Four rules to writing a knock-out argument
We all face times when putting forward a cogent argument is vital to getting our message across and persuading those around us to move in a particular direction. Below are some simple rules that might stand you in good stead when you are trying to engage your colleagues in a specific piece of work.
Put yourself in the shoes of the reader, what would motivate them to read on? The first few lines are often the most important – you might have a wonderful argument to make, but if you cannot engage someone’s attention pretty quickly, they will not continue to read. You may have lots of accurate data, but if it is not presented in a readable manner, your argument is lost before it’s begun. You need to think like a journalist rather than an academic! You may need to put the conclusion first. Explain why they should read the paper or email, then go on to explain the how, leaving all that wonderful data to sit at the end.
Keep your language clear and simple. This probably sounds obvious, but keeping the jargon at bay, and using the simple option instead of the flowery one, can make your message a lot easier to read. You are not trying to pass an English exam, rather put across a succinct argument.
Avoid using what is called “the passive voice”. This is when the object of the sentence becomes the subject. For example, an action such as “Our troops defeated the enemy” gets turned around to become “The enemy was defeated by our troops”. Passives tend to make the piece sound either wistful or lecturing, neither of which are very useful in this instance. The use of the passive also makes the writer seem outside of the action, offering advice from the sidelines, rather than being part of the solution.
Keep things short. Sharpen the message as much as possible, because if it is concise it is likely to be more interesting and involving. It can take time to refine your argument, and this may not always be practical, however, if the message is important enough it can be worth the effort.
Try to keep to these four rules and you should find that the response to your written word will be markedly more positive.
Based on an article in Quality World by Neil Mellor, March 2017, pp32-33
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Variation is normal - an ISO 9001 business management system needs to accommodate it
If we try to control every variable in a process, we could be trying to create something that no-one is going to be able to reproduce every single time. Perhaps a better approach would be to identify which variations are significant, and then establish means to manage these variations.
In other words, we should expect mistakes to happen. What we need to do is work out which mistakes are particularly important to the whole process, and put in place mechanisms to pick up on them and correct them when they happen.
Let's not sweat the small stuff, as they say! If tolerances are wide, why worry? If they are critical, focus on them, and make provision for the times when they are outside what is required.
Based on an article in Quality World, November 2016, p10
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What is an ‘agile’ QMS?
The NHS Blood and Transplant service has been facilitated to use an agile QMS concept to move them from their previous ‘waterfall’ approach. This former approach laid the process open to delivering results out of step with their stakeholder requirements. By the time the end results were delivered, the needs of those involved had often changed. The ‘agile’ development approach is based on “specifying and developing smaller chunks of requirements, so you have a better chance of delivering results rapidly and more efficiently.”*
Both internal and external stakeholders had to be involved in the research and development of this scaled agile framework concept. Because of the highly regulated environment required within this NHS service, it was not possible to find anyone else using this technique in quite the same way, against whom they could benchmark their work. Many elements of the existing QMS, such as user requirement specifications, change control and validation had to be redesigned to make sure that compliance could be maintained. The regulators, such as the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA) and the Human Tissue Authority (HTA) had to be kept on board. Regular meetings with them ensured that they were happy that safety was being maintained.
*Ian Bateman, Director of Quality NHS Blood and Transplant
Based on an article in Quality World, November 2016, p24