Influential Voices: To Conference, or not To Conference…

This month on the A View from the Q blog, ASQ Communications Specialist Julia Kolker guest blogs about conferences and the best way to network and learn, and how to choose between local and online events vs. face-to-face and larger events. I have been lucky throughout my career to be able to attend a number of larger conferences, including the ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement (WCQI), which I’m looking forward to attending in Nashville this year. For me, I’ve been able to use conferences to build an amazing network. I still keep in touch, and have both asked questions and responded to inquiries from folks that I met at that first conference I attended in Philadelphia years ago. Conferences can be a bigger expense, but the opportunity to explore many topics over a couple of days can have a big payoff. You can find some tips I shared previously on getting the most from WCQI on my blog. To minimize costs, I do things like having a roommate, getting food from the grocery store instead of the pricy hotel restaurants if I have a car, speaking and channeling my inner travel agent to get good deals.

For me, the biggest turn off with online meetings I’ve attended in the past is that so much of the content is sales pitch. One virtual conference that I attended allowed you to move from room to room virtually. I couldn’t do that without being accosted by sales folks from all directions. I just don’t have the time to mess with that.

What are your thought’s on Julia’s question, “How do you decide which ones to attend? Do you stay close to home or is international travel desired or necessary? If you travel, do you go to learn, network, or both?”


Influential Voices: A Global Perspective

In this month’s post, Bill Troy asks the question, “Are we doing enough, throughout the world, to accomplish that mission?” ASQ’s mission statement is, “To increase the use and impact of quality in response to the diverse needs of the world.” Bill asks a tough question here, especially since there are still those who believe that we’re doing too much. I was on the Board of Directors when the organization really started to align behind going global, and started developing plans (that have since changd) on where we would focus our efforts. I received many e-mails and comments that going global with quality would take jobs away from US workers, and that we should not take our knowledge globally. This is somewhat ironic at a time when many are using methods that were first developed in Japan.

I’m excited to be involved in finishing a project that was started by Dennis Arter. The Customer-Supplier Division published the Supply Chain Management Primer in 2013. It has since been translated into Hindi, and I’m working to close the loop on Chinese and Portuguese translations. I would love to see it translated to other languages as well, so that we can expand our global footprint. Are we doing enough? I don’t think so. But each of us can have an impact.

What are you doing to help ASQ accomplish that mission?

Influential Voices: Inspiration

I enjoyed Bill Troy’s recent post on Finding Inspiration from Quality Leaders. Towards the end, he poses the question, “Have you met someone whose teachings on quality influenced you or inspired you?” I must say that I have drawn the inspiration that has driven my career as well as the way I lead from many sources. I was inspired by Helena Haapio when attending WCQI in Philadelphia many years ago. Her presentation made me totally re-think how I approached suppliers quality and relationships with suppliers. Getting contracts right up front is critical I was inspired by Dennis Arter through his writing and training.  Being an effective auditor, whether internally or externally can be a major driver of quality improvement in organizations.   I was inspired by Carne Lee, an elementary school teacher at Galesville Elementary School through our conversations when she taught my children. Her approach and thoughts on evaluation of students have influenced the way I lead my daughter’s Girl Scout troop.

I have found many inspirations from many sources. Who has inspired you? What did you learn?

Influential Voices: Recruiting Members and Volunteers

I read Bill Troy’s post on recruiting members and volunteers with interest because I am not only a member and volunteer wit ASQ, I am also a lifetime member of the Girl Scouts. Like many other membership organizations, the Girl Scouts have been hit with a downward trend in members and volunteers, described in a recent New York Times article. I see many parallels within these organizations and how the volunteers struggle with changing demographics. One things that I think is critical for volunteer organizations is training. Critical enough that I have involved myself with training both in ASQ, through the Technical Communities Council working on a team with Section and Divison leaders looking at how to better train members, and in Girl Scouts, participating in a team within our council that helped staff develop training for new Daisy, Brownie and Junior leaders. There is nothing that frustrates me more as a volunteer than to hear people complain about the things that they don’t have… or talk about this great idea that we should do, only it is something that is already available, and in some cases has been for years.

Training is a two-way street. As volunteers, we need to make a commitment to learn what we need to do in order to do our volunteer jobs well. My council requires some training before you can become a leader. This is not something consistent from council to council. ASQ has some of the basic training available for section and division member leaders available online, and offers training regionally, as well as through other organized events. Each position has resources and information available in the Member Leader Community of Practice as well as a position description.

Why is training so important? As a volunteer, I can’t help members access the benefits of their membership unless I am aware of them. For recruitment, I can’t begin to ask someone to join if I don’t know what we do. Have you been trained on your volunteer position? How does it affect your ability to lead?

Influential Voices: Can We Settle for Just Evolving?

In a thought provoking piece, ASQ CEO Bill Troy poses the question, “The Future of Quality: Evolutionary or Revolutionary?” Right now, my own world has already turned from just “plain” quality to organizational excellence, and risk management, and I think that where we need to continue to aim is for a completely different word, sustainability. This would truly be revolutionary! While most folks think of the environment when they think of sustainability. The people/profit/planet model starts to take a bigger look at what is required. Quality is just plain a given – without it we are just creating waste, which is, you guessed it, not sustainable.

What are your thoughts on the future of quality?

Influential Voices: Quality in Education

I’ve written about quality in education before. So when Julia wrote her guest post on the View from the Q blog last month, I knew that I wanted to revisit the topic. Michele Ree’s name looked familiar, and I couldn’t figure out why. Then I saw it in my e-mail – I am on the mailing list for her organization, Students First.\

I realize that my own story is just anecdotal, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that my own kids don’t expect praise for mediocre work or for just showing up. Even my son, who tends to be on the lazy side, understands that if he wants to be successful in school, that he needs to study, and that it is not enough to simply be present. The kids in our school district are held accountable for the work assigned, and expected to perform. I’ve never been in a classroom where this has not been the case. My kids are learning things in school much younger than I ever did, and they are having more opportunities for enrichment, like the Young Scholars camp both my kids will attend this summer, and the boys science weekend my son will attend (my daughter is a year to young for the girl’s weekend, but she is looking forward to attending next year.).

Do all of our schools adequately prepare our kids for the careers that will be available when they graduate? No – I’m sure that there are failing schools – the numbers tell us that. Students First gives my state a D+. But that doesn’t mean our schools are giving my kids a D+ education. As parents, we also play a strong role in the quality of education our children receive. Some children have to learn in spite of their parents, just as some children have to learn in spite of their teachers. Quality public education is critical. But it is something that we all play a role in – the students, teachers, administrators and our public officials.

How are you involved in improving the quality of public education?

Influential Voices: Saying Goodbye to a Passionate Voice for Quality

Although I’ve been involved with leadership in the American Society for Quality since the year I joined (1998), I didn’t fully understand the structure of the organization until a leadership gathering held in Milwaukee in 2005. At that time, I was involved with the Section Affairs Council as a Deputy Regional Director, and had the opportunity to meet Paul Borowski for the first time. It was both overwhelming and exciting to connect with this group of member-leaders, and watch as the staff and the board members attempted to deal with the angst building up in the room. The team quickly adapted and totally changed the carefully prepared agenda to address the issues at hand.

Later, I got to work with Paul more directly, as I went on the board on July 1, 2006 as a director-at-large, and then continued on for a second two year term. It was nice to get the opportunity to know him a little more beyond the public persona. What really has stood out over time has been his absolute commitment to Quality. With Paul’s retirement, we’ll have a new leader on board. I’m sure that he will be equally committed to Quality.

I’d like to say goodbye to Paul with this Gaelic blessing that somehow seems fitting for the occasion:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Wishing you all the best in your retirement, Paul.

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