On the professional authority of quality engineers and the gaps in their epistemic and organisational authority
The authority of quality engineers as a profession is a contested issue that relates both to the occupation’s internal regulation and to the professional status of quality engineers within the organisations for which they work. In this article, we examine the professional authority of quality engineers from both these perspectives. The issue is addressed first through a conceptual framework, followed by a presentation of an empirical study in which seven experienced quality professionals were interviewed and completed questionnaires. We focus on the situation in Israel as a case study, but our insights are relevant to quality engineers throughout the world. We demonstrate limitations with regard to both (1) the epistemic authority (expertise) of quality engineers vis-à-vis their status as a professional association, and (2) the organisational authority of quality engineers vis-à-vis their organisational role as quality managers. These limitations can be attributed to the occupation’s status as a semi-profession; the level of expertise required is not fixed or uniform; the authority of a quality engineer varies from one organisational structure to another. In addition, individual quality engineers are accorded different levels of influence, usually at the discretion of their employing organisations. For these reasons, the expertise of quality engineers as a professional group remains an open issue.