Our series on the 9 arenas of digitalization has so far provided an overview of the diverse tasks, challenges and opportunities that quality managers face in the digitized world of work. But what does all this mean for the status of quality managers in the company? What influence do they have on further development and the future?
You can already imagine from our previous articles that quality management can play a significant role in further development of a company. However, in terms of deficits, it seems – somewhat exaggeratedly formulated – as follows: hierarchically often positioned in the middle management, quality managers evade the possibilities of co-designing major changes in the company. Not least in order to avoid the possible risks of failure. They withdraw because they can achieve too little against powerful departments and line managers.
Exposed to this criticism, process design has degenerated into process painting in some companies. Quality managers hide their own light under a bushel and focus on the small space they control. It is obvious that this does not allow them to develop their full potential. After all, they have enormous knowledge at their disposal, which is of huge importance for necessary changes and the future.
But with the revision of ISO 9001:2015, there is a revised call to action for a systemic process model. The digitalization of the working world and the changes in business models do not take departmental boundaries into account and do not stop at the task area of quality management.
What ISO 9001 demands is the principle of an effective and thus lived management system: everything becomes a system, and not only within the own company, but in the value creation across the entire supply network. And this is exactly where quality managers make an enormous contribution: They have the methodical knowledge and the experience to ensure a good business relationship with customers and suppliers by means of measures and methods. They are also responsible for sustainable supplier development.
They already exist: committed and well-trained quality managers who see their opportunity. System knowledge is needed – and perhaps outsiders do not suspect this knowledge in today’s quality management. This leads to the fact that only a few discover the secret abilities of quality managers to think systemically.
But how do people become aware of you? By becoming active yourself. By contributing your knowledge in a meaningful way to the transformation towards a digital world, by talking about it and, if necessary, by communicating it. Even if there may be doubts as to whether this will work, after many years of fighting for processes, demanding systems thinking, and in the end it was all about certificates and audits without deviations: the alternative would not be better. It would mean being excluded from actively shaping change.
Will everything change (for the better) from now on? Possibly, perhaps only to a certain extent. In any case, it is time to show one’s colors and position quality as a corporate task. This opens up many opportunities for quality management and determines the future actions of quality managers.
What determines the actions of quality managers? Where is it about modeling cross-system processes, where do cause and effect mechanisms come to light? How can we help companies and employees to successfully shape digitalization together – with the help of a living management system and on the basis of the requirements of all stakeholders – so that it does not end at the company’s borders, as has all too often been the case in the past?
The prerequisite is that the quality managers bring themselves into play. The time and the current opportunity are far too precious to wait to be “discovered and asked”. They must approach their colleagues, help to shape them and discover what makes organizations tick: the people behind them, who want to do and achieve good with passion and conviction.