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.
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