Monday, June 20, 2016

The Clash Between Laboratory Quality and Personal Study?

It seems to me to be inherently obvious that Quality is a collective group activity.  

 Quality is measured by response to customer (the public) needs.  Quality is empowered by the collective Culture of Quality, meaning the power of the total group drives Quality benefits of continual improvement and continuing education.  Quality is the product of peer groups working together to find opportunities for innovation, improvement and success.  Quality is driven by the sense of openness associated with acknowledging errors and other opportunities for improvement (OFIs). Quality is predicated on standards and guidelines which are  the product of consensus and compromise.  

I think as a general experience, the least successful approach towards making positive change for improvement is to have someone sit alone in their office and draw charts and diagrams and write strategies without the input of others.  

So I think that the people who would be attracted to working in the Quality arena would be folks that enjoy the group collective experience.  They would be the folks that enjoy working with others; discuss, maybe debate, but to come to a consensus opinion and a collective plan for going forward.  Quality people, you would think, should be people persons.

I raise this because we have put on a university based certificate course in laboratory quality management every year since 2002.  I have mentioned it before.  It has evolved into a 21-week on-line course in what we call a VCOLE format (virtual classroom on-line education) where the central essence of the course is that most of the course is in the form of small-group discussion and most of the assignments are in the form of small-group team (collective) efforts.   

We do it this way because the best way for adults to learn is to work in groups and bounce ideas back and forth.  Increasingly there is evidence that the worst way to learn is to sit in front of a computer screen by yourself and study by yourself and do your assignments by yourself.  

Apparently the duration of time that information retained (persistence)  in the discussion based model is much greater than the individual learning model.  For reference see “Effects of Small-Group Learning on Undergraduates in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology: A Meta-Analysis  (2013)[ ]
So imagine my disappointment when in our collective survey of opinions on the course (Yes, we do a lot of customer satisfaction surveying in this Quality Management course) I receive the following comment:
“The group work was challenging, and some members definitely did not do their fair share. … I certainly did not appreciate putting so much effort on an assignment, and then have someone parachute in, and ride on the coat tails, contributing very little, but still getting the same mark as everyone else.”

I have to say that that is not a comment would likely come from a consensus oriented, collective driven, people person.   It sounds more that an academic competitive person for whom sharing and participation is far less important than getting an “A”.  If I wanted to be pejorative I would refer to it as being very high-school. 
But that would be very rude of me, and probably inappropriate (Donald Trumpish?).  

Our opinion surveys are intentionally done in a manner that does not allow me to know or find out who wrote the comment might be.  So I don’t know how well or unwell this person did, other than to say that most people who take the course do very well.  As to whether this person stood first, or in the first 10 percent, or the middle or the last 10 percent, I have no idea.

But to that person let me just say the following…  I
When you find work in the Quality arena, you will find yourself working in small groups all the time.  It is the nature of Quality.  
 Some people will get really engaged and do a ton of work. (That might be you.) Others will be less interested and do less.  And some will pop in-and-out and not contribute much at all.  That is the nature of small groups.  

You had a great experience, you learned some new information, and new skills and probably did well.  Why does it matter how others scored or not scored (actually we keep a close eye on how much individual participants actually participate and their overall participation score reflects their degree of activity)

If you are uncomfortable with small group dynamics, you probably should stay far away from the quality arena.  You will be miserable every day on every project.  If you can’t cope with small group committee dynamics in a simple learning environment, it sure won’t work for you in the real world.  

Too bad.

Note:  The preceding may be interpreted by some as a betrayal of confidentiality because it contains participant comments from our course.  Please note that all the comments are submitted anonymously and cannot be traced to any individual or IP address. 

PS:  If you are interested in university based on-line education for medical laboratory quality management that is open to Canadian AND international students, please go to  Our next course starts in January 2017. 

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