Saturday, April 27, 2013

Having a National Quality Award is Only Part of Sustainable Success

The last two topics of the lead Influential Voice blog, A View from the Q, address quality awards and the successes that these programs bring to their organizations.  These successes are important but how lasting are they?  Do they support the first of Deming’s 14 Points that state that organizations need a constancy of purpose?  Let’s discuss!
Recently, the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award (MBNQA) has celebrated 25 years in existence with a program named after President Reagan’s Commerce Secretary, who was a broad proponent of performance improvement.  In that time, the program has established a management criterion that has become broadly accepted by almost all of the individual state quality awards. 
Of interest are the winners of the award.  Looking over the list there are very few repeat winners, those that can apply after 5 years for a sustainment level award.  I would expect that once anyone is on this journey and they have fully embraced the criterion that constancy of purpose is a natural byproduct of the journey.  The level of commitment is sustained based on a significant application fee as well as the ability for people from the organization to participate in judging other organizations by becoming an examiner for the award.  For the examiners, besides the resume boost, it allows them to learn what other organizations do and bring what they learn back to their service organization.
So why aren’t their more repeat winners?  Some theories:
·         For small businesses – the cost is a barrier though some state programs are starting to overcome this issue. 
·         Changes in leadership – all quality award programs require FULL management support and MBNQA is no exception.  The leader who shepherds the organization to winning the MBNQA often does not stick around for another round.  The question becomes for the new leader, what is the ROI for being an award winner and does it generate significant revenue to continue supporting the program?
·         Economic Conditions – This theory particularly impact non-profit and governmental winners in that these organizations often are not revenue generators.  Budgetary efficiency is a prime driver and the same management questions above are often asked here as well.
·         MBNQA as a “bolt-on” – This theory is my pet peeve because we really have not addressed the essence of quality programs.  Quality works best when it involves organizational integration.  Usually, a small group is involved in developing the award packets.  “It’s their job to do MBNQA.”   This leads us down the path of “real” ROI to doing MBNQA and it opens itself up for immediate cuts in poor economic situations.
So, is having a national quality award program really in the quality community’s best interest? For establishing a standard of expectation, yes; for reinforcing constancy of purpose, no.  We need support from other societal units to get the second piece.  Consider that our culture supports leaders who make their own unique mark on an organization.  Leaders are not taught what that concept means in the long term health of an organization.  It used to be taught when an organization grew from a patriarchal (or matriarchal) experience base when survival of the organization was dependent upon core values passed down from experience  That model was denigrated by Wall Street and MBA factories back in the 1980’s and again with dot com explosion at the beginning of the century. 
What we need to understand is that national quality awards have inherent flaws.  They are good short term fixes for organizations that are sick and are good models to aspire to but they are not supportive by the core societal groups that provide the training and experience for future organizational leaders.  But most importantly, businesses rarely have a constancy of purpose.

What we often find is that organizations that do have constancy of purpose often don't need national quality awards as proof they are a quality organization. Again, looking back at the list of winners; where are the Toyota's, the Apple's, the Google's, the Amazon's on that list?  

Which truly begs the question--do we REALLY need a national quality award for businesses to succeed?  I would contend that a better guideline for a national quality award should be Deming's 14 Points rather than the MBNQA criteria.  

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Survival Guide to ASQ’s World Conference on Quality and Improvement (WCQI)

By the calendar it is spring and ASQ’s annual big bash is just around the corner.  I thought I might provide a survival guide for getting the most out of WCQI.  I hope to have some tidbits for everyone, whether you are new to quality, a member leader, or someone who has been to a few and is looking for that nugget.  To show my age, I was at the last ASQ world conference (they called it the Annual Quality Conference-AQC) they held in Indianapolis, back in 2000. Come see me at the Six Sigma Forum booth in the exhibition hall and I will show you a relic from that conference (13 years, how time flies!).


The conference really is not just about the two and a half days of presentations.  There is a lot going behind the scenes.  As a busy member leader, the real work was the weekend.  On Saturday, ASQ puts on the Learning Institute for its member leaders to learn about how to manage ASQ sections or divisions.  In the afternoon, there is the grand brainstorming session-ITAG (Ideas to Action Group).  New to me this year is the member leader dinner Saturday night.  I found these sessions energizing as it provides me an opportunity to talk specific issues about ASQ governance, put a face to a voice that you keep hearing on conference calls, and network with like minded individuals.  Sunday is the big SAC/DAC meeting (Sections Affairs Council / Division Affairs Council), meetings within your own divisions, ASQ projects (I spent a lot of time with Rob Watters on some Learning Institute issues a few years ago) and other invitation only types of meetings.  That wraps up with the annual business meeting in the late afternoon and awards presentations in the evening.  If you are an involved member leader you are tired by the time Sunday finishes.
For others, Sunday is getting ready for Monday and the first keynote.  Have a plan on what to see.  You cannot see everything so pick and choose what areas to see.  My favorite recommendation: Go see at least one Quality Impact Session.  It will give some great ideas for your own organization.
Some recommendations during the open session
·         Eat lunch in the exhibit hall with someone you don’t know and play the “5 degrees of separation” game.  You never know what you will learn.
·         Visit an “After 5” session.  You will be surprised at the fun applications of quality.  Yoga anyone?
·         Visit the Exhibition Hall often. It is a great place to get all your needs filled at the ASQ Bookstore and meet vendors.  Explore more options about ASQ and see, in one place all the ASQ divisions and what they have to offer.  See me live blogging from the Six Sigma Forum booth, across from the brand new cars on display by the Automotive division.
·         Go to the Tuesday dinner.  It is another great networking opportunity, meet new people at your table, share stories—truthful and tall.
·         Don’t be afraid to ask questions, especially if you are confused.  There are always volunteers very willing to help you.  They will be dressed distinctively to single themselves out. 
One last thing in preparation:  carry an extra travel bag for all the stuff you are bringing home.  I always seem to come home with a least one more book than I wanted, a stack of business cards, and a couple pages of notes and ideas.  For me, this year will be no different.  I am on a learning journey to understand calibration.   Hope to see you there!