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Elevate Your Compliance Knowledge

Confessions of a QA Manager

We thought we were doing OK. We really did. I guess we were wrong.

We consider ourselves an ethical company and take quality very seriously. We have someone assigned to all the typical compliance areas: quality, safety, environmental, and regulatory. We thought we had it all covered.

We always conduct our periodic audits and pass all our certifications. Auditors always find something, but that's normal. Auditors always need to find something, right? Nothing big mind you. Just little things for our people to work on; something to improve. The point is that on every measure that we had we were doing just fine.

We didn't expect that something would go this wrong. We had no idea, it was only a small change.

We just needed to pass an emissions test. We had a timeline and time was running out. We had to do something. Some of the staff worked around the clock and came up with a software work-around that would fix the issue. Great! It was tested, it worked, and we were good to go.

I guess we didn't expect that a small change would blow up in our faces. We had no idea that this would expose a fault that was always there and something that we should have addressed long ago.

What was that fault? Well, its not what you might think. It was a fault in our communication.

When senior managers asked if the emissions issue was addressed, the answer given was yes. This was true (kind of). They were glad to hear that we could ship on time. That's all they cared about, at least that's what all their communication had focused on. Everyone who worked on the solution was considered a hero and were even given extra time off.

I think in retrospect they would give all that time back if they could. It wasn't too long that this would blow up, big time. Hero to goat overnight. We are not sure if we will even survive this.

You see, what happened was we took a short cut. Some might call it cheating although we didn't think of it that way at the time. The staff were just trying to solve a problem. They figured out that they could adjust how our product works to lower the emissions while it was being tested. The product could ship on time and everything would be good – right? No, wrong! Once it was found out what had happened, our reputation was in the toilet.

Only a few people actually knew how the issue was solved. Frankly, nobody really cared how it was done. As long as we could ship, that's all that mattered. We were wrong about that. Apparently, it does matter – it matters a lot.

Who was at fault? At one level it was the coders. However, that's the wrong way to think about it. It was the whole company's fault. We ask our staff too often to perform miracles so that production targets are met. We should have never asked them to do "whatever it takes" to solve problems like this, or any problem for that matter.

I hope we get a chance to learn from what happened. However, our reputation is badly damaged that I am not sure if we will get the chance. It's going to take a long time to earn back the trust we lost with our customers.

We could have done better. We should have done better and now we are paying for it.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.



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