This week, our refrigerator died. When I posted about it on Facebook, my neighbor commented that her refrigerator is more than 40 years old and still running. I didn’t ask her whether hers was mustard yellow or olive green. Mine is shiny stainless, and just over two years old. During that time, it was off for 6 weeks while we were out of our home after it flooded. According to the repairman, the compressor plus other parts of the system needed to be replaced. The compressor itself would have been under warranty, but not the labor, and I’m not sure about how the rest of the system would have been treated. When we bought the refrigerator, my mom told me to get the extended warranty because she had literally had to have every circuit board replaced on her refrigerator, and she’d have been out of luck if she hadn’t had a contract. I’m grateful that I listened to my mom, but clearly, things are not made the way that they used to. My original theory was the quality of the lead free soldering was not sufficient to withstand the amount of vibration that a refrigerator has. But our fridge didn’t fail because of one of the PCBAs. It seems like the concept of quality may be missing in the appliance industry right now. I just find myself wondering how we got to this place.

Free Quality Tools? Yes, please!

A recent ASQ Quality Press eNewsletter had a link to one of my absolute favorite things on the ASQ website – free tools! In a post promoting one of my favorite resources, Nancy Tague’s The Quality Toolbox, 2nd Edition, the editors also shared the previously mentioned link. Each item in the list that has (XLS) or (DOC) behind it is a totally free template for the referenced tools. The second link with the same link provides descriptive information on how to use the tool and when it applies. I’ve shared this information for years as part of a practical problem solving class that I have taught at work. What is your favorite quality tool?

Leadership Saturday

Today was the Ideas to Action Gathering (ITAG). I bring you a single image that I found meaningful as my kids wrap up their track season.


How do you build your team?

Getting Ready for ASQ World Conference

I’m excited to have the opportunity to return to the ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement next week. If you’re planning to attend for the first time, there are two tips I always give to people:

  1. Sit with people you don’t know at lunch. If your colleagues are there, you will see them when you’re back in the office; you will see people from your local section at the next section meeting. This is your opportunity to build your network – I still keep in touch with people I met at the first conference I attended in Philadelphia in 1998.
  2. Don’t go to sessions on the things that you know… because you already know those things. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had this conversation… Me, “How is the conference going?” Attendee, “Well, I haven’t really learned anything.” Me, “What kind of sessions are you attending? “Attendee, “This is what I do so I picked all the sessions about that.” Step outside your comfort zone, look for similar topics in different industries or even topics that you’re not sure how they might apply to your job, and I guarantee you will have the opportunity to learn new things and bring back things you can apply back in the office.

Things I’m most excited about?

  1. Moderating sessions – this year I’m moderating sessions by Jd Marhevko and Mike Adams, both outstanding speakers. I like moderating because I like to try and see if there is something that I can use from each presentation to take back to my company, and this is something that I share in my closing comments. I also like to hear what others plan to take back.
  2. Leadership meetings and the ITAG (Ideas to Action Gathering) over the weekend before the conference begins. It is certainly an opportunity to see old friends as well as making new ones, but I appreciate the opportunity to gave back to the quality profession and participate as the society looks to transform itself.
  3. I’m planning to get a headshot done at the ASQ Center in the exhibit hall. My LinkedIn picture is from doing a marathon for Team In Training. It is definitely a conversation starter – I had comments about it at the AssurX Users Summit last week, but I’m looking forward to updating it with a professional photo.
  4. My manager and I went through the sessions that I’m not moderating and put together a pretty awesome agenda! I have a list of exhibiters I’m planning to visit as well – it was fun to strategize and I’m looking forward to taking what I learn and seeing how we can put the topics to use at my company.
  5. Forth Worth and Molly the Trolley!

What are you most excited about for at #WCQI2019?

2015 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,000 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 17 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Influential Voices: The Future of Quality

A fascinating blog post on the Future of Quality by Edwin Garro reminded me of a meme I saw on Facebook. It is a quote by Dr. Temple Grandin, “We’re focusing so much on academics that we’ve taken out things like art, sewing, cooking, woodworking, and other things that introduce kids to careers.” While the program that Edwin describes sounds amazing, I can’t help but wonder if these kids have also had the opportunity to learn what is essentially life skills while attending school. In a conversation on my friend’s post on Facebook, many of those who commented noted that they didn’t have the chance to take these things, but they are not the kids that Dr. Grandin is talking about. My kids are. Last week, I had the opportunity to spend some time talking to my son’s shop teacher. He was new to our school district, and he noted that in some districts, as they closed their drafting programs, they were also closing their shops. This is not a great trend. Our middle school offers ALL of these classes – my son even took some of the things he made in sewing to the county fair this past summer. I consider myself lucky that we have access to good schools in our area without needing to go to private schools. I believe the future of quality MUST start with a strong foundation in education. What do you think?

Does Mission Matter – Influential Voices

The title of Pat La Londe’s View from the Q guest post is one that really resonated with me. One of the things that I’ve had the privilege of doing as part of my job is to train coworkers on our customer satisfaction surveys. As part of the discussion, I brought them to our Mission, Vision and Values, and showed them the connection to what we were doing. This simple step made a big difference. There is no way you’re going to be able to get where you’re trying to go if you don’t know why you’re going there.

A number of years ago, I was on the board of a small non-profit that had never taken the time before to do any strategic planning, or understanding why the organization existed. That board really struggled to find direction. While strategic planning was not a cure all, having a mission and vision made a difference in our ability to move the organization forward. It helped us to focus our energies on the areas that were most important to our business and over time, turned the organization around.

Mission does matter. How do you make your organization’s mission work for you?

Modern Technology – Influential Voices

In July, Manu Vora guest posted on the A View from the Q blog on using Google Hangouts. Rather than focusing on a specific technology, I’d like to discuss how changes in technology have literally changed our lives. I remember about 10 years ago when I had an allergic reaction to some bug bites while I was on a business trip. I used the cell phone I was traveling with to call and find out where I could get into an urgent care clinic. I can’t imagine dealing with that if I had first had to find a pay phone. Now, I no longer have a traditional home phone, and even my kids have cell phones. Today, technology is everywhere, from conference calls to MOOCs, or Massively Open Online Courses. We can not only have a conversation, we can share our knowledge across the internet, most typically for free. I’ve had the chance to take a course through EdX that was very well put together. And it was free.

When I was in college the first time, I took a class through distance learning. It involved receiving packets in the mail with assignments, and showing up on campus to take a final. As an adult learner, I completed a Bachelor of Science in Technology Management through Herzing University Online, and we had team conference calls, and could watch lectures online. By the time I enrolled for my MBA at Green Mountain College, technology was more fully integrated in the learning experience, and we had sharing tools integrated into our online platform that we could choose to use, or not, depending on the team and how we wanted to learn together.

As technology continues to evolve, with both free and paid platforms for knowledge sharing, we will have many new opportunities to connect and learn from each other. I look forward to seeing what the future brings. How do you use technology to connect with others and to learn?

Influential Voices: Travel on a Dime

I was excited to read Sunil Kaushik’s guest post on Lean Travel on the A View from the Q blog. A number of years ago, my friend Dani and I did an After 5 at WCQI called The Lean Lady Travels the Globe. We had a lot of fun researching the best travel deals and recommendations, including tips for packing (roll or fold?), plus we had really awesome flight attendants (Andres and Ryan) to ensure that the participants had a smooth landing.

That presentation was done before airbnb (founded in 2008) and couchsurfing had started to make the kind of impact they have today. Now, we’ve also got Uber and Lyft to give us rides (I got free transportation to/from WCQI this year through Uber referrals – and I had a carload of folks on the way there). We’ve got Groupon and Living Social and others, plus Yipit to aggregate all of the deals on restaurants, travel, and goods.

My number one go to tip is to unpack immediately, repack as you go, and only bring what you need. I consider this to be a challenge – almost a game. Note – this doesn’t work well when you pack things that no longer fit you. Next week, I will be couchsurfing with my son while he attends cooking school in Eden Prairie. We really hit the jackpot – the place we are staying is a few blocks from the cooking school, and is much less expensive (we’re making them dinner and may help them with boxes since they are moving) than airbnb ($40/night) and a hotel (starts at $110 a night). My son wants to do fun things while we are there, so I will buy some groupons through MyPoints, so I get points for my purchases (and they have 25% off three local deals for the next three days), so we will be all set. My last step was to reserve a cube in my company’s office in Arden Hills, so that I have a place to work, rather than taking 4 days of vacation. I’m excited to enjoy our adventure together, and taste the results of his cooking!

p.s. full disclosure – the airbnb and Groupon links are referral links. You get a bonus with the airbnb referral. If you’d like a referral to Uber (you get a bonus) or MyPoints, let me know – referrals make a huge difference for travel!

Influential Voices: The Future of Quality

In May, Laurel Nelson-Rowe guest posted on the View from the Q blog about the Future of Quality. If you haven’t had a chance to read the report yet, you can find it here.

On topic I found to be of particular interest is the one on understanding our customers. I’ve always been one to answer surveys and provide feedback. I participate in a program where I scan my purchases for data gathering purposes. While this information is used in aggregate, the folks who get this data may feel they know me, but do they? I’ve been known to change my mind on a dime. And in today’s information overload environment, folks can get easily bored.

I used to work in retail, and I prided myself on being knowledgeable enough about our products that my customers considered me to be a subject matter expert. And, if customers had questions about related products, I knew where to send them. I asked a lot of questions, so that I could make recommendations (“vests may be too hot for the groomsmen at an outdoor wedding in the summer”) and helped them design a look that matched their vision of what their wedding would look like. Can mass customization replace a personal touch? I’m not sure.

What are your thoughts on this new era of customer understanding? What other topics in the study caught your eye?

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