The Qualiverse: Welcome to the Qualiverse
Hello, friends! Welcome to the Qualiverse where we talk about all things quality, especially as they pertain to AV. My name is Jim Maltese and I have spent most of my career bringing quality to the AV industry, either as a system commissioner or instructor for InfoComm/AVIXA and AQAV or as VP of Quality Standards at Level 3 Audiovisual.
Over the years I have found a lot of misconceptions about quality in the world. I’ve heard people complain about the time it takes, or how much it costs, or it not even being necessary. I hope I can convince people with these misconceptions otherwise, or at the very least, we can have those important conversations.
WHAT IS QUALITY MANAGEMENT?
At its heart, “quality” can be thought of as everything that is required to meet people’s needs. That’s it. It doesn’t mean fancy or expensive or diamond-encrusted. Quality is merely meeting requirements. It’s simple... but not easy.
The goal of quality management is to ensure that we have met the requirements. Some people just want you to trust them that all the requirements being satisfied. Some people prove it. And this is where all those processes and checklists come in to play.
IT'S LIKE GOING TO THE MECHANIC.
Imagine visiting a service station where the mechanic asks you what’s wrong with the car and you attempt to describe your interpretation of the issue (“It makes a weird, creaky noise sometimes when it gets cold. Can you fix it?”). Mechanic #1 just takes it for a drive to see if they notice anything weird. Mechanic #2 breaks out a checklist for a 32,000 mile checkup and not only investigates items that could possible make a “weird, creaky noise... sometimes” but everything else that should be inspected at that time. Which one makes you feel better?
You might get lucky with Mechanic #1. They might live in the area, be a family friend, be super familiar with your model car, and spot the issue immediately. Or, they might be just out of mechanic school. Or, maybe they just had a fight with their partner and couldn’t be bothered. You are leaving your car’s health up to the individual mechanic and how they are feeling that particular day. It also might result in the dreaded return visit, or just plain going to another mechanic because this one might have missed the problem.
Mechanic #2, though, has a documented process. They might spend 5-10 minutes on stuff that are working fine because they are working through their procedures... but they are more likely to find the issue... and perhaps other issues you had no idea about! Also, since they have a checklist... it doesn’t matter what mechanic you get. The old, the young, the distracted... the checklist levels out the service and experience provided. Further, the likelihood of needing to return for the same issue is reduced with a “56-point inspection”. And if mechanic #2 fixes the issue AND catches a completely separate issue that was about to become a problem, you are much more likely to bring recurring business. (That’s why all the large and/or smart mechanic shops boast their inspection process.)
WHAT QUALITY IS ALL ABOUT?
That is what quality is all about. Assuring that needs are being met AND assuring clients receive a consistent experience from anyone/everyone in the company. These quality systems become more and more important as the systems being delivered become more and more complex. In AV, if you don’t have a quality system in place, followed by everyone on the team, the experience provided to clients and ultimately users is going to vary wildly. That is not acceptable. AV collaboration systems are critical to making business happen, and it just has to work. Users must have their needs met. That is exactly what quality management is all about.
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