Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Power of Voluntary Quality

If there is a single discussion point around which I am totally in self-conflict, it is the arena of voluntary efforts for quality versus mandated efforts.  As a libertarian by personal inclination, I am resistant to government mandated initiatives for Quality.  I see the consequences of mandated Quality all the time.  Mandated Quality becomes resented Quality.  
If we are not seen to do something, then someone can impose themselves.  It may mean imposed accreditation or imposed proficiency testing where the point of both exercises is not about improvement and all about getting it done an passed so that “they” will leave us alone until the next time.  Given a choice between using either or both as a learning exercise, or a something that just has to be complete with a good mark, it is strongly advised to “game for success” rather than risk intervention.  
On the other hand, as a Canadian, I see what happens in the absence of mandated Quality.  It is not by accident that our most public of Quality embarrassments (see the Cameron Commission) occurred in a part of the country that has never believed in required Quality in healthcare.     In Canada the experience unfortunately is that if you don’t mandate it, it does not get done.

That is a pretty gross overstatement, of course, but it gives me the opportunity to turn this towards an even bigger problem, not seen in Canada (more on this later) but in the US; the single greatest onslaught against voluntary Quality in the last 25 years.  As part of the new fiscal responsibility, the US white house and congress is starting a dismantling of the Baldridge Performance Excellence Program.  

The Baldridge program, first developed in 1987 under the Reagan administration created this program, with a mission to “enhance the competitiveness of U.S. businesses” It has served as a voluntary program with an national award for improvement and excellence and leadership for role models and best practices. In 1999 it was expanded to cover healthcare and education organizations, and more recently in 2005 to cover nonprofit and government organizations.  Even if it is not available in countries other than the US, it is a program that we should all hold in the highest regard because it recognizes and rewards those of us interested in Quality and Excellence, not because we have to, but because we want to.  
So why am I writing about this.  Today I read that this program which has a total budget of about 10 million dollars is slated for an over  20 percent reduction (2.2 million).
Now I strongly support tighter controls on federal governments everywhere.  One only has to look at what is happening in Greece, Ireland, Spain and Portugal to see what can go wrong.  And watching the US promote stimulus through setting the world back on the road to massive  inflation is frightening.  

What I find short sighted here (in addition to the obvious) is that organizations interested in Baldridge are not only the leaders in Quality and Excellence, but they are probably the leaders in Costs of Poor Quality containment.   If the reduction in funding results in fewer applicants, and this results in lower CPQ savings, this will be the worst $2M congress has ever saved.
What needs to happen is that the Baldridge becomes a public-private partnership with private funding but with an award that continues to carry the power and influence of national recognition.  
Message to the folks, never trust Quality to the hands of politicians.  

As a Canadian I have to wonder why no federal or provincial government has ever thought it reasonable to initiate a Canadian award for Quality and Excelllence.  Since we are in the middle of an election, maybe this is a good time to find out.

I was just at a meeting held by the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) because they have a committee with interests in proficiency testing and laboratory quality services for developing countries.  Not much to write about from the meeting, but I can show you a picture of a famous statue in the town.  
Question: Name the statue and name the town.

The attendance for our POLQM Quality Weekend Workshop is rolling in.  The early bird registration ends May 1.  If the meeting is of interest, it is time to register now and save $125.


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