Chartered Quality Professional status

What does Chartered Quality Professional status, the new CQI membership grade, mean for the quality profession?

This article first appeared in Qualityword magazine, September 2008, entitled: "Seal of approval".

The new Chartered Quality Professional (CQP) membership grade will position quality practitioners on an equal footing with other chartered professionals. It offers a tangible and easily understood standard of excellence in quality, marking out quality professionals at the top of their field who are committed to staying there through an ongoing programme of continuing professional development (CPD).

The new grade, on offer to members and fellows, requires professionals to demonstrate competence against the CQI’s online Body of Quality Knowledge, a framework that defines the current knowledge boundaries of the quality profession, and also to maintain that competence through CPD.

As a recognised standard of credibility and competence, CQP will benefit quality professionals by increasing the visibility of their skills and so raising their value in the workplace.

Simon Feary, CQI CEO underlines this point. ‘CQI members have been delivering value to organisations for a very long time. It is our members who apply quality approaches to deliver the benefits that organisations desperately need: helping them to improve, reduce costs and satisfy their customers. I could go on, but my point is that we know what value we provide, the real opportunity provided by CQP is to have that value recognised more widely by organisations in the private, public and third sectors.’

We talk to some of the newly chartered members and fellows to get their opinions on CQP.

Dave Rogers
Head of quality,Telefónica Europe and Telefónica O2 UK

At Telefónica, quality and the delivery of customer satisfaction are very high on both the company and my own agenda. I have spent 24 years in the armed services and 18 years as a quality professional, where a problem with the management system could potentially affect business and people’s livelihoods. I’ve tried to carry the drive for continuous improvement throughout my quality work.

I work on the basis that the customer is the boss. It is the customer who pays our wages and without customers none of us has a job. Quality is a tireless yet rewarding quest to meet customer expectations and continuously improve on them. And I have a lot of scope: Telefónica Europe has a customer base of over 43m, with over 18m in the UK.

I became a CQI Fellow in 2007 as my focus within Telefónica moved partly towards succession planning. Membership of the CQI and the new CQP status are recognition of attainment in the quality field and give clear stages for the development of a career in quality. CQI membership allows me to network and benchmark with members across different sectors and is helping me to develop a specific development plan for quality professionals within our company to build on the structured development plan we already have in place for all of our staff.

CQP will greatly enhance the importance of quality in all UK companies and even further afield – once it has been embedded, marketed and communicated across all sectors and on an international scale by the CQI. CQP will also build on the esteem in which the quality profession is held and hopefully ensure quality professionals get the same recognition as other professions.The status will also give senior managers confidence in the quality professionals they have employed as well as giving the quality profession a clear career path.

But there is still more to do.We need to ensure that qualifications in quality are enhanced and developed from A-level standard to degree-level courses and modules.We need to get standards bodies, certification bodies, accreditation bodies and excellence organisations to work together. One voice for quality. We need to get government and educational bodies involved to bring in new blood and really fly the flag for quality.

It is up to us as quality professionals and members of the CQI to look at how we can contribute to this on an industrywide level and I suggest this should be a major part of our CPD. Even so, it is not merely a case of our own personal development but the future of the profession.We need to sell the benefits of a career in quality. After all, what other career enables you to get such a clear understanding of the workings of a business, drive continuous improvement and learn how to deliver customer satisfaction?

Dr Louise Bell
Senior partner, Peloton Consultancy
I have worked in a number of roles related to quality, mostly in the health sector in a range of clinical and managerial roles. But my interest in knowledge about quality is still not satiated and I am constantly learning new things and expanding my skills. Having been a CQI Fellow for around two years, CQP was an obvious step. I wanted to make sure I was involved in contributing to debates about quality and that I had the opportunity to offer my opinions and views and learn from others.

CQP status will eventually result in a greater sense of standardisation of skills and clarification of what one can expect if working with a CQP. I hope that CQP status leads to greater recognition for the profession – it will certainly provide a clear framework to detail areas for improvement or skills development. Any type of chartered status is an important aspect of being a professional. I believe that over time awareness of CQP status will increase and that this may be one way for employers to distinguish between applicants for qualitybased roles.

I have always kept records of my personal training, publications and personal development and I find CPD important as it provides some assurance that people are up-to-date both with their knowledge and developments in the field.

In future, I would like to see CQP status become more people focused, rather than focused on engineering principles and hard skills. My prevailing view of quality is that people are key success factors and that they have the greatest influence on quality, but this is not necessarily the majority view.

In my opinion, CQP status should become more closely linked with other areas of knowledge, to recognise that while the quality gurus are important, there are other areas of knowledge which are equally important but less discussed. I would also like to see an increase in the levels of research into quality and closer links with the university sector to encourage information sharing and the greater employment of knowledge in practice.

Mike Underwood
Quality manager, Magnox North

I have worked in quality since joining the nuclear fuel manufacturing plant at Springfields near Preston in 1980,so 28 years! I was a CQI Associate for about 15 years, but two years ago I put together the portfolio of evidence to upgrade by the experiential route to become a fellow. I am already committed to keeping up with developments in the quality field and so CQP makes excellent sense for me personally. CQP is recognition of professionalism and a commitment to personal development.

By signing up for CQP, I am making a commitment to undertake and record CPD. The role of professional quality specialists has been eroded over the last few years and as a group we need to re-establish ourselves and remind industry of our value.With CQP status, companies can be confident that they are employing an experienced and competent professional who possesses a range of tools and techniques that can help them successfully achieve their objectives.

Shortly after becoming a CQI Fellow, I became involved with a steering group of like-minded members to establish a nuclear special interest group (NucSIG) and we held successful launch events this July. I plan to fulfil my CPD requirement by my continued involvement with the NucSIG and by attending future events at which we plan to include opportunities for networking, sharing best practice and a chance to keep up with new issues in the industry.

In the nuclear sector, we anticipate a growth in work. With the potential for new nuclear power station construction, regulators and other important stakeholders are making it clear that the expected skills shortage needs to be filled by people who are professionally qualified. By involvement in the NucSIG launch events, these key nuclear stakeholders have effectively declared that within the nuclear industry CQI membership and CQP will become an important differentiator for those recruiting quality managers and engineers.

Being a quality professional in the nuclear industry is similar of course to quality roles in other sectors, but there are important differences. For example, a quality professional in our sector needs an appreciation of nuclear safety issues and recognition that in our industry ‘quality’ and ‘safety’ are almost synonymous.

One of the areas NucSIG will develop is putting some meat on the bones of what the special ‘nuclear quality professional’ competencies are and appropriate training and CPD opportunities.When developing CQP and the associated Body of Quality Knowledge, there should at least be a consideration of the value of sector-specific elements.

Marijke Korteweg
Head of internal audit, European Medicines Agency

I have spent my entire working life serving quality and my first ever publication, around 36 years ago, was related to quality control. I was a certificated IRCA auditor from 1996 until 1999 and became a CQI Fellow in 2000. I decided to apply for the CQP grade because I wanted to promote quality and the work of the CQI.

CQP will help to raise the profile of quality management and the profession, but in the UK first of all. People are used to hearing about chartered accountants, but they are yet to experience what it means to have a chartered quality professional in front of them. That is why it is very important that quality professionals can demonstrate that a chartered status stands for quality in this profession – I hope that the necessary CPD is taken very seriously. The worst case scenario would be if someone with chartered status did a very bad job.

If chartered status is promoted by the CQI and taken very seriously by myself and other CQPs, then companies will start to ask for it, particularly on a CV when examining a list of achievements. Slowly, the CQP acronym will start to have value in its own right. I have always taken charge of my own CPD and have already registered for the European Foundation for Quality Management Forum 2008 and I am also due to attend the Institute of Internal Auditors annual conference. I would have loved to attend the CQI World Quality Day Conference, but unfortunately I need to be in Brussels!

I have always considered active membership of the CQI integrated management special interest group (IMSIG) and regularly contributing to the CQI web forum and IMSIG Yahoo discussion board as part of my CPD. Reading QW is also a key part of CPD for me and I particularly like to read about achievements and ideas contributed by other quality professionals and the CQI.

Chris Edwards
Quality assurance manager, BVT Surface Fleet

I have worked in quality for 20 years, with CQI membership for three years and I decided to sign up for CQP because it can only benefit me. I believe that moving quality professionals to a chartered status will in time mean something to the other professions we deal with – as long as the standard requirements of entry are adequate and maintained. It will also help quality professionals to have a more recognised skill and capability within their own businesses.

I hope that over time CQP will both improve employability prospects and also the average value of a CQP to industry will be better recognised and will become more in line with other chartered professions. From a capability perspective, CQPs are more likely to keep up with good practices and solutions from outside and across industry. However, CQP status needs to be supported by ensuring senior management are more aware of the benefits of effective quality management. CQPs should be closer to and have better access to knowledge and resources to improve senior management understanding and subsequent commitment and belief.

My company already has a mature professional development programme for most functions and a process for identifying training needs. Historically, however, this has been less mature for quality as quality has been considered as a secondary function. We are currently working with the CQI to develop a route map for capability progression which will hopefully address a combination of needs for both the business and the individual.The route map with training and experience options will include further professional  development for our CPD.

David Hutchins
Managing director, David Hutchins International

I have worked in quality since the mid-1960s when I was chief production engineer in an automotive component manufacturing company. Our biggest customer at that time was Perkins Engines, one of the first companies to operate a sophisticated supplier quality assurance system. I left industry in 1969 and took an appointment at Slough College of Technology as head of the Quality and Reliability Unit.

During the 1970s I researched Japanese and American approaches to quality in some depth and took a Master’s in Quality and Reliability at the University of Birmingham. As a result I conducted a number of short courses on what today is known as total quality management and then left the college in 1979 to start what is now David Hutchins International.

I joined the CQI around 1970 when it was entitled the Institute of Engineering Inspection. The reasons I have decided to sign up for CQP are in keeping with the late Professor Ishikawa, who said: ‘Quality begins and ends with education.’ I firmly believe that. There has never been an end to man’s creativity and we can always find new and better ways of doing things. It is my opinion that it is the responsibility of all professional people to keep abreast of the latest developments in their particular field otherwise they are simply not being professional.

On a personal level, CQP will, first of all, give me the satisfaction of knowing that I am worth listening to and that whatever I do is at, or near to, the cutting edge. I also believe that we should be able to learn from each other and this, in my opinion, is the main value of having an institute created for that purpose.

Companies employing CQPs will also gain assurance that their processes and procedures are in capable hands and that when advice is needed on any quality-related matters, it will be sound and relevant. I will fulfil my CPD by attending upgrade courses whenever I can and keeping in contact with quality professionals not only in the UK but across the world. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to speak at international conferences such as the 14th Asia Pacific Quality Organisation International Conference that took place recently in Tehran, followed by the International Convention for Schools Quality Control Circles in Istanbul. There are also EOQ conferences and CQI events such as World Quality Day.

I believe that we can only gain respect from the community as a whole if we combine and impress with our dedication to our work. We expect the medical, legal and other professions to be state of the art so why not quality too? We must do all that we can to make the quality movement appear vibrant, lively and right up-to-date with the affairs of the world.

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