Whistle Blower Blowback in Africa

by Adelina

Briefly sharing my personal story about leadership in Quality.

I worked 5 years as a laboratory coordinator at a gold mine.
The laboratory personnel, in my opinion, was ignorant to work procedures. For 20 or more years the work skills were passed from person to person with fainting reasoning and understanding. The were employees with 20 years who were performing chemical analyses without being trained in the first place. So, obviously, training was necessary. The resistance to change, to learn, was tremendous from the "experienced" personnel.
The interest from top management to my suggestions for training was zero.

I invited an external auditor to identify the training needs among the other good suggestions for improvement in the laboratory Training needs were proved and training was finally conducted.
Training was completed in 3 days and there was time for implementation of the suggested changes. Changes were not big, they were mainly in the records and small changes in the standard operations.
After the trainer was gone the personnel decided to go back to "our way". I had to persist on the implementation of the auditor's advises.
A person from the Union who worked many years in the lab attacked me, broke my cellphone on the floor while I was recording his aggressive behavior with the intention to support my disciplinary complaint.
He was suspended, but I was suspended too.
His disciplinary hearing was scheduled 3 months after the attack. The verdict was dismissal.
I was advised by the HR not to go to work.
In a month time, I was called for his rehearing (the previous one was canceled)., on which the person who attacked me was reinstated.
Shortly after that, I was called by HR for my hearing alleged offense - racist behavior (being away from work for about 5 months). I resigned.

For many years I was a supporter and whistle blower for quality and I still am. Back in my country Bulgaria I saw the growth of a company which started with the ISO 9001 certification under my leadership

I am asking myself and now you - the quality experts: Was it my leadership (or other) fault that my ambition for quality ended in leaving the company?
Is quality for everyone?

I have seen many inspirational videos about quality and I have been at many ISO courses. On paper, on screen, in class, everything is logical and convincing, but the examples are from Europe, Americas, Australia. In Bulgaria, I successfully certified the company. In Africa, the system threw me out.

Now what should I teach the students? What should I think? Do not try quality in Africa?

If you have read this so far, please, tell me what to think.


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Top Management involvement in Quality
by: Adelina

Thank you, Robert for your comment!

The first requirement for implementing quality standards (or changes) is top management involvement, which I never had.
Many times in conversations with my supervisor I said: If I do not improve this and that what am I here for?
The company pays my salary to improve effectiveness and to save costs - exactly what the quality system provides.
... and all the time these conversations lead nowhere. I followed my believe in quality and ignored the management support.

From the distance of the time I am trying to summarize what are one's options in such situation:
1.To wait for the top management to wake up
2.To resign without trying
3.To start quality changes anyway (please, do not decide that I did not seek and find support from my subordinates. The educational part was about a year long, the Yong people were exited from the possibility to be able to do something different, unlike the "experienced", who wanted to repeat the same work and no new skills.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, I still think: If I know something is good, and I know how to do it, I shall do it.

Thank you again for your input!!

Management Involvement
by: Robert

I am sorry to hear about the situation. Hopefully everything has gone much smoother since the incident.

I can advise on one thing. You need to involve management. You state initially that Management Interest in training was zero. If you know this, it will be very difficult to getting management to change. By inviting an auditor and the auditor recommended training, you are fighting an upward battle. Usually a battle you will lose unless management is involved.

One way to fight the battle, is to ask for management's help, their suggestions to improve. Provide the problems to them and let them come up with the solutions. Even though you know the answer! You have to get them to buy in. When they fell involved, changes happen much quicker.

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