Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Taking a Quality Ride

I spend a lot of time looking for new and interesting books to expand my Quality library.  There are tons of books available, but a lot of them have that “been-there and done-that” feel and content.  Every once in a while I find a pearl that makes it worthwhile for me to keep going.

This week I went to Amazon and found a 2006 little book (113 pages) entitled  Take a Quality Ride: The Realities of Implementing A Quality Management System written by Susan Marie Hinkle.  It is a real gem, and even though it is now 6 years old, I find that it still holds up as a must read.

Susan Hinkle is a Quality Professional with a lot of experience implementing and maintaining Quality systems in a variety of industries (not health care).  She has written this book, not to compete with Joseph Juran or Phillip Crosby or W. Edwards Deming, but to point out some valuable insights based on her experiences.  I like this approach, in large part because her experiences are a lot like mine, and I think really valuable for the organization that is thinking about implementing a program for the first time.  I suspect that there may also be some organizations that have tried to implement but failed, who might be interested in reading that they are not alone in their failure.  It might give them reason to try again, being more aware of the pitfalls that are very common.

She raises a number of key points such as the importance of doing Gap Analysis.   I used to see this all the time; organizations thinking that they can save some money by skipping a Gap Analysis before they get the certification body or accreditation body involved.  This is rarely a good idea, and defeats the notion of organizational learning through improvement of gaps and errors.  I have mentioned before the real value of bringing in an outside person to help with this step (the so-called External – Internal audit.   

Another point she makes is about the real power of the voluntary certification or accreditation.  Susan makes the point that given a choice the organization should find the best fit assessor (It is not necessarily wise to choose the lowest priced certification body or appraiser.  Remember the certification auditor or lead appraiser is there to find out what is working well and encourage you to get certified or rated, not to punish you for things you have not done, so it is in your own interest to find a competent certification body or appraiser.)  I suspect that these days she might extend this further to reinforce that this optimum assessor is the one that best fits your needs.  Just as the cheapest is often not the best choice, neither should the most expensive be the best option, and similarly a cautious look should be taken before on takes on a assessment just because it is from another country.  Often local is best because the assessors know the language and know local conditions.  The key issue is to actively decide on whom to use as the assessor.

I also like her point about those annoying experts who extend unsolicited advice or suggestions that are rarely useful. Expect the “experts” to come out of the woodwork, but do not let them get in the way of your implementation project or get you down.

One point were we might disagree is where Susan talks about thinking about Costs of Quality mainly in money terms.  This was really an older concept which ignores the impacts of consumption of time and effort and energy that not are the consequence of error but important causation or perpetuation factors (TEEM).  I suspect up reflection that she would consider this as a better scale for measuring costs.

So, from my perspective, Take a Quality Ride is still a fast easy read and a great book.  It is well worth the money you would pay for a paper copy (less than $20).  Buying an electronic copy is almost like getting it for free, but in this situation the old adage of “you get what you pay for” does NOT apply.

I am interested in others’ opinions (including Ms.Hinkle’s) on this or any other book gem out there.


  1. Thank you for your positive review and insights with regard to my book. When I wrote it, it was for a rather "niche" audience and I am happy to see that professionals like yourself in other industries have found value in it.

    Since writing this book 6 years ago, I have continued to develop and learn specifically in the field of Project Quality which differs from implementing a QMS. Who knows...maybe my next venture into writing will be addressing that!

    Thanks again. Your insight is well received and much appreciated.


  2. Hie laboratorians out there, Im in a setting where quality has gone ahead in areas of chem,haemo and immuno but micro keeps lagging behind. Any ideas on quality issues in Micro. Anyone with ideas on Microbiology method validation protocols. What aspect they shd cover?


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