Where Does Quality Come From?
In the workaday world of government, we don’t spend a lot of time focusing on quality. Why don’t we? First of all, most government employees feel like they have more than one job to do. Not enough time to deal with quality issues. Also, most of us take for granted that over time, “those people in charge” have made sure that quality is within standards and that same thing is happening now. But is it? This brings up a few questions:
- Do standards of quality even exist for the work we are doing?
- If they do exist, do we know what they are?
- Even if we know what they are, do they still fit today’s work compared to when they were established.
So, what’s all this got to do with internal controls? Simple. Quality cannot happen without good controls…which are our policies and procedures. For example, if our quality goal is to process our replenishment of spare parts for the F-18 fighter jet with 97% error-free transactions, then our internal controls over replenishment must be sound enough to give us that accuracy. This includes clear policies stating that goal and communication of those policies, processes that allow us to reach that goal, people who have the skills to effectively carry out those procedures, AND management and supervisory emphasis on the importance of meeting the goal. ALL of these activities involve internal controls.
Another way to look at it is this: the best intentions of management and the most skilled staff cannot produce quality if the processes used are ineffective and inefficient.
A fundamental tenet of management is this: If a recent, concerted effort to ensure desired quality has not been implemented, then quality can be improved. Bottom line: In most places, quality can be improved.
Quality will only improve through a thorough assessment of policies and procedures, (internal controls) done often, but at a minimum once a year.