Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Nurturing Future Quality Managers

I was reading in Canadian Government Executive an article under the banner Leadership, entitled "Nurturing Future Policymakers" by Andrew Snook.  It was referencing a program called the Policy Analyst Recruitment and Development Program (PARDP) which invites and screens applicants to identify a small number of recruits who are then trained and mentored for up to a year and a half.  Once graduated, most stay on within the ministry as part of a new cadre of Policy Analysts.   
This seems to me as a brilliant idea.  There are lots of folks that want to work in the civil service, and some of them may have some understanding that the driver of action is Policy, but the only thing worse than the absence of policy is the presence of poorly thought out or unbalanced Policy.  The problem is that few in the service know anything about what to do and how to go about it.  So create an interest, develop a pool of appropriate candidates, and then train them and recruit them.  Fill the niche and problem solved.

I would guess that Policy Analysts and Quality Managers have some things in common.  First off, I doubt there are many (if any) people who come out of high school or even from a first degree position with thoughts and plans about a career in either.  Both of these fields are acquired tastes that develop after a few years of working within their field.  These are not the fields with really wide general appeal, but rather draw from a group of experienced and knowledgeable workers who enjoy big picture issues but with a focus for detail. 

Traditionally most people have come to quality in the second half of their career, having spent the first 10-15 years doing routine benchwork or traditional supervision.  Most developed their Quality working base from past notions, first principles and self-directed reading.  

Today, many come to Quality much earlier in their careers, perhaps having recognized that career longevity can be enhanced by taking on new challenges.   

From my experience most healthcare organizations don’t actually train and mentor the new Quality recruits, in large part because while there is interest and awareness of the importance and potential, there is rarely anyone in the organization who is sufficiently knowledgeable.  The consequence of this lack direction and focus is that the opportunities to build a Quality presence are made much more difficult.  All too often we see Quality initiatives flail around at the periphery of the issues until they gradually fade away.  To date, while there have been some Quality successes, they are still found in a very select group of facilities and most programs fail to progress. 

That is where programs like my Certificate course in Laboratory Quality Management has found a niche.  By covering a broad survey of Quality information in an environment that encourages conversation, application and collegiality we can help people develop a better foundation, and importantly a community of colleagues and mentors with whom they can collaborate.  We make laboratory Quality have a greater potential for success because we develop managers with a stronger foundation. 

While at the BC Quality Forum last week, I heard about a new program developed by the BC Patient Safety and Quality Council called the Quality Academy.  It looks like another excellent education program delivered to improve Quality knowledge, and bother delivered in British Columbia.

The Quality Academy is a 5 month program focused mainly for clinical institutional healthcare personnel, that started in 2010 (I think) and organized in a number of modules each addressing a different aspect of Quality.  People are proposed by their health authority but selected for recruitment by the Academy.  About 30 people are selected for each session.  Its curriculum is almost identical to my program.  It is largely a discussion and reading based program that works with a small group of students at a time.   It has a broad based faculty.  

It is so similar to the structure of our program (even the tuitions are the same) it almost looks like it is a product of “broadly borrowing and stealing shamelessly” which in many regards is a form of validation and a type of compliment.

So how does this relate to the PARDP program? Here we have three independent programs all education based, mentor and peer driven to prepare people for a new career in an important but niche area that address concepts of Policy-through-Quality or Quality-through-Policy.  All focus on adult education for mature learners.  

Welcome to the new world of program improvement.

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