Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Future of Quality is not coming from inside the community

This month’s ASQ Influential Voice topic addresses the Future of Quality. I know that the title is sounds pretty damning, especially from one who describes himself as a quality professional.   Below are my observations that led me to that title.

First the quality community is shrinking from a strictly numbers perspective.  ASQ membership has seen a significant decline from a high of over 100,000 members at the beginning of the century to just over 75,000 members today (as reported in the last ASQ General Business meeting in Nashville).  The decline is significantly greater in the United States whereas outside the US and Canada has seen significant membership growth.  This is both good (outside the US sees value in ASQ) and bad (declining resource base to help spread the word of quality).  

Membership in organizations decline when the intrinsic value of being a member no longer serves the cost of the membership.  For example, Costco recently announced the ending of a significant financial relationship with American Express.  Costco is a retail warehouse organization who uses a membership model to bring in business.  You can only pay for your merchandise with cash, debit card, or American Express (AMEX).  My membership is tied to the American Express card.  I am buying less from Costco these days so with the planned changeover from AMEX next year, a Costco membership is not as valued as it once was to me.  Although Costco has not changed their membership prices in two years, as a consumer I see the value of a Costco membership declining for me which will drive me to a change.

My own membership in ASQ comes due in June.  Every year I compare the value of the price of being a Senior member (dues went up a little bit) to the value I receive from the membership.  Fortunately, I see significant value, more in the contacts and networking, and less in the certifications, ASQ Press discounts, etc.  The value proposition is a personal issue with each member based on their circumstance.  The value proposition also changes as a person progresses in their career.  If a person sees membership as simply a cost equation, ASQ will lose every time.

Recently, ASQ recently released the 2015 Future of Quality report.  I found it more informative than previous versions as it did not solely address itself to Quality. As a matter of fact, I found the vignettes provided by the non-quality related authors more interesting and robust that the three that spoke to quality directly.  From my perspective, I attribute this to these authors maybe being too close to the quality field and not changing their perspective enough to address where quality can go. 

I see the future of quality from two perspectives.  Quality will improve with the continued application of the Quality Body of Knowledge (QBoK) to new applications that we can only dream about. I, like most others, did not get into quality as their prime interest when they started their career.  Their career journey led them here. Ergo, the next great quality innovation will come from folks outside the quality field.

Which means that to continue the quality movement we must show that ASQ membership continues to provide value, ASQ provide resources that are novel such that are seen as valuable to member leaders and the membership, and ASQ has to prove relevant to the new future world.  To me, failing to address these issues is THE shortcoming that ASQ continues to face and to focus on increasing global membership will only stave off the inevitable decline of the society.   But then again, who would have predicted that the PDA would morph into the iPad?

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