All About Risk

Quality management is more than a living for me, it is my life’s work. I got my start working with quality standards during the military boom of the nineteen eighties, working in the defence, nuclear, and aerospace industries. Throughout my career, I have seen quality methods and processes in manufacturing and services come and go. I began my own total quality business in 1989 when ISO 9001, ISO 9002, and ISO 9003 became popular in North America. Back then organizations had to have multiple quality manuals, one for each certification or auditing agency. It was not uncommon to hear announcements on the company public address system telling employees which customer was auditing that day so that the appropriate quality manual would be used to respond to the audit.

Luckily things have changed dramatically. Today it is most often possible to work with a single quality system incorporating all customers’ requirements. These unified systems are usually centered around ISO 9001 and AS 9100. Back in the 1980s we focused on statistical process control using x̅ and R charts and fish-bone problem solving techniques. Those basic approaches are returning today in the guise of what we now refer to as Risk Analysis.

If I walk into a company today and ask personnel what x̅ and R charts or fish-bone diagrams are, they have no clue. But they are all familiar with ISO 9001, quality policies, metrics, and now Risk Analysis.

This evolution has me thinking about how much the 1980s have in common with the methods we use today in process management. In some ways, it’s as if we had the cart in front of the horse back then. Today the horse is where it belonged in the first place. That’s progress....

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