Many people do not understand the differences between quality and a quality system. Quality is a noun with the following meaning: “the standard of something when it is compared to other things like it; how good or bad something is” or “a high standard”.

A quality system is a set of policies and procedures to assure a certain quality standard. The system is related to the former meaning but someone usually makes the mistake of thinking about the latter one.

To have an implemented quality system is not a synonym of “high standard” in a company, because we can require mediocre standards. Quality professionals use another word to avoid this confusing aspect: excellence.

For instance, this blog has been baptized with the second meaning, as explain its subtitle. I must recognize that it can be confusing but the word quality transmits the meaning of procedural way of making things and excellence does not.

To clarify this confusing aspect is very important because, a quality professional is not the same that an excellent professional, in the same way that a quality professional is very different to a researcher.

A quality system is very important to produce excellent research, because we cannot manage a very complex process like research, with a lot of people involved, without policies and procedures because these ones reduce uncertainty, and then, complexity (if they are correctly defined).

A degree of complexity is defined by procedures, because these procedures define issues as approval chains. A bad quality system could increase complexity instead of decreasing it, although it were according to an ISO standard.

We must remember that a professional of quality is not a professional of research or an innovation manager, in the same way that a professional of quality is not an economic controller.

The innovation managing function is more related to the function of an economic controller than the function of a quality auditor because its main task is to manage the budget of the project portfolio and its relations with the overall performance of the company, although an innovation manager defines the policies of the research activity as other managers define their own ones. A research project manager is responsible of the quality, costs and timings of the project as any other project manager. The differences are based on the technical competences that he needs, and other issues related to the higher uncertainty and complexity of the projects.

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