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No matter what job we do, in what line of business, we are all affected by Quality – do we not expect the highest quality in the products and services we buy?
This means that, as a service provider, be it as a teacher, the designer of a smart-phone App or as a baker of bread, we need to ensure that the product or service we offer will satisfy our customers’ needs. This is QA: Quality Assurance.
Whilst the intricacies of international standards and specific requirements in certain industry sectors may be complex, the essence of QA is actually very simple.
Unfortunately it is often made unnecessarily complicated by buzz words and fads that come and go – but often mean very little. What you need, particularly if you’re running your own business, is the key ingredients to QA, which you can then apply to your own particular activities.
A good starting point is this: Fitness for Purpose.
Does what you’re selling do the job it’s meant to do?
That is what QA, the Assurance of Quality, boils down to. Thinking about it that way, it is easy to see that if you (the supplier) and your customer are in reasonable agreement as to what is expected, then that is really going to help to make everyone happy.
Good quality isn’t necessarily the best thing possible: we wouldn’t use a Porsche for off-road driving for example. But we do need to be aware of the many ways in which what we are supplying might be considered unfit for purpose, and how that would be assessed, or measured.
This can be particularly difficult in disciplines such as health or education, where so much is subjective: what matters are the customer’s perceptions -how they feel about what they have been sold.
For example even in the objective reality of engineering, there are many things that cannot be predicted. And human nature is never far away. For these reasons, amongst others, there is far more to QA than blindly following procedures or writing things down.
Awareness is key: an intuitive ability to just know when something is right….or wrong.
Knowing, rather than knowledge, is the key to good quality: how well to you know your customers? How well do your really know your subject!