I was in my late 20s when I started working in Quality Management, and moved into a management role fairly quickly after that. In quality years, I believe this was pretty young, although these days I think a
lot of people are starting to get into it younger as training opportunities and the profession’s profile increase. But, back then, I was pretty much the youngest person at conferences, it seemed.
While I worked very hard to reach a management role, I admit that in some ways I was pretty green and learned a lot on the job. As I’ve moved from small to big organisations, from private to government to NGOs, these are the lessons that have stayed with me:
1. You will be a confidante to many, so confidentiality should be your number one priority—because quality staff are (and should be) objective and not usually involved in the services, many people will start to open up and tell you about issues / office politics / their personal lives. So it is very, very important not to break their trust (legislative / duty of care reasons aside, of course). Never engage in office gossip. That’s not to say you can’t make friends at work, but take care.
2. Don’t do all the changes at once—it is great to be proactive, and it is so tempting to get out there and show people all the wonderful improvements you’ll make to change their lives…but in reality, that will just cause stress if there’s too many changes going on. It is far better to plan changes progressively, as this will let you see where there might be linkages or conflicts in changes across the board. Prioritise and start small. Show people what difference the change has made and this will make them excited for the next change.
3. Consult wisely—this is especially important in bigger organisations. Basically, when you’re reviewing something, you could consult forever, as there will always be another opinion, a new staff member, a tweak here and there. But change that takes too long disengages staff. Pull together a list of critical partners, and then backups in case those people aren’t available. Set deadlines from the start. Even better, get them into a room for an hour—you’ll get more done in that hour than you would sending out a document for review by email, which can take weeks.
4. Be nice to people—I hear a lot these days about how it’s not about being liked, it’s about getting people to do what you need them to do. Well, you can do that and still be nice. And I mean really nice, genuinely interested in them and invested in your organisation. Smile, say hello when someone passes you in the hall, be down to earth. Always remember, in quality management, YOU work for the other staff in the organisation. You are THEIR support service. If you don’t like people or prefer working alone, you need to think about whether quality is for you. Plus being friendly makes you feel good!
Do you have any tips or lessons from your early days in Quality Management that you’d like to share? Please feel free to email me or comment.
Thanks for reading,
The Quality Nerd loves all things Quality Management and Internal Audit...too much is never enough!