Thursday, March 17, 2016

What the future holds for Professional Societies and other humanistic organizations in general


I want to congratulate ASQ Chief Operating Officer Shontra Powell for (finally!) a thought provoking discussion topic on the ASQ blog “A View from the Q.”  This blog has steadily regressed since its initial role as a personal voice of the ASQ Chief Executive.  There have been a number of factors that have caused this regression.  I hope the blog is re-energized by Ms. Powell’s interest in speaking directly to the members using this forum.

I find the future of professional societies and organizations a more interesting topic than the one currently being readied for the discussion roundtable.  I am fortunate that currently serving as an ASQ section chair we have re-energized the quality base locally.  Through small efforts we have taken an organization of 100 members 18 months ago to one that has over 130 members.  What have we done?  Spruced up the website, have less frequent but more meaningful section meetings, and involved the largest local business as part of running the section.   We have added much more creativity to our leadership group and made running the section fun.   I like to think we are responding to a changing world where members do not want their chosen professional society to be a burden to their life.

 Ms. Powell discusses in her blog her view of what that less burden would look like.  It is extremely interesting as it focuses more on social media and less on face to face interaction.  I would argue that there needs to be a balance with both.  As human beings we are naturally a social creature.  Yes, in the past 10 years we have seen a plethora of new social avenues being made available to us.  Yet, I see these avenues become less and less “social” in that these avenues are often more for self-advertisement rather than actual discourse and sharing of knowledge.  Yes, as human beings we need a little ego stroking to maintain self-worth.  But there is a point where it becomes mere annoyance.  At that point these social media platforms actually drive people away rather than enhance social interaction.

There is still that need to connect to people on a personal level.  Yes, I agree that conferences and large gatherings are becoming more burdensome and cost prohibitive as they become larger and long distance travel becomes more a personal affront. But these gatherings are still important for our well-being.  We NEED that social interaction and with that interaction there is a derived benefit that cannot be captured by a financial return on investment.  Sometimes we do it because it is the right thing to do.  We need that rush on meeting that subject matter expert that stirs that inner sense of accomplishment.

Which, I believe, Ms. Powell’s vision actually drives the opposite expected behavior.  Our quality “stars” are becoming fewer and far between.  There really is no platform to grow the next dimension of quality.  The new ASQ structure is insulating the executive leadership from this discourse rather than encouraging it.  Where is that upcoming opportunity for the next generation quality superstar to share their light and draw the new converts to quality?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

You are not selling Quality to the C-suite. You are selling short-term relief.


Dr. Gettala’s ASQ Influential Voices post this month provides a well-worn message around the business of selling your message to leadership. Although the message is important I think we need to remember that Quality is not a methodology that offers “gentle relief for the common business cold.”

Quality is a set of principles.  If you ask any senior manager they would say that quality exists in their organization.   They believe (ok, there are outliers like Enron and VW Group) that their organization conforms to specified requirements and that their organization must improve and change to survive.  The message we are really telling senior managers related to quality is that, “In our opinion, their actions and behaviors are not supporting the cultural climate and needs of the organization.  Their message is being garbled and we need it clarified.”

More to Dr. Gettala’s point is the fact that when a quality practitioner sees a short term opportunity for improvement that will benefit the organization use the tips espoused by him. 

There is no prescriptive way to change corporate behavior from below.  The only way to effect significant corporate behavioral change is from internally at the C-suite level or external pressures placed on the organization by customers or regulatory requirements.  As quality practitioners, we do have ways to influence this behavior. 

One way is to get involved in corporate leadership training.  I have mentioned in the past that ASQ is way behind in this cause.  Leadership training as it relates to quality is not a path ASQ chooses to pursue.  I have commented in previous blog posts that they should.  This past Monday I had an opportunity to effect change in my organization by participating in a curriculum summit addressing leadership development in the shipyard.  Yes, I will probably retire before I see the next generation of shipyard leaders mature but I know that I have done the most to impact change at the senior level today. 

What is needed from our senior quality practitioners is rather than solely focusing on selling their expertise to the C-suite for short-term gain, why are they not focusing on changing the behaviors of the future quality leaders?  Why are they not asking to impact corporate culture by offering support for changing the behaviors of future organizational leaders such that they appreciate that leaders provide the resources and the environment by which quality exists today.
For all those in North America I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving season.  Be safe, appreciate your family with love, and continue to practice the quality principles our profession espouses.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Dissecting ASQ’s Mission

In July 2014 I wrote a blog post asking the new ASQ CEO Bill Tony to clarify ASQ’s vision because it was pretty murky as to where ASQ is heading.  This month, incoming ASQ Chair Pat La Londe talks about the ways ASQ is moving forward in executing its mission.  I also found enlightening Dan Zrymiak’s critique of Pat’s blog post. 
Maybe it’s me, but I have a different take of Mission, Vision, and Values.  I was taught that an organization’s vision is what they strive to be and the mission is the how the organization executes the vision.  The values are the things that an organization will not compromise in its path on executing the mission.   Vision is aspirational, Mission is clarity, and Values are the bedrock from which to move. 
ASQ’s Mission:  To increase the use and impact of quality in response to the diverse needs of the world.
Sounds more like a vision statement to me. It’s funny, but on the same web page that contains the ASQ Mission and Vision statement I found a more executable and clarifying Mission Statement: "… provide local access to the quality community, career development, credentials, knowledge, and information services related to quality" (italicized words are my addition).   Although this statement was attributed to the ASQ Global offices, I would think that the ASQ Leadership would be extremely happy if this were done by all member units of the society. 
Let’s go a little deeper in what Pat is presenting. 
·         ASQ is aligned and united to grow and advance the Global Quality Community.  Unfortunately, that is not true. As much as ASQ HQ want this to be true, the devil is in the details and ASQ HQ has to go a LONG way before the field is in sync with HQ.  I commented about this relationship in my March 2015 post.  Sometime bureaucracy gets in the way of collaboration and ASQ HQ and ASQ Global needs to find a happy medium to get in sync.
·         ASQ is committed to and investing in member value, this year and beyond.  This is long overdue. The great challenge is that ASQ does not have a rising revenue stream that creates the ability to provide member value through technology.   HQ does not have web page designers or website experts that allow the development of a member-friendly web presence so the society gets what it gets.  HQ personnel are interested in expanding the use of technology; the dollars just aren’t there to do everything the society needs.
·          ASQ in 2015 has its challenges, yet is responding, evolving and adapting, to ensure our members’ and customers’ success in a rapidly changing, competitive, global environment. Again, my opinion, but I think this is code for “US membership is declining dramatically; international membership needs to increase significantly if the society is going to survive in the future.”
 
Unfortunately, what is not addressed is how we are going to win the hearts and minds of leaders to accept quality as a VALUE rather than a governance characteristic.  There is no strategy to address the Quality Body of Knowledge as standard curriculum in MBA or other academic leadership programs.  To their credit, ASQ is initiating a “Young Leaders” program to develop future corporate leader. I see that more as a flight of fancy rather than something that will be truly lasting.   
 
There is a lot of work to be done.  Unfortunately, the society still does not have a clear, actionable mission statement that can be easily translated and accepted by member units her in the US and globally.  So, if you were new to ASQ, what would you think of the Society’s mission statement?  Would you partner with us?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Applying Quality Concepts at Home – Remember the human consequences

Given the nature of the June 2015 ASQ Influential Voices blog, I congratulate Sunil Kaushik on his journey through the quality profession.  Sunil has done a masterful job at including his wife in his journey. I have found that applying the things you do at work can be difficult to implement in your personal life.  The personal applications of quality have been most successful when they have been tailored to the participants –sounds just like at work! 

While I was teaching Lean Six Sigma for the Navy I had a good number of students come to me and say what great ideas they had for improvement opportunities at home to use these skills.  When I checked back with them I heard more failures than successes (wife banned me from the kitchen forever, kids can’t keep the garage straight, other people just won’t cooperate, etc.).  What we fail to realize is that how we organize and live our personal lives are often in stark contrast to what we feel SHOULD be happening.  We cannot impose our will on someone else unless the other person is involved in the change.

In my experience kitchen kaizen events using 5S are probably the most reported failures.  For example, recently I visited a friend of mine at her house.  As a courtesy she offered me a cup of coffee.  The one-cup coffee machine was sitting on her counter near her sink.  The cups that she used were in a cabinet on the wall opposite from where the coffee maker sat.  Knowing that my friend was a fastidious person and a proponent of improvement I asked why were the cups not in the cabinet directly above the coffee maker?  She answered that across the kitchen was the best place for them and I don’t have space for them in the cabinet above the coffee maker.   Pressing my luck, I inquired about reorganizing that cabinet.  She pointedly responded that the best place for the current dishes were in this cabinet and nowhere else.  I immediately broke off the engagement having learned a long time ago that hell hath no fury like a cook in their kitchen—and I was thirsty. 

I have read of multiple successes of applying quality concepts to personal health.  The first case study that I came in contact with was one presented in Improving Performance through Statistical Thinking. In chapter 6, Tom Pohlen discussed how he used statistical concepts to manage his wife’s diabetes.  Another example is presented in the book A Sample Size of One, the story of how a quality practitioner, bringing the full spectrum of quality concepts to bear, manages her autistic son’s medical care and quality of life.   

I recently downsized my living space from a four-person, 2500+ square foot property to a one-person, 1700 square foot property.  The end result of this change was extra furniture, boxes, and stuff collected over a thirty year period that needed to be stored temporarily while it was sorted, distributed, and disposed of.  Of course, I was paying the storage rental so there was a point in time where this was starting to get costly.  We just disposed of the rental unit after an organized distribution plan, meeting deadlines for individuals to sort and classify and find a party to dispose of what wasn’t needed. Yes, this was a kaizen that turned out to be a WIN-WIN proposition with fond memories and NO hurt feelings.   The unwanted things were given to someone to sell.  My kids identified things that they wanted to store and we found places for them.  I was able to re-purpose the storage fees to something more immediate, like my son’s orthodonture.   No specific quality principles were communicated; just expectations and dates. 
Moral of the story:  We apply quality concepts all the time in our daily lives; we just don’t call them such.  Any time we impose things in the name of quality things are going to backfire.  If we translate the concepts to the current language of life we are much more likely to see a successful application of the quality principles.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Future of Quality: What I want the future to contain


Last week I wrote a blog post describing my observations about the ASQ 2015 Future of Quality report.  I was a little disappointed with the Quality Leaders portion of the report so I thought I would submit my desires what ASQ and the QBoK need to consider for the future.
 
My graduate degree is in Operations Research.  It is a degree that is a precursor to all these “Big Data” degrees that schools think are trendy right now.  One of the major downsides to having this type of degree is that it is heavily technology dependent, meaning it requires advanced computational capabilities to be successful.  Fortunately, the past forty years has closed the technology gap dramatically (how I miss IBM punch cards, NOT!) where we can now design, test and execute some pretty robust mathematical models in the space of a couple of hours with a simple spreadsheet.  
 
One of my favorite texts was written as a one day course on industrial operations that expanded into a Masters degree program at Northwestern.  IMO, Factory Physics, has become THE source for the mathematical models behind basics processes. It is the best text to explain Little’s Law, a basic tenet of industrial engineering, the lean concept of flow, and Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints.   Don Wheeler’s The Process Evaluation Handbook is not far behind though his is more of the “pure quality” approach.  This is surprising that as much as ASQ is hyping STEM and engineers as quality practitioners, they don’t advertise these books as part of the ASQ bookstore nor do they test a lot of the text’s concepts. 
 
I consider this a MAJOR shortfall in the QBoK.  In the study of processes the QBoK is limited to the qualitative analysis of processes.  They are more concerned about drawing process pictures and less about understanding why a process performs the way it does MATHEMATICALLY.  Once we study in this manner, it is easier to identify impacts on process, model them, and then experiment by changing them.  ASQ certifications test our knowledge of simple math models and designs of experiments but they do not teach how to study the process of successfully setting up the models in the first place!
 
Understanding how processes behave is one thing but an area that the quality community have barely scratched the surface is to understand human behavior and its impact on processes and systems.  Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline opened my eyes about human behavior in the work environment.  I understood how Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs model fit into the work environment and a good number of things that I was taught about leadership while an Army officer totally failed when applied outside that environment.
 
 Which leads me to my last QBoK “hole” – Leadership.  Bill Troy started the conversation in his December 2014 blog post and the theme that the Quality Practitioner was also a leader.   Reading the blog responses lead me to believe that there is no true definition of leadership.  I see this daily in people who have had little or no knowledge of what is needed at the next level of an organization are thrust into leadership positions who are little prepared and struggle mightily.  Most eventually settle in to a comfort zone that keeps them employed but are they really executing in the way the organization needs them to execute?   What are we as a professional society doing to prepare people that understanding process and understanding people are the building blocks for leadership success?
 
 The ASQ leadership academy, announced at the 2015 WCQI Business meeting, is a band aid that helps too few people.  I find these programs, especially executed in academia, create elitist types of behaviors rather than those necessary to be successful in a working environment. We need to offer knowledge broadly so that it impacts a large number of individuals. 
My future quality world contains a broader acceptance by quality practitioners of the mathematical underpinnings of processes, better cognizance and appreciation of human behavior, and a more concrete definition of what leadership really is.  Probably be a good surrogate to a liberal arts education, but that is topic for another time…

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Future of Quality is not coming from inside the community


This month’s ASQ Influential Voice topic addresses the Future of Quality. I know that the title is sounds pretty damning, especially from one who describes himself as a quality professional.   Below are my observations that led me to that title.

First the quality community is shrinking from a strictly numbers perspective.  ASQ membership has seen a significant decline from a high of over 100,000 members at the beginning of the century to just over 75,000 members today (as reported in the last ASQ General Business meeting in Nashville).  The decline is significantly greater in the United States whereas outside the US and Canada has seen significant membership growth.  This is both good (outside the US sees value in ASQ) and bad (declining resource base to help spread the word of quality).  

Membership in organizations decline when the intrinsic value of being a member no longer serves the cost of the membership.  For example, Costco recently announced the ending of a significant financial relationship with American Express.  Costco is a retail warehouse organization who uses a membership model to bring in business.  You can only pay for your merchandise with cash, debit card, or American Express (AMEX).  My membership is tied to the American Express card.  I am buying less from Costco these days so with the planned changeover from AMEX next year, a Costco membership is not as valued as it once was to me.  Although Costco has not changed their membership prices in two years, as a consumer I see the value of a Costco membership declining for me which will drive me to a change.

My own membership in ASQ comes due in June.  Every year I compare the value of the price of being a Senior member (dues went up a little bit) to the value I receive from the membership.  Fortunately, I see significant value, more in the contacts and networking, and less in the certifications, ASQ Press discounts, etc.  The value proposition is a personal issue with each member based on their circumstance.  The value proposition also changes as a person progresses in their career.  If a person sees membership as simply a cost equation, ASQ will lose every time.

Recently, ASQ recently released the 2015 Future of Quality report.  I found it more informative than previous versions as it did not solely address itself to Quality. As a matter of fact, I found the vignettes provided by the non-quality related authors more interesting and robust that the three that spoke to quality directly.  From my perspective, I attribute this to these authors maybe being too close to the quality field and not changing their perspective enough to address where quality can go. 

I see the future of quality from two perspectives.  Quality will improve with the continued application of the Quality Body of Knowledge (QBoK) to new applications that we can only dream about. I, like most others, did not get into quality as their prime interest when they started their career.  Their career journey led them here. Ergo, the next great quality innovation will come from folks outside the quality field.

Which means that to continue the quality movement we must show that ASQ membership continues to provide value, ASQ provide resources that are novel such that are seen as valuable to member leaders and the membership, and ASQ has to prove relevant to the new future world.  To me, failing to address these issues is THE shortcoming that ASQ continues to face and to focus on increasing global membership will only stave off the inevitable decline of the society.   But then again, who would have predicted that the PDA would morph into the iPad?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Confessions of a Conference Booth Volunteer

It’s Tuesday morning, the start of another full day at #WCQI2015.  Sitting in the booth typing out another blog entry to give you a sense of what it is like to be a conference volunteer. 
Conference volunteers are the glue to make a successful conference.  Onsite volunteers come in all shapes of sizes who work at directing people to venues, introducing speakers at breakout sessions and manning booths in the exhibition hall.  Volunteers are compensated with reduced conference and travel fees. Besides these folks, there are a number of members who volunteer their time to review speaker submissions, take care of the numerous preparation details in the running of a large conference that attracts about 3000+ participants.



Volunteering for both duties as a lot of networking advantages. Besides seeing old friends as they walk past, you can get into some interesting conversations. For example, I met Loran Cox, the Director of Quality for Ping Golf. He picked my brain about his desire to speak at #WCQI2016 on his company’s use of SharePoint as a platform for selecting and managing improvement activities. I met the Country Councilor from Colombia, Cesar Arturo Camargo Viloria, a volunteer who acts as the ASQ focal point there. We talked about his desire to expand Six Sigma and Continuous Improvement in his country and my recent experience in Costa Rica. Central America, in my opinion, is the next growth area for Six Sigma.
 
And then there is Chuck Underwood.

I met Chuck two years ago at #WCQI2013 in Indianapolis.  He is the prime mover for the Team and Workplace Excellence Forum.  Our booths are usually side by side so it is always good to reconnect in person rather than vicariously through LinkedIn.  I also got to walk the floor a little bit and took some pictures before the crowds come in for the day.


But there are times were things can get a bit exciting. This morning the Six Sigma forum sponsored Bev Daniel’s presentation.  As part of the presentation, Bev promised to deliver a flash drive with statistical tools and her presentation when she got to our booth.  Needless to say, the crowd got to the booth before Bev so crowd control is sometimes an important element of booth duty.  Needless to say, things got into control once Bev arrived.


Overall, the conference was a win for everyone.  Lots of new contacts made, old friends found, and new energy for quality.  Time to catch that plane home! and think of #WCQI2016 in Milwaukee.