The paper reflects one agency's experience in preparing to seek accreditation under a recognised Quality Standard scheme, BS 5750. The scheme was originally devised for use in manufacturing organisations, but is now becoming sought by service organisations. Considerable controversy surrounds such schemes. They are designed to tighten up procedures, by documenting key stages in the survey process and ensuring that crucial documents such as proposals and questionnaires are adequately checked and formally 'signed off. This is embedded in a company-wide System which monitors all aspects of its operations, from control of suppliers to training and career development, and taking corrective action when problems are identified. The System is constantly reviewed and updated as required. However, there is a considerable body of scepticism about such schemes. It is alleged that they can lead to management by form-filling, to bureaucratic gridlock. Worse, that despite the "Quality" label, they have no impact on the quality of the research conducted. Finally, that they are inordinately expensive both to install and to run. The paper examines these arguments in the light of the agency's experience. It makes the point that clear objectives are needed in order to get the best out of the system, and outlines how the company is setting out to meet each objective.
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