2014 marks my 20th year as a Quality Assurance professional and devout practitioner. I frequently refer to my career path as a "genetic mutation put to good use”. No matter where I go or what I’m observing, be it personal or professional, it is difficult for me to shut off the portion of my brain that always wants to make things better. Let’s dub this phenomenon “Chronic PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) Syndrome”.
Chronic PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) Syndrome
Our strengths as quality professionals can also be the very attributes that prevent us from being all that we can be. Just as our “mutations” give us worth in industries requiring attention to detail and the ability to visualize perfection, it is this same attribute that can cripple the forward progress of a thriving business.
3 Career Tips for the Quality Professional
Using Pareto’s 80/20 Rule (see The Pareto Principle), I’ve narrowed down my long list of lessons learned into the following 3 tips:
- Avoid Delayed Perfection
- Don’t Take It Personally
- Keep Moving Forward
Tip #1 - Avoid Delayed Perfection - Also referred to as “analysis paralysis”, this first tip requires us to walk right up to the edge of a pitfall while being careful not to fall in. Some of the most incredible talents in music, art, writing and product development are started in some dude’s basement because he didn’t want anyone else to see his work until it was perfect. To be honest, I’ve been that dude. I’ll be that dude again many, many times before I’m done.
If you and I owned competing lawn-mowing businesses, and we both had an entire block to mow before sundown (you on one side of the street while I’m on the other), I’m pretty sure that you’d be finished with your 10th and final house while I’m still manually cutting each blade of grass on house #3. Now, assuming that the customer requirements were the same (i.e. mow the yard for $30/yard), we can assume that my efforts would result in the loss of future business.
Quality is nothing without a gig. You can’t do a quality job if you don’t have a job. You won’t have a job for long by only completing 30% of the lawns while your competition is sitting in the truck sipping a cold PBR whilst laughing at you. In this example, you’re probably still in business and I’m probably not.
Note: As I write this blog, I’ve already changed the “1.” to “#1” to “1)” and back three or four times. DANG IT Tip NUMBER ONE!
Tip #2 - Don’t Take It Personally - Being a quality assurance professional comes with the tough duty of trying to convince people, who often times don’t report to you, to execute a process in a specific manner (i.e. best practices, standard work, response to data, etc.). Not only is it difficult to win over the trust of your colleagues at a similar organizational level, but it becomes increasingly difficult the further up you go.
Math is math and facts are facts. But have you ever had a fight with your spouse or other loved-one, presented all of the facts that show you were “right”, while still coming out the loser? Methodology and timing are just as important as facts. If there is a better way to execute a process, reduce waste or protect the customer, stick to your guns. Sometimes a great idea isn’t so great if the timing is off. Its extremely hard to think in terms of improvement when you’re struggling to get through the day. Recognize what is important to the company, as well as the customer, and stay persistent. Don’t give up on your role of taking organizational performance to the next level simply because Mrs. Director of Materials didn’t come to your meeting. Don’t take it personally.
Tip #3 - Keep Moving Forward - The third and final tip is my favorite. I don’t have any tattoos, but if I get one, this would be on the short list (which is why I don’t have any tattoos). In the spirit of improvement and the perpetual PDCA Cycle, you MUST continue to move forward. Competition and stakeholders will always drive the need for improvement. “Improvement” is not going anywhere. Congratulations… the quality profession has a bright future. However, avoid being hypocritical by demonstrating improvement, both personally and professionally.
All 3 words in this tip are extremely important and work hand-in-hand with tips 1 and 2. Do not post-pone movement due to imperfection. Move towards perfection. Do not take it personally when others fail to embrace change with open arms. Change is hard. Remember that. Do not stop. As a quality practitioner, others are looking for you to make it easier to serve the customer and improve the “ease of doing business". Keep moving forward in your quality role. Keep learning. Keep trying new methods and share what you’ve learned with others within your organization.
Even though I make it sound easy, these are not easy tips to implement. Perfectionism is a double-edged sword because while you want to strive for the best quality and to do better and move forward that same perfectionism can paralyze that movement because you’re never ready for the world to know about that thing because its not perfect. Are you a perfectionist? Which of these tips resonates with you the most and how to you plan to implement them?
p.s. Interested in more advice or personal training for your career development? Contact us to see how we can customize a personal training catered to your specific needs.