Friday, October 19, 2012

2012 ASQ Service Quality Conference Wrap-Up, October Influential Voices response, and other thoughts

I have been taking the last view days to catch up on my prime mission of transitioning to a new job (I’ll talk more about that in another post) so I apologize for my tardiness. 
First off, there are a group of people who are unsung heroes in the success of the ASQ conferences.  Shirley Krentz is THE point person for finding venues for conferences and making sure contracts get executed and problems are resolved.  Daren Miller and Jessica Miller work hard with coordinating speakers and attendee registration.  These are just a few of the smiling faces I see at ASQ conferences that I attend; I know there are more so I apologize for those that I did not name.  They do great work and their efforts often are not recognized so this is my public way of saying thanks for the work that you do all year.
I did a lot of people watching this conference. It is interesting the level of quality knowledge at these conferences.  It is always fun watching the “new to quality” folks engage in conversation and, at times based on their questions, struggle with seeing a quality concept for the very first time and internally struggle with how to take this cool concept and make it work in their environment.  For me these conversations are great learning experiences and help me practice some mentoring skills to allow me better my “ramblings.” I am always impressed with the energy these folks have and the real thirst for knowledge.
Then I see speakers who are in their mid-career in quality looking to give the “perfect presentation” on their success in quality.  Dr. Tomas Velasco, a good friend from Southern Illinois University, did a textbook presentation of a health-care related “kaizen” event on improving flow in an imaging center. There were a few others at the conference as well in this category.
I am starting to lean into the “cranky old quality codger” category in that my main interest is to engage people through their brains and to take concepts further than their traditional roles.  Jim Duarte from SAS did that for me.  I mentioned in the last post that his presentation on 20th vs. 21st century Six Sigma applications gave me that rare “sit up in my chair” moment that we all look for at conferences.  We don’t see a whole lot of these at conferences but for me the search is for that presentation that provides the ambrosia that keeps me participating in the quality profession. 
This leads to this month’s Influential Voice topic that Paul Borawski communicated on his desire to move beyond the “traditional quality function.” My initial response was like Aimee Siegler’s; good quality professionals fill the vacuum where they see opportunity. Secondly, like Manu Vora, I have written a few posts on “Big Q vs. little q” so how could I politely remind the readers about these previous posts without sounding like a broken record?
But it was new acquaintance Jim Duarte who brought me “back to the future.”  There are loads of untapped areas that quality professionals need to explore that have existed for some time that continues to grow the profession.  Paul asked about how we can better engage managers and leaders.  Paul, why hasn’t the quality profession embraced management science (otherwise known as operations research)?  To me, when ASQ was really kicking we worked hard on bringing in new technologies, tools, and methodologies under the umbrella.  If you look at the Body of Knowledge, there is not much new in it since the late 90’s.  We are on the cusp of the Big Data era.  Operations Research has the tools to deal with the challenges of Big Data and gives us the thought processes to answer the more challenging questions.  This is important as quality professionals need to show how they contribute value outside the “little q.”
In summary, for quality professionals to move beyond the “traditional quality function” they must be willing to find the areas where we can provide value.  Additionally, ASQ must continue to grow, not just in reach, but in knowledge and we have not done well with that in the past.  Consider looking at Big Data and Operations Research as we move deeper into the 21st century.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Day 1 Recap of the 21st Annual ASQ Service Quality Conference

I am in Baltimore Monday and Tuesday attending the ASQ Service Quality Conference with about 140 other folks.  It is a nice intimate conference that gives you an opportunity to talk to the majority of the attendees and is easier to make new friends and acquaintances.  I am also here to exhibit the Six Sigma Forum booth with Liz Keim.
This year is the first time in a while that the conference has a government track so I was asked to submit a presentation for acceptance.  My talk, leading off after Joe DeFeo’s keynote address on the changing value proposition that quality professionals need to provide in a changing world, was on applying Senge’s 5 Disciplines with an internal customer focus. It seemed to be well received with a handful of folks appreciating the talk.  I also received some excellent feedback from one audience member who took me to task to remember not to lose the strategic importance of the external customer when fully focusing on the internal one.  I also have to put in a “shout out” to Joe DeFeo and Juran Institute for their kind gesture of providing a signed copy of the Juran Institute’s Six Sigma Breakthrough and Beyond as a raffle prize for an upcoming meeting of the ASQ Tidewater section (1128).
After lunch the group listened to Kerry Weems, VP & GM of General Dynamics-IT’s Health Solutions sector.  His general discussion, walking us down memory lane on the changes made in music distribution, keyed on the fact that quality professionals need to be forward thinkers and be mindful of technology disruption in the marketplace and be prepared to provide value to their organization to get through that disruption.    
I also listened to Dale Weeks and his description of the successes of governments, municipal to federal, local to worldwide, and the challenges that benchmarking these successes have on future government initiatives.  The best part was the audience discussion; lots of good ideas floated around and it did a great job in setting up Cody Dodd’s presentation immediately afterwards, on his work in Canada with the Institute for Customer Centered Service.
Lastly, Jim Duarte from SAS brought me “back to the future” with his presentation on Six Sigma for the 21st century. It is a topic I intend to explore in my October response to Paul Borawski’s Influential Voices blog.  Jim provided the case that with the increased capacity in computing power and the ever increasing availability of data we need to use operations research / management science tools to better answer the more complex questions and be able to see farther in the future that what we are capable of.  As someone who has their master’s degree in OR and was chomping at the bit to put queuing theory and discrete simulations into the Black Belt toolbox the session was a great way to find a kindred spirit.
And like every good conference, we have the obligatory networking sessions throughout the day and well into the night.  I met some new folks and caught up with some old friends.  Day 2 is already here so need to get this posted and back to the conference.  Stay tuned for more!