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.
Professional mentoring was, and continues to be, valuable beyond belief. It’s a great way gain an internal understanding of the industry, operation, and overall vision of the Lab. And I drank it up. Still do.
Key Quality concepts, however, are not always the focus of discussions around the laboratory. Sure, these concepts are built into operations within the laboratory, I mean we all operate under a prescribed minimum Quality System. Those underlying concepts, the Whys, are not so much. I discussed this disparity previously.
Those whys are insanely important. They lay a foundation for the systems, as QA Managers, are tasked to develop, implement, and monitor. If we don’t understand the basic concepts of Quality, we can’t adequately manage Quality.
Unfortunately, its very easy, and not so uncommon, to find ourselves spending a lot of energy developing those skills at the beginning, then assuming that we know it all. We then proceed to get caught up in the daily routines around the Lab. We get caught up putting out fires, and responding to requests, that we risk losing sight of a main objective of our duty: Maintain the Quality of the Laboratory.
It is my personal belief that we have an obligation exercise our Quality muscles. This is a hard goal to manage in today’s economy. There is no mandated CE requirement for QA Managers (although, some might agree that there should be).
With training budgets dwindling, and training needs exceeding, it is extremely difficult to justify prioritizing the continued training of a seasoned QA Manager, especially when the QA System is functioning adequately. The old adage, if it ain’t broke…. comes to mind.
This is unfortunate, but not without merit. In the current climate, it has never been more important to be mindful of the challenges we face. Our industry has changed… and we must adjust accordingly.
That said, there is absolutely no excuse to ignore our continuing education. If I don’t focus on higher level Quality concepts on a regular basis, my effectiveness struggles. I have a circle of colleagues, I’m part of a plethora of QA related groups on LinkedIn, and I try to sit in on every free webinar on Quality I can find (ThinkReliability has some great webinars on problem solving and root cause analysis). Anything I can do to interact with Quality Concepts at a higher level, without additional strain to my laboratory.
I won’t say that this adequately replaces the exchange of ideas that happens in an face-to-face training session, or at a professional conference. Sure working out at a premier gym is nice, with all of the perks it has to offer, but sometimes, your best option is to catch a pickup game at the local park, or hit the hike-and-bike trail.
I’ve shared a few of my favorite resources for continuing training, but I know there are others out there… What resources do you use to exercise your Quality muscle? Let’s get a list going.
In a timely coincidence… Liz Ryan is one of my favorite Influencers on LinkedIn, and she has something to say on this topic.