Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Do conditions exist for a Quality Revolution?

In his August 2014 blog post, ASQ CEO Bill Troy asks if quality’s future is evolutionary or revolutionary. The majority of my fellow Influential Voice bloggers state that quality’s future can be both evolutionary and revolutionary.  So rather than a post on stating the same thing, let’s dig a bit and try to decide if we indeed have the necessary elements for a quality revolution. 
Merriam-Webster defines revolutionary as, “constituting or bringing about a major or fundamental change.”  In order for that to happen, there must exist conditions necessary for this type of change. In business, usually it means a “life or death” event is going to cause this type of change to occur. 
Fellow Influential Voice Bob Mitchell talks about three conditions that “could” lead to revolutionary change: 1) the rate of change is exponential, 2) The aging population and Workforce of the future, 3) Globalization and Social Responsibility.  Bob discusses that the first and the last are more evolutionary while training the future workforce is evolutionary based on the new education model of the “Flipped Classroom” where knowledge familiarization is done at the student’s own pace in their own environment and the knowledge transfer (practice) occurs under supervision in the classroom.    I really don’t see this Flipped Classroom model as revolutionary.  Shipyards with apprentice programs have been practicing that model for quite some time.  The theory is taught in classrooms and the experience is learned through practice away from the classroom, under supervision.  For me, this is just a repurposing of a common practice and not revolutionary; more evolutionary (repurposing to another industry).
John Hunter in his post gets closer to my truth.  Survey any quality professional and they will tell you that the biggest barrier or assist to managing change is top-level management support.  Bill Troy alludes to this when he mentions getting C-level leadership to see quality as valuable.  For me, that is the most important condition for revolutionary change.  How do we get senior management to appreciate quality as an integral part of leadership and not a bolt-on or nice to have feature?
For me, the answer lies in education.  I have stated in previous blog posts here and here that the biggest impact that ASQ can make is to go the university system and convince them that quality concepts are just as important as finance, marketing, or accounting.  Very few major universities have quality as a major.  My point is quality is taught as either a one day class, one course in a major, and not as the building block for leadership success.  Once businesses see quality behaviors as a required characteristic of top leadership will we start to see the quality revolution.
Mr. Troy, I do agree with my colleagues that quality’s future can be evolutionary AND revolutionary.  My prediction is that we will see much more change that is evolutionary rather than revolutionary.