Thursday, February 16, 2017

Are Quality Professionals a dying breed? No, they are called something else.

This month’s ASQ Influential Voices blog topic is:  “If quality professionals do not change their behavior, the resource pool will be drained down to a small, trickling stream of competent “old-guys” supported by unskilled workers.”  How can we prevent this from happening? What adaptations need to occur for both quality professionals and the quality industry to avoid this fate and attract the next generation of quality professionals?  

First, let’s put the question into context.  The question came from two recent posts on LinkedIn.  The first is a short post from John Cachet. Mr. Cachet never describes the interaction behaviors he dislikes and then assumes the profession will regress to the old quality manufacturing model of “unskilled inspectors” managed by people on their way to retirement.

Two months later, Rick Harrington’s post on LinkedIn poses an additional question of, “…has manufacturing went to just Risk and Reward, by which I mean we manufacturer it and if it breaks or we get sued we will replace it or fight the legal battle.”

My immediate thought is what generated the question?  Is it frustration that causing the comment?   As these two authors are respected individuals selling services, are their customer pools becoming more sophisticated consumers, or the traditional ways of communicating the benefits of their services are not meeting their customer base, or are they no longer seen as THE voice for quality?

Putting all that aside, let’s get to the basic premise; is the quality profession a dying breed?  The title foreshadows my answer.  I would argue that the tenets of quality are being absorbed by industry professional societies and ASQ is not being as sought out as THE source for quality principles.  The health care industry is offering certifications for quality (National Association forHealthcare Quality).  There are more competitors for quality certifications (ISPI, IISE, et. al.) than ever.  The numbers of consultants offering quality management and improvement services increases DAILY.  No, I truly don’t see the quality profession languishing.
What I do see are communication issues.  There is a communication thread that quality professionals do not talk the language of the C-Suite.  I see this as excuse for two shortfalls-quality professionals failure to understand their audience in talking about the importance of what they do and ASQ’s dismal failure of engaging the education community on the importance of quality principles as a key tenet to organizational leadership success and imparting these concepts into traditional curriculum.

I point to Toyota and the numerous books out that discuss the development and thinking behind the Toyota Production System and “the Toyota Way” as curriculum sources.  These sources are prevalent in the professional world.  How many undergraduate and graduate business programs contain courses on the integration of leadership, quality principles, and corporate culture? How many hours are spent in the analysis of Dr. Deming and his 14 Points on development and synthesis of corporate culture and leadership at our colleges and universities?   What time is spent on incorporating statistical thinking as a basis for individual problem solving and organizational improvement?

ASQ has a strategic initiative in doubling their membership in 5 years.   The ASQ CEO has been slowly teasing the membership on the tactics behind achieving this goal.  What I have seen is little different from past initiatives.   General Troy, you have cleaned house at ASQ HQ.  It is time for a new direction.  This direction of pointing ASQ as the leader in corporate leadership synergy IS, in my opinion, the message you need to execute and not a rehash of past practices just to boost membership.  That is my recommendation for making ASQ and the quality profession relevant in the 21st century.