Friday, October 7, 2011

AGMs and ARs are critical to laboratory quality

Monday and Tuesday we held our Annual General Meeting for CMPT.  It is an interesting exercise that we have done for each of the last 15 years.  Our audience is usually limited to our partners including most of the accreditation bodies across Canada, and all our committee members. 

We often have special guests, but unfortunately we have never figured out a fair and reasonable way to invite representatives from participant laboratories.  That is a problem with programs that come across the full scope of Canada.

Monday is a public session with everyone together for full discussion and participation.  Tuesday is an in-camera session when we define our EQA challenges for the next 12 months.  

The AGM is an opportunity for us to present on the activities of CMPT including our management review, our Opportunities for Improvement (OFI), our organizational indicators, the status of our current research and development, and in particular our objectives for the next 12 months.  It becomes a valuable time for open questions and answers.  AGMs are a good time for challenging questions, and clarifying policy and planning.

It is my experience that AGMs and ARs are instruments of organizations and corporations, and university departments, but not of laboratories.    That’s too bad.  One can understand why.  Neither is mentioned either normatively or as a recommendation in any of the three ISO standards important for laboratory quality (ISO9001, ISO15189, or ISO/IEC17025).  They are not mentioned in standards guidance from WHO or Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute (CLSI) or within Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA).  Neither  are noted as expectations within the documents of any Accreditation Bodies.  So in the absence of direction or requirement or expectation, they just never get onto the radar screen for any but a select few.  A Google search finds a few laboratory-created annual reports, but not very many.
There are a lot of advantages to AGMs and ARs that would be usual for many laboratories.  They are both instruments that focus attention.  It is really easy to think about all the good things that happened during the last 12 months.  It is even easier to forget all the bad.  In the absence of a record and presentation it is really difficult to ensure an active program of continual improvement. 

Further, in the absence of a record, it is really easy to have goals that are more ethereal rather than concrete.  Knowing that 12 months from now you are going to stand in front of a crowd of interested folks and explain why all your plans and goals went by the wayside is a pretty good motivator for staying on track.  If your goals were good enough to define, they are good enough to try an meet.  (Parenthetically, in as much as I don’t like to migrate into politics too often, let me just say that in my opinion, a politician who tells us what they plan to do once elected and then after the election go and do it, is my kind of politicians. I call it commitment.)

Finally, creating reports and presentations is perhaps one of the most effective modes of direct communication.  I know of no program more effective for sorting through customer satisfaction that facing the group in a room once a year. 

All in all the exercise is fun and entertaining, and in my opinion, worth a try.

As mentioned, the CMPT annual report is available for public viewing at


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