Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Motivation and Inspiration in Quality Teaching

I have a personal story about my quality adventure.  I have mentioned it before, but it is worth repeating. 

 In 2002 I was shamed into pursuing international recognition for CMPT, my proficiency testing program by a laboratory technologist who accused me and others associated with laboratory oversight as being FRAUDS because we exerted our authority over laboratories making performance demands while at the same time requiring no similar demands on ourselves.  She was disturbingly  but absolutely correct because back then neither my province nor my country required or expected either  accreditation bodies or proficiency testing bodies to demonstrate competence through objective oversight.
In the absence of an established credible laboratory quality standard (at the time) we immediately started our process towards have our quality system developed and certified to ISO9001:2000. 

[Note: while ILAC guide 25 for testing laboratories and ILAC guide 43 for proficiency testing bodies existed, there were no Canadian bodies that would assess against either guideline at the time. There were however Canadian certification bodies that could assess against ISO9001].

In order to implement our voluntarily imposed quality system, we hired a quality consultant but things were not going well.  One day he called me aside and pointed out that when he was around, I would work with him on the QMS.  When he was NOT around I would STOP working.  Josef made it clear: “This was NOT his QMS, and was NOT his laboratory.  If I wanted this to actually happen, I would have to take ownership and get my act in gear”.  Again, he was right and I was definitely wrong.
With the appropriate well placed kick, we got ourselves going, completed our certification and have maintained it ever since, most recently to ISO9001:2015. 
By every measure CMPT improved substantially and has grown from being a local program to a national and now international EQA provider.  In 2014 we extended our commitment to quality and added international accreditation (ISO/IEC17043:2010).

The reason that I recount this story is because it is a very personal good example of a general truth: the impetus and inspiration to Quality can come from the most unexpected of places, but the drive and motivation to Quality must come from within.   

The story has relevance for me because over the years we taken that same passion and commitment and put it into creating our Certificate Course in Laboratory Quality Management.  We have now trained close to 400 people.  Most have come from Canada or the United States or some of the wealthy developed countries in the middle East.  Some have come from much less wealthy regions. 

While about 95 percent do well enough to earn their certificate and by survey enjoy what we offer, by my estimate less than half leave the course with the sort of commitment and drive to make an inspired career in the Quality arena.   

We occasionally get folks that folks who come uninspired and leave uninspired.  Recently we had a person, very senior in laboratory hierarchy, who paid the tuition money, started the course but hardly ever participated and then quit showing up after about a month and then just disappeared.  I wonder how the employer felt about frittered money. 

I will tell you that every once in a while, we get a note that something has happened and they were unable to continue. Sometimes we can offer a rebate, or an invitation to come back and continue next year.  In this situation, they didn’t ask and we didn’t offer.

But because we are aware of  and pay attention to those who don’t move forward, we spend a lot of time and energy focusing on course improvements and the changing picture of quality.  We promote leadership and innovation and their impact on culture of quality and the development of quality tools.  We focus as much (or more) attention on challenging participants to look for and find positive and progressive opportunities for improvement as we charge them to monitor and identify and remediate and correct findings of non-conformities.

And sometimes we get our special rewards for the effort when we receive letters and notes from the enthusiastic participants who tell us about how our course inspired them to take their laboratory quality to the next level.  

So here is the point that I am making.  Despite our efforts at continual improvement and promoting communication and participation and learning and teaching new skills, taking our course can not guarantee to imbue all participants with the drive and motivation to engage in quality passionately, but I sure am pleased that we have been able to provide more than our fair share with the impetus and drive (and in some instances, passion) to help make laboratories better.

There is much to be gained being committed to providing quality Quality education. 

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