Quality DOES NOT Equal Risk Management

Every now and again I see a headline that causes me to foam at the mouth. One of the most recent examples is a recent article in Industry Week titled Quality Equals Risk Management. While I’m generally a fan of this publication, I can’t stand it when a headline makes such an erroneous claim.

Quality is a by-product of proper Risk Management. Quality Control is an aspect of proper Risk Management. But even Quality Control does not equal Risk Management! Risk Management is a broad initiative that looks at, and attempts to mitigate, all of the risks in your physical, financial, and information supply chains. This includes managing financial risks around currency exchange, commodity prices, and economic instability. Environmental risks around natural disasters, climate change, and accidents involving hazardous materials. Political risks involving terrorism, the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs), failing states, and crime. Compliance and Regulatory risks stemming from globalization, expansion and restriction of trade, and regional instability. Workforce risks from infectious and chronic diseases, pandemics, and liability regimes. And other product risks from lack of raw materials, transportation breakdowns, and theft. Quality is just one aspect of risk — and quality control is just one aspect of risk management!

All quality suggests is that you have good quality control programs in place — but it doesn’t even guarantee that! It might mean you have a high quality supplier who takes pride in their work and goes the extra mile to insure quality despite your shoddy practices. And while the article is right in that quality is the most powerful when it is engaged to prevent defects instead of detecting them after the fact, it is still only one aspect of a well rounded risk management program.

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