I recall, in my early years at work, of being told that middle-managers need to be bi-lingual; they must understand the language used at the work-face as well as the language of the board-room. It is their job to take the senior management ideas (mission, objectives, policies, etc) and put them into practice. Quality professionals need to be multi-lingual.
The quality professional needs to understand the business he (or she) is working in, the systems and processes, the technology in use – as well as being able to select, understand and use a range of specialist tools and techniques in the “quality toolbox”. He needs to be comfortable talking with people at any level in the business – and to be viewed as such. By the latter I mean he needs to be seen as competent and capable by those people, not just tolerated.
Of course, this doesn’t suit everyone and many will find their own niche and specialism. Some will be happiest on the factory floor, sleeves rolled up and diving into the details. Others will be found at ease crunching numbers, helping making sense of the multitude of data gathered. Yet others will delight in managing system documentation, ensuring every “i” is dotted and “t” crossed, every document has the correct approvals and available. And that’s not exhaustive – there are numerous other areas – auditors, for example.
But the complete and consummate quality professional has to be able to function in all these niches – perhaps not quite as good in them all, but still able to get the job done without fuss. Reaching this level of professionalism takes time – time spent in training, time gaining an ever broader understanding and time gaining experience. Nor is there a time when somebody can say they’ve now reached that level when, yesterday, they hadn’t. Ironically, anybody who is convinced they’ve mastered their profession most probably hasn’t, for one sign of a true professional is recognising they’ve still a lot to learn!