While communication is not the sole responsibility of the quality department, it certainly plays a large role in the management and execution of an effective quality system. Even for the most organized and well documented quality system, successful communication is a must. Although I have discussed effective communication in the past, I want to focus on written communication. In the day and age of texting and social media, it seems as though with all of means for personal interface that we would become better at communication. However, I have noticed when it comes to thorough and precise written communication, it now seems to be a coveted skill rather than an inherent capability.
As part of an accredited analytical laboratory, I have come to expect personnel to have finely tuned writing abilities. While we are lucky at Gateway Analytical to have many people within our organization that have strong communication skills, this is not always the case with those we must interact with on a daily basis. Issues run the gamut from simple mistakes that should have been caught during a brief review of one’s work to a lack of finesse in communicating essential information.
So what is the role of quality assurance in implementing effective written communication? While I do not see my role in this instance as “police”, I do see it as one where I must lead by good example. My days are filled with written communications – corrective action reports, deviations, change controls, project reviews, etc. It really is quite amazing how large of a role written communication plays within quality assurance at our laboratory. So it goes without saying that if I do not implement effective communication skills for myself, I am not practicing what I preach.
I have found that when it comes to writing stuff down, we tend to stick to things that are formally documented, as compared to items that are simply discussed. Even when it comes to emails, I try to make a point of following up with questions that force further communication – why is this so important, how can we prevent this from reoccurring, what made this project so successful? It is one thing to write down a brief summary, but it is another thing to clearly communicate important aspects of a topic without people having to press you for more details. After all, we are being guided by the thought you must do what you say and say what you do with all things that are quality related.
There have been many instances of me thinking “I know I sent out an email about this” or “I know I documented that”. It’s in these moments that I allow opportunities for myself to return to the source of the communication in order to determine if it was both effective and efficient. While I view my role in quality assurance as one that demands excellent communication, I also understand that everything is a learning process and the best way to learn is fully understand mistakes. As we identify various communication issues within a given quality system we should allow for opportunities to improve the skills of those internally to help begin a culture of effective communication. And while we continue to perfect our texting shorthand we should remember there is a time and place for everything, and professional settings always call for finely tuned writing and communication abilities.