Common Mistakes Made by New Quality Manager

August 18, 2023
8 min read

Congratulations on becoming the newest quality manager

Getting promoted at work may be the realization of a dream. You struggle, fighting tooth and nail until you get the recognition you deserve. However, many aspiring managers think less about the difficulties in succeeding in this job.

Once you are in a management position, the spotlight is on you. You suddenly have the responsibility of managing team members while adopting new tasks and skills to succeed.
At first, your stakeholders might be patient and gracious with you, but making as few mistakes as possible is vital to your success in keeping that responsibility.
This article discusses typical mistakes made by new Quality Managers and recommends methods to ensure you effectively lead your team to deliver quality products.

Unwillingness to try new ways of working

Be prepared to leave your comfort zone in order to succeed

As a new manager, you may be inclined to be conservative and enforce the current way of working and producing. The uncertainty of trying new methods creates risk because you must then bear the brunt of anything that does not go as planned. However, as a quality manager, your role is also to continuously improve the process and find better and faster ways to produce the highest quality outcomes.
A good quality manager maintains the company’s quality standard, but a great quality manager continuously evolves the operations, systems, and management of their assets to improve outcomes and cost-effectiveness.

Operating without a detailed understanding of past and current data

Learn all you can from those in place before proposing new changes

The opposite problem also occurs. New quality managers may make detailed plans for changes without referring to past lessons or losses gleaned from the guidance of the production line expertise around them. When defining new production changes, it is crucial to learn from past initiatives so you can identify and properly differentiate those areas with great need from those with significant optimization already in place. Without understanding historical changes, a new quality manager may end up degrading operations that were already running smoothly.

Goal setting without reasonable and measurable targets

Always create specific achievable timely measurable realistic goals

As a new quality manager, it is customary to dream big, to be ambitious and eager to reach notable milestones. However, momentum is best maintained when you prioritize measurable outcomes and strike a balance between practicality and vision.
The first step is setting goals that are attainable and quantifiable. Work with your production team to determine explicit expectations and then reiterate and reinforce them regularly with processes and measures. Everything from how long an operation should take, to the number of items to sample or inspections per job or shift, to the specific standards that outputs should meet, should all be defined.
When your goals are quantifiable and measured, it is easier to analyze the effectiveness and cost of your march to improve product quality and production efficiency. And when progress is measurable, momentum is easier to maintain because it is visible to all. Quantifying and measuring are keys to maintaining success.

Inadequately prepared for emerging problems

You will be expected to have a plan to deal with whatever goes wrong

New quality managers usually put off setting up contingency plans, and yet, in manufacturing, your preparedness to prevent production stops can be everything. Lack of preparation can cost you financially, especially if the problem results in downtime or ends up impacting the finished goods that reach the customer.
As a quality manager, it is essential to run regular internal audits and reviews to ensure that the systems and processes you created are in place and are supporting your goals. Continuously check your readiness to address problems and to address any deficiencies in manufacturing systems. Define emergency preparedness plans that prevent injuries, downtime, and lost output. Everyone should know what is expected and what to do when things go wrong.

Insufficient education and training

Continually invest in your education and career qualifications

There is great value in learning on the job. As the saying goes, experience is the best teacher. But just as some things cannot be taught in theory, others cannot be taught through experience. This is especially true regarding best practices for quality or manufacturing.
Luckily, modern technology provides many ways to standardize and communicate methods, instructions, and expectations to team members in cost-effective ways. For those needing more education, there is a multitude of online courses available for quality managers who want to improve their skills and learn what is working best for others. Pursuing certification in key skills and disciplines will directly improve your effectiveness on the job as well as improve your career mobility. A training investment provides you with the tools necessary to anticipate common manufacturing challenges and improves your insight into how best to tackle them effectively. Through education, you are amassing knowledge others have learned the hard way.

Failure to explicitly state requirements and regulations

Policies and procedures can lead to productivity

As a new quality manager, it is important to understand and reinforce the company’s standard quality requirements and regulations. It might seem like a waste of time to revisit what most everyone already knows, but regularly clarifying for everyone your quality expectations and procedures can be key to minimizing non-conformance mistakes and improving employee morale and efficiency. It is also crucial to define and reinforce how everyone should react to key problems in production so the best outcomes can be obtained, even when things are not going as expected. Finally, workers perform their best when they know the expectations and can self-direct. Nobody enjoys being corrected or redirected. Being clear, concise, and consistent with team members will pay large dividends for everyone. Remember people can be compelled to comply but they can only volunteer their best effort.

Creating overly complex production systems

Whenever possible keep it simple

New quality managers sometimes strive to change the way operations are run to boost efficiency and productivity. This can result in overly complicated processes that were previously straightforward and running smoothly.
New managers should always ensure that new procedures are adequately understood by those who must implement them. Oftentimes the targeted production workers and machine operators are the experts, not you. Involve them to identify what is necessary versus optimal. Otherwise, extensive resources will be wasted chasing changes that don’t improve your processes. In the worst case, some of these mistakes might cost the company financially by compromising the quality of products or services leaving the building or through waste, all while losing the support of the people on the front lines.

Forgetting that the customer is king

Always maintain your compass on the customer

As a new quality manager, you may focus more on measuring or on fixing internal processes because these are what we often track. Needless to say, the most important needs are the desires of the customer.
Giving focus to the customers’ perspective when proposing a change is crucial because it spotlights the improvements that matter, ultimately leading to higher sales and revenues. This starts with using the voice-of-the-customer to iterate the quality of products or even the emergence of new products and services that better suit that audience. Always think about what your change means to your customers when prioritizing investments.

Failure to put in place proper communication channels

Communication channels are critical

Timely communication is imperative at all stages of production and all levels of management. Proper, transparent, and regular communication is essential if operations are going to be frictionless. Employees should be aware of the protocols of communication and your reporting expectations. All challenges to production quality must be identified, communicated, and addressed before they jeopardize the final quality of products and services you deliver. When you fail to identify the what-when-and-how communication should occur, you risk the speed and effectiveness of all related process flows.
New managers tend to focus on lines of communication to their superiors and customers. Everyone who contributes to your outcomes or depends on your outcomes has expectations and communication needs. Each must be carefully evaluated and negotiated so these interdependent parties get what they need when they need it, and you get the information or decision assistance you require when it is critical to you.
As a new quality manager, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and anxious about your new position but learning to avoid these common mistakes will bring you closer to quickly achieving success in your new role.

Developed from the original list by Gerald Ainomugisha