. When I arrived, we discussed the requested services, and I told the guy, "You can go ahead and change the left headlight too, no sense in changing just one"… Unfortunately, they only had one headlight in stock, so they couldn't change both. I said, "OK that's fine, call me when she's ready."
A little while later, everything was ready, and I was on my way. It wasn't until later that evening while on a date with my wife that I turned on the headlights and to my surprise – the right headlight was still out! Popped open the hood, and sure enough, they had replaced the LEFT headlight by mistake. Being the calm and rational guy I am, a quick phone call to the shop had me set up for a replacement of the RIGHT headlight at no charge. I arrived, and the mechanic who previously did the work assured me that he had simply followed the instructions, and it wasn't his fault… OK, no big deal, mistakes happen – but that got me thinking about this from a perspective of Quality and delivery.
Why was the mechanic compelled to try and convince me that I held some responsibility for a task that the shop had already agreed to address? Where is the benefit of trying to make the customer feel wrong here? Let's go back to the beginning. Customer reports a headlight is out. What is the very first thing you would do? How would you confirm the problem? …Turn on the headlights and check. This takes a maximum of 10 seconds. If there was any confusion as to the source of the problem, this is the time to discover it. Once the repair has been completed, how would you confirm that it worked? …Turn on the headlights and check. Another painstaking 10 seconds? This would verify that the results were as intended. Of course, as the customer, I also failed to turn on the headlights and check when I picked up the vehicle. My bad..
What is the point of all this? Any process has some intended result, yet the results were not verified in this situation, and the incorrect product was delivered to the customer. And what did all this cost? It cost me my time as well as the valuable time of the repair shop (double the mechanic time and the time it took them to procure another headlight during business hours).
"Trust is a good thing, but control is unequaled"
Quality Assurance and Quality Control processes are intended to make a product as close to defect-free as possible while ensuring it conforms to the agreed upon requirements. The purpose of both processes is similar; however, the approach is different. Quality Assurance designs a process so that the product coming from this process is defect free, while Quality Control checks the product so that no defects are released to the market. Let's briefly define these two fundamental themes of Quality Management:
- Quality Assurance can be best summed up as "fitness to use and conformity to all requirements."
- Quality Control is concerned with the operational activities and techniques that are used to fulfill the requirements of quality.
Quality Assurance is a process-based approach whose primary objective is preventing defects in deliverables during the planning process to avoid later rework, which is expen$$$ive! Assuring quality is vital, but it is also important to ensure that quality processes are practical, implementable and appropriate to the given situation. Quality Assurance is proactive by nature, and it starts at the very beginning of a project to understand the explicitly stated requirements (and sometimes hidden / obscure expectations), and then develop a plan to meet those requirements and expectations. Requirements gathering and Quality Assurance are symbiotic processes!! Meaning – they work together to achieve optimal potential as both processes require a comprehensive understanding of end user product utilization.
So if Quality Assurance is focused on the right processes at the right time, then Quality Control is the 'product' that supplements assurance and both work together to fulfill the requirements of Quality. Here at CTSI-Global, the products we leverage to ensure quality are our documentation repositories and issue tracking applications. It is therefore in our collective best interest to document and track our endeavors within these tools. This creates unprecedented visibility and accountability while also serving as our guide for 'lessons learned' so that we can efficiently build upon previous successes while avoiding potential missteps in the future.
As we embark on this new era of mindful Quality, one should never feel as though they are being 'checked up on' or that Quality is 'policing' them. In fact, we should all be involved in Quality Management and feel empowered to be part of the process!! Without You, there is no Quality. I know we all take pride in our work and in presenting oneself as the best image of our company. I truly recognize and appreciate the commitment to our clients, devotion to our shared success, and any candid feedback as we thrust ourselves into the future of CTSI-Global.
Chris Colomb is the Quality Control Lead at CTSI-Global, and his goal is exceeding customer expectations and enabling all of us to have the tools and knowledge necessary to succeed!