Certification is a strange thing. The connotations of the word seem to be different depending on who you are speaking to. For some it simply means another word for ‘audit’ with all the ‘baggage’ that the word audit implies. For others it means attaining a certificate that formally acknowledges that your business undertakes its work in a quality oriented way and for a few it means recognition and credibility in the marketplace.
To a degree all of these have some validity but in my opinion none of these views manages to capture the complete picture because they are lacking what I would call the ‘people element’.
For me, as Managing Director of Certification International, it is very important that I don’t overlook this ‘people element’ but instead communicate the ethos and focus of our business effectively and accurately so that there is no misunderstanding. And actually, the word ‘communicate’ is at the heart of what we do.
Communication is a journey rather than a fixed destination and our philosophy is to work with our clients and travel with them on that journey. This means establishing clear lines of open and unambiguous communication so that everyone is absolutely clear what Certification International stands for and what services we offer. In short we must ensure that our customers have confidence in the regulations and standards we promote and have a clear understanding of the benefits.
An important part of my responsibility is therefore to articulate clearly to our clients and potential clients what certification offers and why it is important in today’s competitive business environment and this is exactly what I intend to do as our company moves forward.
Today, much more than in the past, there are a large number of tools and techniques available to the ‘quality professional’ and in a way this can be a problem as much as a bonus. The problem is that when we get too focused on tools and software solutions we tend to forget that we in a partnership with our clients who look to us for support and guidance. It was the Japanese who woke up to this dilemma first. They were perhaps the first to draw the important distinction between ‘process based’ certification and ‘people based’ certification and from that realisation the idea of ‘quality circles’ was first born.
So in the 60’s and 70’s while the West was introducing rather fearsome ‘Quality Inspectors’ into the workplace the Japanese were encouraging worker co-operation and a ‘pride in the work’ approach.
This cultural divide has, to a degree, continued until today although, to be fair, both East and West recognise the advantages and disadvantages of both approaches. The Japanese witnessed the development of the USA into the most powerful industrialised country in the world based on a ‘quantity first’ mechanised approach with ‘quality’ just part of the process. And the USA in turn watched the Japanese focus on developing a quality based culture throughout organisations based on pride, co-operation and mutual support.
The reality is that whilst both approaches have something to offer, today’s view is that people really are at the heart of the accreditation and quality process.
Recognising this fact we must therefore take each step on the certification journey standing not above but alongside our clients. We must use our experience and expertise to help them grow and develop. Our industry must move from a ‘policing’ approach to a ‘partnering’ approach so that every client’s ‘journey’ is as enjoyable as arriving at their certification destination.