Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Quality = little q + Big Q

June's blog post from ASQ's CEO Paul Borawski is his reflection on the Conference Board's Quality Council response to Conference Board's CEO challenge annual survey results.  Paul asks for experiences and case studies on the profession's efforts to change the culture of executive leaders from Quality being only one part of the equation of conformance to specification (little q).  Big Q is the strategic and proactive side of quality that often goes overlooked because it requires resource investment at the C-level on multiple fronts. The report does a great job of detailing these fronts.

I don't have a case study of successful culture change at the C-level but I do try to impact my direct circle of influence.  For example, yesterday I met with a small group of shipyard Black Belts who expressed an interest in progressing their career to be a Master Black Belt.  My organization uses a "qual card" as objective evidence of professional development based on the traditional troika of MBB responsibilities of project experience, teaching, and mentoring.   The first question that I asked them was, "Who wants my job?"  Of course, their initial reaction was of shock and "Are you going somewhere? (No)?"  The more astute question was next: "So, what do you do?"  For the next two hours a supervisor and myself went through the qual card, telling them of our experiences, showing them where to get the information and experience and imparting wisdom. It was the first time most of them understood all the things that go into the making of an experienced performance improvement specialist.

Two weeks previously, 4 folks from my organization sat for the ASQ CQE and CQA exam. I spent a total of about 8 hours the previous month sharing both my technical knowledge as well as successful test taking tips.  All four of these individuals will identify themselves as engineers first, auditors second, and although they work in a QA group, they do not identify themselves as quality professionals.  All four of these future leaders passed.  All four have a better appreciation of quality and its value then they had 3 months hence.

My point:  How are future leaders going to garner an appreciation for quality?  How did, if they ever did, the current C-level executives garner an appreciation for quality?  How many of the current CEO's of Fortune 500 companies state in their resume a position that is traditionally identified as  part of the quality profession?  We have to engage leaders early in their career to give them the appreciation for quality and the value that quality acts in an organization so that leaders can internalize value. Traditional engagement points are academia, workplace experience, and personal experience. My previous two blog posts provides both short term in long term suggestions in resolving these very issues.

To change the quality formula to include Big Q as part of the definition of quality requires what my boss often states as "courageous leadership."  There are so many forces pushing leaders away from doing what is right for the organization long-term and towards doing what is right for them short-term.  Whatever you as a professional can mentor young talent to an appreciation for the holistic aspects of quality will get more people to support John Hunter's call for changing management systems using Deming's 14 Points, as Jimena Calfa states. It's all on us, how are you going to engage?

Until next time!

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