Tuesday, May 22, 2012

More about Quality in Government from the ASQ Government Division

Yesterday I received the ASQ Government Division's spring newsletter by mail.  Two excellent articles on why quality success in government cannot be fast.  John Baranzelli stresses systems thinking in his article entitled, "The Wal-Mart Lesson: Why Transformation in Government Takes Time."  Denzil Verardo follows with the same theme in his article entitled, "Taking the 'Long View' is Critical to Success in Government.  Finally, the Government Division chair-elect, Richard Mallory, takes Paul's tack in his article on "The Lost Legacy of Quality in Government" to describe common behaviors that government employees manifest. 

Unfortunately, the newsletter is membership controlled, meaning it is free to download if you are a member of the ASQ Government Division.  If you really want a copy of the newsletter, drop me an email and I will respond back.

Until next time!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Solving the Government / Quality Puzzle: Short-Term Solution

Paul Borawski challenged us to find an answer as to why the “government” has not embraced quality to whatever standard that they need to embrace it and other Influential Voices have complained about the failings of government agencies are directly related to quality engagement and that there needs to be a “raising the voice of quality” moment.  Paul, we do we need more voices but where do they come from?
We often forget there are already strong advocates to quality in government.  ASQ members Guy Gordon, Brian DeNiese, Ruth Henderson, and Gary Gehring have talked to me about their successes and their frustrations regarding their efforts to positively impact Canadian provincial government.   Bruce Waltuck, another ASQ Influential Voice, speaks eloquently on the understanding of how to deal with complex problems, the kind that governments often face, that traditionally quality tools do not address. The Honorable Graham Richard can talk to the successes that the applications of Lean have provided to Fort Wayne, Indiana during his term as that city’s mayor. There are other success stories in other countries, states, and municipalities.  These success stories may not make the evening news because we sometimes forget that monumental problems often overshadow the successes that can be found out there. 
The number one problem to success implementation of quality in government is the lack of consistent application of quality because leadership changes so often.  In a previous blog entry I detailed how all the good things that the previous Secretary of the Navy accomplished regarding the implementation of Lean and Six Sigma in the Navy has been almost undone with the current Secretary.   Leadership changes kill the majority of quality programs because no one thought past the current need or there is another more urgent one. 
So, how do we fix it?  ASQ Influential Voice Jennifer Stepniowski’s blog entry this month is the best short-term solution that I can come up with.  She supports the adage of think globally, act locally. So, how are you raising your voice of quality in your community?  Are you voting?  Do you understand the candidates’ positions?  Are you getting involved in solving local problems?  Are you satisfied when you local public education system thinks that locking down schools create a good learning environment? It is no longer enough as a quality professional to just point a finger at a problem; we have to participate in helping to find the solution.
The long term issue is culture.  Leaders must experience the value of quality.  Where do they get that opportunity?  Where is it taught to them and how is it practiced?  If you think about it, ASQ follows the religious model of converting leaders to quality.  So is ASQ doing all it can to convert leaders?  For my answer you will have to wait until the next blog post.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Why behavior is fulfilling a perception of poor government accountability

May’s Influential Voice topic of government accountability is really bringing out the folks with axes to grind.  Catherine Macklin’s axe is TSA (read here). Jennifer Stepniowski’s axe is personal accountability (read here). I fully support the individual initiative around learning about government so as a person who has been involved with a government entity in some form or fashion for 25 of my 30+ years of work life I would like to impart my experiences and observations during that time.
Government, for the most part, is not intended to change.  If you think about it, the services that the majority of government entities provide are not geared for competitive choice. We as United States citizens don’t want choice in regards to a standing Army (do we want the current one or contract out to the highest bidder?).  How much screaming is done by the populace when major policy changes are made to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid?  The Founding Fathers created the checks and balances in the Constitution for the sole purpose of preventing knee-jerk change. So, when we ask for something better from an organization designed not to swiftly change you are asking a momentous task.
The majority of government organizations are NOT revenue generators. In our current economic model, consumer choice is the prime engine for providing new products and services, which drive revenue. If there is no forcing function to increase consumer use we do not provide the necessary behaviors for innovation.  Let’s take the TSA case.  TSA came about because of a political mandate. Airports were given a choice around increasing airline security options, either they funded it or they “participate” in the TSA contractual services package. As we find, the larger the organization the less the organization can be quickly responsive to consumer’s needs.  However, since there are currently no fiscally viable other options in the airline security arena, you get all these small, nimble lemurs and an 800 pound gorilla.  Who moves faster to change?
At the Federal level of government the budgetary process is specifically designed to oppose a major tenet of Lean or Six Sigma of resource efficiency and accountability. The behavior that is manifested is that if a resource manager does not spend their entire budget, they will receive less money in the out years because they failed to forecast appropriately.  Plus, under Continuing Resolution Authority (when Congress fails to do their job and pass a fiscal budget in a timely manner), organizations get money in monthly chunks for continuing operations but the bulk of support activities, like training, travel, and awards, usually appear for the entire fiscal year at its midpoint.  So, to get the budget spent, there is a huge spending spree in the last 6 weeks of the fiscal year just to ensure we can train, travel, and award people next year.  This type of budgeting model in private industry does not exist nor would it be tolerated.  There is no incentive to improve costs because they lose the ability to innovate for the future.
In our desire to complain what we often forget is that 99% of government employees want to do a good job every day. There are a number of success stories and TSA’s are rarely mentioned because we all know it is very difficult to identify the “prevention” of security incidents. My intention is not to defend TSA.  I don’t enjoy flying anymore because of the way I am treated in airports. What I don’t like is a single data example of failure to be the sop for all a person’s complaints against an organization staffed by a high percentage of good people. 
Oh, the next time you use a GPS to find an unknown destination or send an email over the Internet consider the fact that Garmin or your favorite Internet Service Provider is generating revenue from a Federal Government invention.
More to come on strategies to enhancing a culture of change in government that require YOUR involvement.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Government/Quality Puzzle: A Response, Part 2

Paul Borawski, not the first time, has “got my dander up” with the May Influential Voices topic on Quality and Government.  Today’s post is a short one with a big link from one of the giants in business thinking, Peter Drucker.  I did learn a cool fact last week about Dr. Drucker.  From the Korean War until 1971, Dr. Drucker was a faculty member at New York University.  From what I can gather he was at NYU at the same time that Dr. Deming and Dr. Juran were also associated with NYU.  You wonder about the potential conversations…
During Vice President Al Gore’s efforts to remake government, Dr. Drucker was asked by the Atlantic magazine to comment on those efforts.   The article is very insightful.  I plan on using it as a basis to develop a thesis that answers the question of what truly is needed to break the cycle of the improvement as a “flavor of the month” to a cultural imperative. Happy reading!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

In Search of: Innovation Methodologies

Ron Ashkenas' latest blog post came across my radar screen and it got me thinking.  Are there innovation strategies and methodologies that are as publicized as Lean, Six Sigma, GE-Work Out, TQM, etc.?

I have been living in the world of continuous improvement strategies and methodologies since late 2005 and have experienced the frustration of these strategies having significant backing from leadership to now just getting lip service.  It's a frustrating world.

Ron's blog, IMO, played a little fast and loose on his conclusions but his point is sound.  You cannot rely just on process improvement strategies alone.  You need the element of innovation to bring in the next new idea and sometimes these are paradigm busters. Case in point--Apple, Facebook, etc.

So, to continue on my Personal Mastery journey I am looking for some help.  What are the current innovation strategies that are working?  Are there innovation strategies?  Please help an intellectual wanderer!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Government/Quality Puzzle: A Response, Part 1

One of the roles of the ASQ Influential Voices is to encourage and expand discourse and Paul’s topic this month is a good to expand on the topic of Quality in Government.  Ironically, I responded to a screed on a LinkedIn topic regarding an organization whose role is to encourage participation in Quality and Improvement in the Federal Government—Federal Improvement Team (FIT).  The chair of that activity, Scott Bonney, is a long time member of ASQ, a Department of Navy and Army Master Black Belt and a long time friend. I will try to get him to guest blog to talk about his journey. 
Back to the screed.  It was a typical emotional response stating that the Federal Government was wasteful and we should just blow it up and start all over again.  I got a little of this emotional response from Paul’s blog and this portion of the “response” will try to bring some objectivity via Senge’s Five Disciplines (Mental Models) and one of Covey’s 7 Habits, “seek to understand before being understood.”
Dr Deming, in the foreword to Mary Walton’s book, Deming Management at Work, stated, “A system must be managed. The bigger the system, the more difficult it is to manage for optimization.”  To me, most Americans, with lack of understanding of the system (Federal Government) will always respond emotionally when wronged by the system and, as Paul states, the system is becoming more and more a part of our lives. So I naturally understand where people come from. 
But what people also don’t understand is that the Department of Defense has been closely involved in quality and the development of Quality’s Body of Knowledge since the society’s inception.  Mary Walton published her book in 1990 and one of the chapters was set aside to talk about the good things happening at the Marine Corps depot at Cherry Point, North Carolina.  The revitalized concept of Training With Industry was a 1940’s Federal Government program.  ANSI-ASQ Z1.4 sampling standard used to be MIL-STD 105. To say that quality and government is an oxymoron (lack of use of quality) is in my minded short sighted.
 In my shipyard there is a strong culture of “little q” going all the way back to Revolutionary War.  Norfolk Naval Shipyard is the oldest government shipyard in the country. The mechanics that work on the warships understand quality because if they fail the sailors that man that ship and its sailors may not come back. The quality assurance department supports that ethos. All the naval shipyards have large quality organizations because they do all aspects of quality, both “little q” and “Big Q.”  The Navy's corporate quality manual is based on ISO-9000.
Paul mentioned the 2010 report regarding the performance of Performance Improvement Officers (PIO). What was not mentioned was that the Department of Defense was on the forefront of this program,  and were one of the first executive branch agencies to deploy a PIO.  At the same time, at least for the Department of Navy, the Navy Secretary was a former executive business leader who deployed performance improvement.  He successfully did that in Navy, in 2007 before the designation of PIOs.
Unfortunately, when we talk about government we usually have a particular area in mind when we make blanket statements about its performance.  There is some validity in the gist of the statements but often comments are so far-fetched that in some cases discourse is hampered. I am glad Paul is requesting examples of good things that have happened and there are many.  What I would also like to explore is how to overcome some basic failings in our culture that ASQ can and should address that are manifested by an impression that government does not respect or “do” quality.
Part 2 coming soon!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Raleigh QIT - ASQ Futures Study Presentation

Every three years ASQ presents their futures study, an attempt at identifying key forces of change, predicting future paths, and determining future implications for organizations. The 2011 study is the latest version. Mike Nichols, an ASQ past president, gave a presentation on the latest futures study and, through a World Cafe session, allowed the Quality in the Triangle participants an opportunity to provide feedback for future studies.

A full transcript of the session will be posted sometime in the near future on the Raleigh ASQ website.  Some interesting trends.  
  • A concern was the lack of management understanding of the value of quality to the organization. Management and leaders know what it is but don't understand the value of quality and the future implications for the organization.
  • A concern was a lack of employee understanding of their role in the organization. The group felt that an employee's role must be defined for all levels, including the most junior employee.
  • A concern was with the local demand for higher education talent, and a large influx of skilled folks coming into the Raleigh area, there could exist in the future an underemployment of skilled people entering the market in 5 years.
These were the highlights but there was a lot of fruitful discussion on change, what it means for the Raleigh area, and what future things should the quality profession plan for.


Live Blog from the ASQ Raleigh Quality in Triangle Conference

One of my favorite parts of ASQ is the networking and what I consider the most valuable networking opportunities happen at regional conferences. For 15 years, the Raleigh, NC section has put on the "Quality in the Triangle" conference.  It is usually scheduled just before World Conference and it brings a very rich set of speakers into a local setting. This is the first year that I am attending.  Fortunately, it is only a 3.5 hour drive down I-95 from the Hampton Roads area.

This year's program provides a wide variety of topics, from a six sigma case study of corrective and preventive action in a metalworking facility, to likening internal systems audits to football.  The keynote, Dr. Terri Helmlinger Ratcliff, talked about her organization's Baldrige journey and the need to "stop at a rest stop" when the speed to Baldrige is in the fast lane.  For her, the need to stop allowed the needed circumspection to move the organization in a better direction.  

Attendance is very good with over 120 people attending.  If the audience demographics is indicative of the state of quality in North Carolina I am very encouraged.  The majority of folks are between the ages of 30-40, a few gray heads like myself and a good number in the 20-30 age group. 

Prime mission for me here is to be an exhibitor for the ASQ Six Sigma Forum as well as catch up with some old friends. Moral of the story, if you hear of a local ASQ conference in your area, attend! Besides, the NC conference, the Southern CA conference in September is very good, the New England conference is bastion of longevity and Dallas/Ft. Worth group put on some excellent sessions. If I missed your conference or you have a recommendation, leave a comment.  I will make sure I mention it in a subsequent post.

Yours truly, hard at work blogging!