Quality Control

How do we measure quality in the work we do ?

A measure for quality

Don’t do like Caravaggio.

When work is done for a client, a contract is usually written down.

The contract always contains what we should do and how much the client will pay.

Unfortunately it is too easy to deliver (what we think is) a perfect work … and dissatisfy the client. Even to the point that he refuses to pay.

Words are vague, minds think differently: we thought our work was perfect, but the client was expecting something else.

If we are wise, we always add a special attachment to the contract. This attachment will list all tests the work needs to pass in order to be accepted by the client (acceptance test list).

Caravaggio had multiple paintings rejected by clients because – for instance - a saint was painted with dirty legs.

Too bad Caravaggio had not prepared an acceptance test list: he had to deliver a new painting, usually a work of several weeks.

Estimating the quality of work done (Part I)

Say we provide outsourced personnel for the cleaning of hotel X.

We agree on a fixed price for the cleaning of each room, to be done between time T1 and T2 each day.

Everybody (service provider, staff, hotel management) must agree in written on what a clean room means… or unpleasant complaints will start getting in.

We detail all operations to do into an simple paper checklist that will carry hotel room number, date, personnel name and roll.

The sheet will have a (long) list of operations to check, like

  • Bedroom
  • linens replaced
  • trash removed
  • trash bags replaced
  • carpet vacuum-ed
  • air freshener sprayed
  • ...
  • Bath
  • towels replaced
  • air freshener sprayed

Daily the hotel managers get a copy of each checklist and sign our copy for receipt.

If part of the work is questioned, this should happen well before we send the invoice.

Besides, the staff hardly needs any instruction at all: the paper contains all the operations that need to be performed.

When you have dinner in a restaurant, multiple times during the meal the waiter or the maitre will approach your table just to ask ‘is everything ok’ ?

If something is wrong, they will iron out the problem on the spot. They won’t wait you to make a fuss at the time they present the bill.

Unfortunately, some works are not cumulative. Caravaggio could not show the draft of his paintings to the client and ask ‘is everything ok’ ?

Often our work will be judged only at delivery time, so we won’t forget to prepare an acceptance test list and to have the client sign it before we start actual work.

A good acceptance test list will require several hours to write down. Still – as the saying goes – better safe than sorry.

Estimating the quality of work done (Part II)

Once we have defined the list of acceptance tests we also have a metrics to define quality.

In the health sector, quality control goes more or less like this:

Somebody from high places states that a patient with disability A needs X minutes of nurse care, Y minutes of doctor care and Z minutes of nursing aid care.

If we have a clinic we need to show that we provided stuff of various skills so that the sum of worked hours divided by the number of patients outperforms (or is equal to) the figures above.

The last method seems very rough.

If doctors and nurses spent their time playing cards instead of having care of patients, quality score is still 100%.

A much better method would be to adopt an acceptance test list as in the case of cleaning. This will happen soon, as it is becoming more and more common to outsource the nursing service to specialized external companies.

Conclusion: how we can control quality in our company.

The acceptance test list is primary here.

We need to input all cards into a database and check that the score is 100%.

If the client added notes to a card (possibly with a complaint) we need to know it as soon as possible and act as soon as possible.

Copying all data from paper into our database is a waste of time.

Nowadays a cheap smarphone can be programmed to run proprietary applications.

We can completely replace the old paper checklist and export data directly into our database.

Employees have the chance to directly notify for overtime, changes of any sort and will apply for a day off on a given date.

Introducing a smartphone into our company will double the ability to control the quality of work done and will halve the costs due to data entry.

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