What is Quality Policy?

Quality Infrastructure has grown over the decades and its setup differs from country to country. In Germany, the development started in 1887 with the foundation of the German National Metrology Institute (NMI), which today is the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) [1]. The German Institute for Standardization (DIN) was founded in 1917 [2] and in 2010 Germany overcame the fragmentation of its accreditation system with the establishment of the one and only German Accreditation Body (DAkkS).[3] In other countries, the Quality Infrastructure has a shorter history. However, also there, the fundamental institutions of the Quality Infrastructure were often established at different times.

Therefore, it is not surprising that the Quality Infrastructure has often unclear delimitations of competences and suffers from some level of inconsistency. Given that, there is a need to systematically examine, develop and maintain an overarching framework of the National Quality Infrastructure (NQI). We call such an effort National Quality Policy (NQP) or simply Quality Policy (QP).

There is a difference to “quality policy” at the company level, as used as element in quality management systems. There, the ISO 9001:2015 standard defines “quality policy” as a document developed by the management to express the instructions of the top management concerning quality. In this blog, however, by Quality Policy (in capital letters) we refer to a public policy at the national level.

A precursor of the National Quality Policy is the SQAM (Standards, Quality Assurance, Accreditation and Metrology) Review of 2001 in South Africa. On behalf of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), a team of consultants analysed the national Quality Infrastructure system. This analysis included the assessment of international best practices and the proposal of a Quality Infrastructure model for South Africa. The DTI incorporated many of those recommendations in the 2008 reform. As a result, in 2006 the National Accreditation Service (SANAS) [4] and in 2008 the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) [5] were established or outsourced from the National Standards Bureau (SABS).

In 2011, the international expert South African, Martin Kellermann, published his Thoughts on a National Quality Policy in a PTB working paper. He wrote “…. governments need to develop the appropriate policy framework in order to re-engineer the quality infrastructure and the technical regulation regimes and to determine the proper division of the responsibilities, i.e. a division of work. Many names know such a policy framework, but for this publication, the name National Quality Policy is utilized.” [6]

The paper contains a simple scheme of how to review a current situation and to design the future National Quality Infrastructure:

Source: Kellermann 2011

In the following years, consultants and representatives of Quality Infrastructure continued to develop the concept and methodology of a Quality Policy globally. The International Network on Quality Infrastructure (INetQI) and the United National Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) consolidated this experience in 2018 in a three-volume publication:

  1. Guiding Principles describe the context and define the meaning of Quality Policy. The authors present the key principles (ownership, inclusiveness, coherence, optimization and sustainability) and point out the importance of NQPs for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). [7]
  2. Technical Guide assists government officials and private sector counterparts in developing a QP in a way that stimulates national, regional and international trade. It is directed at those who are involved in QP development, implementation and review. The document introduces elements and describes the structure of an NQP document. [8]
  3. Practical Guide describes policy formulation as a five-step process: (1) Do the Groundwork, (2) Conduct Strategic Planning, (3) Prepare Draft of QP and Build Consensus, (4) Advocacy, Lobbying and Approval, (5) Implement, Monitor and Review. The guide also contains case studies on National Quality Policies in Nigeria and Pakistan and Regional Quality Policy for the ECOWAS region. [9]

Furthermore, UNIDO has recently developed an online course on Quality Policy.

In 2016, we have started our own experience in facilitating the development of a National Quality Policy in Trinidad and Tobago [10]. The country is a high-income developing country with a GDP per capita of more than USD 15,500. It has the largest economy in the CARICOM group and is the third most populous country with around 1.3 million inhabitants.

Our client was the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), which is the lead ministry for Quality Infrastructure. The aim of the Quality Policy was to contribute to the diversification and opening of the national economy. The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) provided financial support.

NQP Document of Trinidad and Tobago

For the consultancy, we had assembled an international team of six experts. The experts covered the main areas of Quality Infrastructure such as metrology, standardisation, accreditation and conformity assessment. We also had an expert on technical regulations and an expert on food safety on board.

Two of the consultants were from Trinidad and Tobago, two from other CARICOM countries and two from Latin America and Europe.

The team worked closely with the responsible colleagues of the Trinidad and Tobago Bureau of Standards (TTBS). A steering committee with representatives of the government, the TTBS, business associations and universities accompanied the project in all phases. This steering committee was a forerunner of the later established National Quality Council.

In providing advice, the team drew on the methodology published by INetQI and UNIDO. We placed particular emphasis on the selection of strategic economic sectors (Agrifood, Manufacturing and Services) which ought to become the focus of the National Quality Infrastructure. We used participatory formats to ensure the ownership of the NQP by local stakeholders.

The success of a Quality Policy ultimately depends on its implementation. The leadership by the lead ministry MTI, the provision of financial resources in the national budget and the support of business and consumer associations are crucial in this respect. We learned that it is vital to keep these aspects in mind from the very beginning of the process. Nevertheless, it took more than a year for the government to adopt the National Quality Policy and another six months for the National Quality Council to be established.

The development of a National Quality Policy is a powerful tool to reorient (and sometimes restructure) the National Quality Infrastructure coherently and strategically. A Quality Policy benefits from being inspired by international experience and, at the same time, being perfectly adapted to the national reality. For us consultants, developing of a Quality Policy was enriching, as we could combine our individual technical expertise and help reshaping a country’s Quality Infrastructure in a holistic way.


[1] Huebener, R. and H. Lübbig (2010). Die Physikalisch-Technische Reichsanstalt: Ihre Bedeutung beim Aufbau der modernen Physik. Wiesbaden, Vieweg + Teubner Verlag. 

[2] History of DIN https://www.din.de/en/din-and-our-partners/din-e-v/history (Retrieved 20/04/2020)

[3] History and origins of DAkkS, https://www.dakks.de/en/content/history-and-origins-dakks (Retrieved 20/04/2020)

[4] South African National Accreditation System (SANAS), https://www.thedti.gov.za/agencies/sanas.jsp (Retrieved 20/04/2020)

[5] National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS), https://www.thedti.gov.za/agencies/nrcs.jsp  (Retrieved 20/04/2020)

[6] Kellermann, M. (2011). Thoughts on a National Quality Policy. Braunschweig/ Germany, Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt.

[7] UNIDO (2018). Quality Policy – Guiding Principles. Vienna/ Austria.

[8]  UNIDO (2018). Quality Policy – Technical Guide. Vienna/ Austria.

[9]  UNIDO (2018). Quality Policy – A Practical Tool. Vienna/ Austria.

[10]  Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and Ministry of Trade and Industry (2018). National Quality Policy for Trinidad and Tobago 2018 – 2030. Port of Spain.

This entry was posted in Quality Infrastructure, Quality Policy by Dr. Ulrich Harmes-Liedtke. Bookmark the permalink.

About Dr. Ulrich Harmes-Liedtke

Dr Ulrich Harmes-Liedtke is a global expert in the field of international economic development cooperation. With more than 25 years of consulting experience, he is active in all phases of a project and program development (preparation, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation) and collaborates with various implementing organizations and development banks (German Development Cooperation - GIZ and PTB -, Inter-American Development Bank, European Union and United Nations). He has consulting experience in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean. Dr.Harmes-Liedtke is an experienced trainer and process consultant. He works with groups and teams to reflect on their situation and to then formulate change projects to improve their reality. He enables dialogue, facilitates and designs workshops, processes, and sense-making processes. He is certified in facilitation, mediation, and communication techniques which allow him to deal with sensitive, diverse, and even conflict situations. He supports systemic economic development in various roles: • As an expert and trainer in international trade, national quality policies, industrial policy, clusters, and global value chains • As a process consultant in designing and leading diagnostic processes that result in change, adaptation, and improvement • As a facilitator of dialogue, workshops, training, and sense-making processes • As a transdisciplinary researcher in the field of systemic economic development Born 1965, Ph.D. in political science and economics (Bremen 1999), MA in economics (Diplom-Volkswirt) (Hamburg 1991). German nationality.

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