I know that I have been on a hiatus from blog posts; work, personal life changes, plus my “muse” seemed to take a warm weather vacation during this cold Virginia winter dampened my desire to write. On February 28, ASQ announced the hiring of Paul Borawski’s replacement as ASQ CEO, retired Army Lieutenant General William (Bill) Troy. Like myself, the new CEO is an ex-Army officer and I thought a letter from a new “colleague” may bring a different perspective to the learning curve he is now experiencing. Please note that my comments are my own based on observation and do not reflect any stated positions of any existing ASQ community or member other than myself.
As you are finding, ASQ is a very diverse organization with many similarities and differences from your last post as Director of the Army Staff as well as your previous chief of staff assignments. ASQ is an “all volunteer force” just like the Army. There is a command and control structure; accountability away from the flagpole is a major challenge. I have been members of other professional organizations and I find ASQ members to be the most interesting, engaging and passionate people. They come from all walks of life and freely participate in the opportunities that ASQ provides them. In the past, as an Ordnance officer, I was a member of AUSA, ADPA, and MORS. I participated in some of their conferences but you will find that the feel of an ASQ gathering is very much different than the military associations you may have participated in.
However, US membership in ASQ is declining and small field activities are struggling to sustain operations based on a number of variables; mostly relevancy to a younger professional workforce. The incentive to participate is not there, our inability to show how ASQ fits in their professional lives, and continued insistence on using pre-2000 member models as success metrics is killing the soul of the society. As much as the community has a focus on innovation and creativity there is a strong cadre of members who wish to hold onto the past. What these folks have forgotten as they hold onto their past ways is that success is based on practiced concepts and how we apply those concepts to a changing world is the proof that we are innovative and will be the beacon for new members to follow. We need to decide to root out the nay-sayers or expend energy in their conversion.
Speaking of headquarters, you have a highly talented group of direct reports. I have had the privilege of working with a number of them and I find them very willing to listen to my ideas, share their time both at conferences and in the field, and push back on me to engage in change rather than report it. There are some issues requiring your time. There is a high turnover in staff, especially those directly facing the troops. Right now, community development is perilously short-staffed. Customer expectations are not well-managed and this can drive long time staff-members crazy. Obviously, declining membership revenues are a contributor to this condition. I would consider this an important aspect of change that needs to be addressed.
Another challenge will be the breaking of organizational silos and better communication and coordination of ASQ activities. We still have segments of ASQ more inwardly focused and not concerned with Peter Senge’s Fifth Discipline concept of “systems thinking.” ASQ has improved in this area; the Ideas to Action Gathering (ITAG) of member leaders was one of the first activities to start to address silo-busting. We still have a long way to go.
But not all is doom and gloom. When you speak to members at this year's ASQ World Conference in Dallas you will get a better feel of the vibrant community, the desire for excellence, and the willingness, for the most part, to move ASQ forward. If you ask for help most members will ask you, when do you need it? You won’t find a group more willing to participate in change. Leverage that desire for the good of the society. I look forward to working with you in moving our society forward.