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Where no Blog has gone Before: Star Trek’s Quality Management System, Part 2

Tim Lozier
by Tim Lozier on Thu, Apr 11, 2013

startrek2In our last episode, we looked at how the crew of the USS Enterprise and the Star Trek franchise might have employed Quality Management Systems. to help streamline their processes, mitigate risks, and foster continuous improvement throughout the galaxy.  It’s only logical that you read Part 1 to get the full picture up till now.

Now, we will continue our “trek” and look at some of the aspects of the Star Trek world.

As illustrated in Part 1, Star Trek has been a core part of the fabric of pop culture, and many have picked apart the various elements of Starfleet to see how reality can be mixed with science fiction.  But one thing they didn’t cover (at least in much detail), is how the crew of the Enterprise managed to keep a Quality Management System in their exploration of the universe.   Here is a Webinar on Quality Management System  We continue this journey by looking at some of the other areas that might have been covered within the Star Trek QMS:

Employee Training:  Starfleet academy is said to be the finest academy in the system, and all recruits come out of it with a wealth of knowledge.  No matter what the problem, there always seems to be a crewmember that not only knows how to fix it, but has an endless capacity to create a mundane analogy to explain a complicated process:

“We have to reverse the polarity of the tachyon pulse to divert the energy back into the enemy’s tractor beam, causing a feedback loop that will break the link between the two ships… putting too much air in a balloon.”

(ah, NOW I get it!)

Training in your organization may be a bit more involved.  Employees don’t just get immediate knowledge of the processes and operations right on their first day in.  Quality Management Systems are ever-evolving and changing, and as new processes and SOPs are introduced, the employees will need to be trained.  The important thing is to track this training and link it to these new procedures, so that when new revisions are introduced, employees will automatically be notified of the training, and they can immediately be knowledgeable.  A knowledgeable and trained employee reduces the risk or potential adverse events in the future.

Risk Management:  While not overtly expressed, the crew of the USS Enterprise conducts Risk Assessment all the time.  Any time they encounter a situation, whether a Klingon warbird off the port bow or an impending supernova destined to threaten an entire civilization, they weigh the risks before taking action.  Sometimes risks are life threatening, like the Kobayashi Mahru (look it up), or they are a path to success, but no matter what the event, risks are assessed.  I would have loved to see Mr. Spock throw up his 5-scale Risk Matrix during an episode, but again – not great television.

The concept of Risk Management in Quality Management Systems is a growing trend, and one that is taking off in many standards.  Risk in itself is a great decision making tool, and many organizations are implementing risk to quantify the systemic challenges facing their business.  Risk provides an objective and repeatable method of taking adverse events and plugging them into a formula that will help to display potential outcomes.  This has enabled companies to streamline their corrective action process, improve Quality in Design, process and foster better and more “logical” decisions.

Reporting:  The crew in Star Trek is always reporting.  “Status report, Mr. Sulu” is forever engrained upon my memory, and it never occurred to me (until now) how much these folks were reporting to each other.  Watch the shows and you’ll see – everyone is reporting.  With a ship as big as the Enterprise, Captain Kirk (or Picard or the other guy…Scott Bacula’s character), cannot possibly walk to each area and get involved in every little thing going on.  It was up to his officers to report on their respective positions and give the Captain the data he needs to run the ship (Did Mr. Data report the data, or was Data his own data?  I’ve confused myself).


With all the data within the Quality Management System, it is critical to have a reporting system that provides a way to make sense of all the information within the Quality System.  Enterprise Reporting provides a central location that provides visibility into trends and opportunities for improvement.  Reporting needs to be able to not only look at tactical data, but also strategic data.  Having a system with reporting tools built in provides users with the ability to make decisions on immediate needs, and also weigh long-term risks and take preventive action on potential future adverse events.

There you have it.  I could go on and on with this, but I would be violating the Prime Directive (again, look it up).  While not expressly mentioned in any of the Star Trek franchises, I firmly believe that the space explorers of the 23rd and 24th century had to have had a Quality Management System in place, in order to maintain peace and tranquility in an unforgiving and cruel universe.

While not as lofty as the universe, a Quality Management System can provide your organization with the tools necessary to continue to improve operations, manufacture high quality products and boldly go where no company has gone before.

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Tim Lozier
Written by Tim Lozier
Tim is the Manager for Marketing and Strategy at EtQ, Inc.
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