The Quality Promise

Lack of substance or a new set of values?

Quality
© Bojan / Fotolia

© Bojan / Fotolia

"Why me?" was my first Reaction. A Sales Manager writes an article about the Quality Promise of the company – of all people, the ... sells whatever he can, puts the operative units under permanent stress with his team, always comes with much too ambitious delivery dates and unfulfillable customer wishes, and is, as a general rule, the antagonist of the Quality Manager ...

Yes, this is how you could see it – if you didn't know us; if you don't know what drives us and what binds us together. Because it's not that simple. A conversation between our Quality Manager and myself went as follows:

Peter Lahner: "Jeez, Carsten, this year we already have our third project, that we've explicitly targeted as being super-urgent, and we'll finish (again) with great pain – and now you're complaining that we can't deliver as-is, unchecked. What am I supposed to do? The customer is in need and that's why he called and asked us. I can't just postpone the delivery date, and the customer also said that we shouldn't 'look so closely'."

Carsten Sieber: "OK, so then I have a few questions: How long did it take from making the initial contact to receiving the order?"

Peter: "Well, all-in-all, about two weeks – I think that’s pretty fast!"

Carsten: "So, and how much time did you spend on the editing, the QM, and the introduction of the draft copy?"

Peter: "Even so, in about two weeks, it'll only be about 30 pages..."

Carsten: smiles

Peter: "Counter-question: How much time do you actually need when you do all the things you think are important and then you're sure in the end that we'll deliver a proper document?"

Carsten: "You're not gonna like it."

Peter: "But I want to know!"

Carsten: "All right, then...

First of all, we analyse the content of the offer and the framework conditions during the QA audit: What has been agreed to and what is particularly important to the customer? Are there customer-specific editorial guidelines, style guides, etc.?

We then read through the entire document to be released and pay particular attention to logic, plausibility, comprehensibility, "perceived" completeness and target audience adequacy; formalities (such as the design of the safety and warning notices), consistency, aesthetics, and wording. If we notice any possible inconsistencies we'll take note of them. If we're unsure, we'll consult with the Technical Editor."

Peter: "It's been half a day already..."

Carsten: "That's pretty much true. Then we analyse the safety aspects, in comparison with the Risk Assessment."

Peter: "Wait a tick – but that probably never happens regularly!"

Carsten: "Yeah, that's right. Then it does indeed get a little more complicated, but that goes beyond the scope of our conversation – I'll explain that to you the next time we speak. In any case, in the final analysis of the technical Quality Management, we also consider the extent to which the result can be reconciled with kothes' mission and vision."

Peter: "Whoops, what do you mean?"

Carsten: "We provide comprehensive feedback to the technical editorial department, maintain statistics and positive example pages – completely in-line with the continuous improvement process. Because we’re also audited two-to-four times a year, and these quality assurance measures are very popular with external auditors.

In the end, we need at least 1.5 days alone for our work, and for thick tomes up to a week.

Since it’s very difficult to assess quality at the end of a project, we are usually already involved at the beginning of the project; we check concepts and rough outlines, and can even advise on various conformity aspects/levels/risks or help with researching standards. Logically, you would have to add up these efforts.

When we’re through with the technical QM, our colleagues in the Technical Editing department take over. But they're clearly faster than we are."

Peter: "Well, that makes me happy ... So, if I add that all up, I come to at least 10% of the total processing time with some serious consequences, more for small projects, less for large projects, but not much less."

Carsten: "Could fit."

Peter: "No room for discussion?"

Carsten: "Not really. We already improvise on a daily basis, but we need to agree on a limit, otherwise we’re no longer kothes."

Peter: "Does that, in turn, mean that with the 'not-looking-so-closely' as an option, and as a worst case, we should not take on the project?"

Carsten: "From my point of view: yes."

Peter: "Thanks, Carsten – I'll think about it ..."