Quality Assurance is often treated as the source of good quality in and of itself. That philosophy turns out to be a surprisingly flawed one. After taking our own lumps on the subject of quality years ago, we feel we have a line on the right way to look at it.
We begin by asking how we might define quality for a marketing organization and we arrived at these three factors. All are necessary to consider our work quality.
- Did we deliver what we promised?
- Did we deliver something that will make our client successful?
- Did we deliver something that we can be proud of?
Next, we ask how Quality Assurance can influence these three areas. We believe that the Quality Assurance department is the eye and conscience of the organization. This department provides a clear-headed assessment of the work being done, without the conflicts of interest faced by other project participants, including clients. Their goal is to see the truth about the quality of work performed and ensure that the organization understands that truth in order to make fully informed planning decisions. It is not the role of Quality Assurance to drive for a particular standard of quality. Rather, an effective QA department communicates facts to project managers so that they can work with clients to balance quality against all other important factors.
From time to time, it may be necessary for a Quality Assurance leader to escalate serious quality issues and ensure that very poor quality situations are addressed with maximum awareness and resources. In these cases, the leader is obliged to provide fact-based assessments to help executives and project teams understand the severity of the problem. In addition, it is the responsibility of the Quality Assurance leader to identify when quality-monitoring procedures are not being followed, and then promptly educate teams to correct the issue or escalate the problem to executives for stronger action.
A subtle thing you don’t see in this philosophy is the belief that quality assurance is the source of quality. The source of quality is well-considered design, carefully executed, with thoroughness, by skilled practitioners, given adequate time. Organizations that try to improve quality primarily by adding quality assurance find themselves frustrated as quality assurance teams attempt to seize control of projects to push a quality agenda. This is like the tail trying to wag the dog. Ultimately, the rest of the agency has to adopt project practices that support quality using Quality Assurance for what it truly is, a candle in a dark place.