Monthly Archives: September 2014

The Ideal QA Manager… Clears their desk

On this very beautiful Saturday afternoon, I have a confession to make…  I am a bibliophile.  Notes, data, resources, whatever.  If I have to mentally dissect information, I have it hard copy.   I’m also extremely passionate about having a clean desk. Now, as we all know, there are times in life that compromise is necessary.  It is impossible for me to be knee deep in multiple projects, and maintain a desk that resembles sanity.  There comes a point, however, that my sanity has to be restored.  Today was that day. For me, office cleansing nearly always occurs on a weekend.  It’s simpler this way, since my office always appears more disastrous in the midst of my sanity re-allocation, and often scares my colleagues. For years, I used T.R.O.G, which is a system based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done.  I used the standalone application for some period of time.  In fact, I only stopped using it in the last year when my system was updated at work. I’ll admit that I am well aware that a well executed organization system would imply that I am never in need of rebooting my desktop sanity.   I would have to agree with that statement complete, except for the fact that perfection isn’t exactly sustainable.  The ability to recognize when lower priority things (i.e., a clear desk) are needed to flush out those of higher priority is supremely important.   That is why I spent my day shuffling papers.  Life at work was starting to feel a little overwhelming.

From Order to Chaos to Order again There is a method to my madness that has come to be quite effective in the development of my organization technique.   The method typically plays out int the following steps:

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The Ideal QA Manager… Technically writes, technically

I love the wiki on editing.  There are so may different types of editors, each having a different specific task leading to the final product.

It has to be a thankless endeavor, that of an editor.  Much like the QA Manager, the only real attention likely comes when things go wrong.  I know I am quick to judge a professionally published copy that is poorly edited.

I can’t say that I’ve ever seen a laboratory with a staff technical writer, whose sole job it is to write highly technical policies and procedures that define the Quality System.  That said, in my experience, the role of author/editor/publisher often falls on the QA Manager.

As the keeper of all things written among the Quality System, I struggle with this role of author/editor/publisher.  I want to do it all perfectly, all the time.  I have this inkling that my colleagues that review those documents expect the same.  Self-torture, I believe they call it.  A glutton for punishment?  Perhaps.  Honestly, I dabbled in journalism a bit in college, but a career as a writer has never been something I’d envisioned for myself.

I have found, however, that I have a particular interest in doing my part to improve the written communication in the laboratory.  It may not be terribly exciting material, but my hope is that I can make reading those mandatory SOPs less painful.  And those documents can be painful.  It seems that every document I pull for review needs serious work.

In this vein, I recently had an epiphany.  After spending the weekend with my blind parents, I thought that I would use the “text-to-speech” function of Windows to “proof-read” a certain document I’m currently working on.  I was extremely excited about this idea for about a week.  I even mentioned it to a few of my colleagues on Friday.  And then I saw this.  Grrr…  it just goes to show, there is no unique problem, only solutions.

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Promoting Quality In the Lab

I ran across this discussion on one of the LinkedIn groups that I partake in occasionally.  I’ve seen, and on the question previously, but today, it triggered something greater in me.   Perhaps my current mood is a contributing factor, or the fact that I’m still recovering from a pretty long short week.  But the question got to me…

I’ve been irksome this week anyway, so I have to accept that my angst is probably attributed more to my personal challenge with this type of question.  In my bubble, I desire nothing more than to walk into the lab knowing that every single person in the building has an intimate knowledge of the “Standard” (ISO 17025, TNI, DoD QSM, whichever it may be).  Okay, maybe I also desire them to be as passionate about the various clauses that define our Systems as I am.  Such a passion for Quality would make our jobs darn near joyful, wouldn’t it?

The truth is, more often than not, the laboratory analyst’s working knowledge of  the standards that dictate quality is that of acquaintance.   I accepted this fact long ago.  So much so, that if I find an analyst that shows more interest than a slug when I step onto my QA Soap Box…  *Tag*  Start grooming him for the QA Department!

That’s a rare occurrence.  Not unheard of, but for the most part, I’m the Quality Assurance Manager for a reason…  My colleagues are more interested in doing science, than memorizing the ISO clause on the Management Review requirement (Admission:  I don’t have the citation memorized either, but I could turn to it in less than 2 minutes).  The sooner I can accept that, the better.  As such, the idea that a QA Manager would put much serious effort in training and evaluating the working knowledge of the technical staff puts a wrinkle in my forehead.

Broad stroke understandings… Yes I expect that from even the greenest analyst.  Understanding that every requirement is there for a reason.  We don’t do things in a willy nilly fashion.  There has to be consistency.  There has to be control.  I monitor, investigate, and stress out over “out-of-controlness.” That’s my job.  It is not so much their functional in destiny of the requirements that dictate our systems.  It’s about their big picture understanding, and their implementation of the systems.

Of course, my expectations of the leadership team are a bit more involved, but I still do not expect them to have the geektastic knowledge and understanding of the Standards.  These concepts do not excite the Supervisors, Technical Directors, and Lab Managers they way they do the QA Manager.   And that’s okay.

Albert Einstein once said:

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

I believe this whole heartedly.  I am an advocate for Quality in the Lab.  If my colleagues get one thing from me, I hope it is consistency in my message.

My advocacy of quality has, over the years, boiled down to a few mantras that address key concepts like documentation, traceability, and integrity.  Those concepts that I have not yet been able to distill into a Haiku, I explain using real world applications, rather than abstract concepts.  Annual ethics and integrity training is supplemented by “case studies.” Real world examples are used in cautionary discussions.  Anything I can do to increase the knowledge of the purpose and application of the Quality System.

In short Quality in the Lab means one thing on my team – To provide data of known and documented quality.  And in my world, known and documented quality means reconstructable.  If I can’t look at your records and be able to understand exactly what you did, then we’ve got some work to do.

What are some of the ways you promote Quality in the Lab?