Early on, when I was still cutting my teeth in the realm of Quality, a lot of effort, time, and resources was spent to ensure that the necessary foundations were set for me. More of often than not, this foundation was built on the job, guidance and mentoring from individuals far more seasoned than myself.
Looking back, starting with a clean slate… Those individuals molded my style, ensuring that the QA Manager they were developing would fit the type of lab they envisioned. I still have a lot of the same philosophies that were drilled into me at the very beginning.
Back then, when I was so very green, I soaked up every opportunity to expand my knowledge of QA in the Laboratory I could. I could, on occasion, even muster up the courage to submit a request to attend a targeted training session (A2LA has some great short courses on Internal Auditing and Uncertainty Measurement), or a professional conference (my preference has always been TNI).
I’ve always held the opinion that it’s important to get a good mix of internal training and external insight.
In my industry the QA Manager is some what of an enigma. The common vision includes mounds of paper, a clipboard, and somewhat socially awkward tendencies.
Sadly, I must admit to social awkwardness, but that’s not the point here. QA Managers in the laboratory tend to wear many different hats. My most frequent hats include staff technical writer, LIMS/IT specialist, general question-answerer, and control charter. This is not, of course, is not an intensive list. And I am obliged to mention my mastery of Excel, and the pivot table.
Historically, and by “historically,” I mean, back in the day, the Quality Assurance Manager in the Laboratory had a very focused purpose. Maintain the Quality Assurance Manual, and the systems it describes. In a world before real time, instantaneous data evaluation, this was a serious job, with not so enjoyable tasks. Author and edit, as necessary, Standard Operating Procedures. Evaluate Method Detection Limits. Compile trending data and evaluate control charts. And most importantly, make sure accreditations stay up to date. Did I mention Proficiency Testing? No I didn’t, I avoid that subject as much as humanly possible. These tasks are tedious. They are time consuming. And prior to the advent of automation, were literally a full-time job. *Enter the mad Excel skills*
But the one show I just cannot get enough of is TED Radio Hour. I think the hook for that show is the back story. I could watch TED talks for hours, but there is just something fascinating about the introspective provided as part of the Radio Hour. The dialogue with the speakers during the show can be just as thought-provoking as the talks themselves.
That being said, occasionally, the theme of the show fits nicely with my current thought lines. This week’s episode [08-22-14] did just that. Three perspectives on mistakes. Why they are not necessarily evil, and that while they often suck, a lot of good can come of them.
In the office of Quality, we see a lot of mistakes. A lot of them. Some might say that we search endlessly for them (however untrue that might be).
The truth is, the human element is the one factor that the Quality Manager can’t control. Sure, we can automate the heck out of processes to reduce inconsistencies, but unless you’ve found the holy grail of lab automation, you are unlikely to fully eliminate mistakes from the laboratory.
The reasoning is simple. Even the most proficient and effective chemist is going to have a bad day every now and again. None of us work inside a bubble. We have distractions far from work that can distract even the best of us into a misstep.