Monday, May 5, 2014

Total Quality Leadership (TQL) and Risk Assessment

More than a few years ago the Total Quality Leadership or TQL process was all the rage in management circles.  I was working for a large chemical company and we decided to apply it to Human Health Risk Assessment.   

If you of a certain age, you may remember that most large companies got onboard with TQL and TQM (Total Quality Management) relative to its application to their manufacturing and sales processes; however, we saw lots of parallels to what we were doing in Risk Assessment .    Indeed, it would appear that any situation involving a service to a client could benefit from the principles of this management technique.

For those of you not familiar with TQL it is defined as the outline or explication of a process that embodies the touchstones of operational efficiency and customer satisfaction.   Its primary elements include client identification along with enhanced and explicit client interaction and communication, measurement of client satisfaction, and a drive for constant improvement.

In order to do this for the company I worked for at the time, we organized a team that met every few weeks for about a year to discuss, define and elucidate the elements and boundaries of the Risk Assessment Process. 

You think you know what you are doing but it is really surprising how much you can learn about your “business” by going through this type of process.    In really picking what we do apart we came up with a graphic entitled:  Top-down flowchart of the RA Process which is reproduced below.   Some of the revelations, for me, on all this:
  •  As Exposure/Risk Assessors we have clients and we have charges.   The client is the person or persons paying us for our service and the charges are the folks on the receiving end of the exposures and risks that we estimate.   Of course, we have a considerable level of responsibility to each.
  •  A critical step in any risk assessment is the decision to actually do a risk assessment and that decision typically belongs to the client.
  • The risk assessor does own the decision as to whether enough resources are available to do what is being asked.  If not, he or she has the right and responsibility to kick the proposition outside the boundaries of  the RA Process and give it back to the client for his or her decision to provide those resources or not.
Of course, a lot more detail than this came out of this effort and it is all summed up in a paper we published in 1997.   I would be happy to provide a PDF copy of that paper to anyone requesting it from my at

I will leave you with some summary statements from this work:

The client or customer-based orientation of the above TQL process was found to provide a vital and beneficial mix with the scientific and investigative elements of risk assessment.  Particularly valuable is the elucidation and negotiation of the contract elements between assessor and client early in the process.  This explicit discussion allows the assessor and the client to set appropriate and explicit expectations for the partnership.  Also, the iterative checking with clients relative to the match of the work product with their needs lowers  the incidence of surprises and the occurrence of relatively long and costly periods of unproductive work.   The authors believe that this scheme for RA management could act as a general guide for many, if not most, consultant/client interactions in this discipline whether they are external or internal to a corporation.

1 comment:

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