Thursday, January 19, 2012

What is a Quality Manager?

We have started our Certificate Course for 2012 and we have a very active and interested group.  Participants come from a number of countries around the world and with a variety of experiences and expertise.  Some are relatively new technologists and others very experienced.  Most work in medical laboratories while others work in Quality Partner organizations.  Everyone seems to be engaged.  In many respects it is the perfect group.  

In the first week we start off with a lot of reading and focus on the big issue which is what are the skills that distinguish a laboratory quality manager.  Throughout the next 20 weeks we get more focused on detail, but it is always valuable to set the goal at the very beginning.

So the Week 1 assignment is, having had the opportunity to read background materials including two classics (Deming and Crosby) and combine that with their own experience and expertise to answer the question "What should be the essential responsibilities and authorities of a medical laboratory quality manager?”.

What you see, aside from the predominance of Quality and manager are some the key words oversee, responsible, implementation, management, audits, monitor, compliance, and education.  Lots of others positives in smaller text as well: team, performance, improvement and understand.  

So all and all I think the group is starting with a pretty solid view of the uniformity and diversity that constitutes being a Quality Manager.

 Usually we get a bit of a slow start, but this time we had a strong response from most participants.  Some of the responses tend to be very task oriented, others more principles based.  It is in the aggregate that the best composite picture comes out.  And that brings us back to optimising adult education. 

As mentioned before adult learners have specific needs of focus and concrete information.  Adult learners tend to be visual learners more than text learners because reading tends to take a lot of time and time in adult learners is always at a premium.  As a generalization, adult education is about short and sweet, focused, and visual.  More often it is about reinforcement as opposed to new knowledge.  That is why tools like crosswords and word-search tend to work well.  And that is also why word clouds work so well.

Going back to the 1450’s Gutenberg bibles were visual art.  The message was enhanced through artistry.  Some of it is beautiful, some of it is hokey (see below)
And as long as there have been students and pencils text books we have doodled our way through school making graphic designs out of words.  Sign of boredom? Maybe; but also visual reinforcement of key ideas.  Think about logos. 

Computer word clouds generated by on-line software were first  designed about 5 years ago by Jonathan Feinberg (  They are in a sense an extension of a logo creating software in that they create a text message gestalt where the visual sum is greater than all the individual parts.  The graphic shape provides meaning and to some degree, insight.

While I suspect word clouds were designed more for fun and artistry, they do serve a purpose in education as well, recognizing at they can be over-used and lose there impact.  They are after all, a pretty simple  tool for placement and reinforcement of common words found in lists and text.  

That being said, in many respects I think they are as valuable to a Quality Manager for expressing complex ideas as are flow diagrams. 

Different purpose, but similar impact. 

At the end of the year we will repeat the exercise and compare the two pictures.

PS: wordle is  free and available on-line.


  1. I have encountered a quality manager in a laboratory in VA. The primary role is to administrate the standards on which the lab operates on.

  2. Yes I agree that some laboratories see the primary role as being the standards administrator.
    I personally see that as very narrow and limiting. An the people that participate in the program do as well.

    Quality Managers have much to offer in terms of savings in cost or poor quality, building the culture of quality and monitoring for error.

    While adminstrating for standards is important the other aspects are equally (if not more) important.


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