Monday, September 6, 2010

Quality and the Tower of Babel

I am participating the Advanced Laboratories 2010 conference in Melbourne.  It is going extremely well, but it reminds me of a sign that I saw in a gospel mission down the street from the hotel and conference centre.  "Welcome to the Tower of Babel.  Many languages spoken here". 
My reference to the sign has NOTHING to do with religion or the Bible, and NOTHING to do with trying to understand the Australian accent with my Canadian ears. But it has a lot to do with diversity.

This meeting is all about laboratory quality, but not just medical laboratory quality.  Participants here include people from medical laboratories or medical related laboratory (about 25%) but more (maybe 50%) form dairy, food, and water laboratories.  The remainder come from a diverse group of soil analysts, a police forensic services laboratory, big pharma,  the petroleum industry,  a few veterinary laboratories, and cement and minerals laboratories, one even one from a laboratory of military equipment.  Pretty diverse, but all with a common interest of laboratory quality. 

What is interesting is how each of us creates our own jargon and definitions of terms.  Most of the laboratories monitor KPIs (Key Productivity Indicators), a term very uncommon in medical laboratories (Think of broad based quality indicators as something close).  And what I get from the term "case presentation" is totally different from most of the others.  And then there is "verification" and "validation"  used opposite to what medical laboratories use, and another thing called "measurement systems analysis" (?).  And even the simple word like competency has a wide variety of meanings and interpretations. 

But at its core, Quality does prevail and there is more in common than in difference.   Everybody seems interested and  focused on error reduction and error prevention.  Everybody is interested in continual improvement. And lots of focus on Leadership.  And even interest in proficiency testing.

I had some doubts about how this was going to work out.  Happily it looks like it will be a big success.  Another big day tomorrow.

When we are finished I will post some of the presentations and get some writings from this interesting group of qualitologists.


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