Continuous Improvement and Quality Systems Article

A brief article outlining of Derek Stockley's personal views on continuous improvement and quality systems.

Continuous improvement and quality systems received a lot of attention in the 1980's and 1990's. In the new century, commitment to quality has become common place, with most major organisations having commenced or completed the implementation of formal quality systems. Many have been certified to ISO standards. The standards themselves have been extended and improved.

I have worked with clients on the development of processes and the preparation of quality manuals in order for them to attain certification. I am aware that organisations can focus too heavily on the development of the manuals and implementation of the "system". It is possible sometimes to neglect the underlying processes in the "rush" to be ready for the external audit.

I was fortunate in my early career to have four significant influences that have meant that continuous improvement has been an underlying theme for my whole working life, even before it became fashionable.

The four influences were:

involvement in designing and conducting training;

involvement in auditing with a professional accounting firm;

involvement in policy and procedure development and the introduction of computer systems;

induction into a lifelong learning commitment through exposure to the important theme of personal development.

Training has been based on a systems approach since training theory was refined by the military after the Second World War. Training theory encompasses the cycle of: assess training need (training needs analysis (TNA)), design, conduct and evaluate. Continuous improvement was inherent in the process. I have always reviewed the training I have conducted to find better, more efficient and effective methods. Training evaluation is constant, see current testimonials. Importantly, I received this grounding before I started full-time work. (See also: Train the Trainer (TTT).)

This approach was reinforced when I was an auditor with a firm of accountants. Auditing was an accounting discipline based on a systems approach. Again I learnt that systems could always be streamlined and improved.

Thirdly, my work with policies and procedures emphasised the need to review to keep pace with changing circumstances. Coupled with involvement in the design and implementation of new computer systems, the need for continuous improvement became firmly entrenched as a "way of operating".

The personal development theme was reinforced by the involvement in training. However, lifelong learning involves far more than pure training activities.

The lessons gained from these early experiences have been constantly re-inforced, particularly as I have always worked in organisations undergoing change.

This approach to quality is reflected in the way the Derek Stockley business is conducted, see: Quality Approaches.

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