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?

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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: Social Media

This month, Paul wrote about social media in honor of the re-launch of he ASQ Communities. I have to be honest – I limit my social networking for work to LinkedIn for the most part. So while I’ve accepted the requests in the community and I’ve set up my profile, 99% of my effort is really on the LinkedIn side. I’ve received Facebook requests from some of the people I’ve met through ASQ, but I only accept requests there from folks I consider to be friends, and delete the rest – my Facebook activity is about my family and my hobbies, not about networking. LinkedIn keeps me busy enough, as I moderate three groups including ASQ Women Network, and most of the time, if I need an answer to something, I look up e-mail addresses on LinkedIn and then go direct to the person I want to connect with.

How do you use social media as a quality professional?

Influential Voices: November was World Quality Month

Did your company or organization celebrate World Quality Month? I thought that the question Paul Borowski posed to kick off the month was a good one – “how do we accelerate the acceptance of quality?” I had an interesting conversation with an employee of the Girl Scouts yesterday that leads me to the answer that awareness is still a big part of the problem.

When I lead problem solving training, one of the things that I remind the engineers is that 99.99% of the employees in a business to not start the morning at work with the thought, “Wow! What can I do wrong today?” At a minimum, folks don’t want to make mistakes so that they don’t make waves or get reprimanded. At the other end of the spectrum are those fully engaged employees who make the connection to the customer and are looking for opportunities for improvement. Our responsibility as the folks who make the instructions is to make it as easy as possible for those doing the work to do it well every time.

So what does this do with the Girl Scouts? My application to become a Girl Scout leader took 5 1/2 weeks to approve. Certainly, it is good that the organization is doing thorough background checks. And the content of those checks should not be shortcutted just to get folks through the system faster. But when I was speaking with the membership specialist yesterday, she was suprised to find out that they could use Lean tools to improve and speed up the process. When I described this, she had not heard of it before. But she was excited by the idea that the process could be improved, and I connected her with the chair of the Madison, WI section to see if there were volunteers available to help them with this process.

This was in a non-profit, but certainly, you’ve been to a business where you just shook your head and wondered why they just didn’t get it, whether it was a local service provider, or a supplier to your company. We all have the opportunity to make a difference through the quality profession, whether it is at work, or in our community, by building awareness we can bring about changes. What are you doing to change our world?

Influential Voices: Government Quality

This post is in memory of Ed Thompson. Ed was the two-time Mayor of Tomah, WI, and a former Gubernatorial candidate in Wisconsin. When I was the Program Chair for the ASQ La Crosse-Winona Section, I invited Ed to speak to our section about quality and the government. Paul Borowski’s post on the subject brought back memories of that meeting and a story that Ed shared with us.

An employee of Tomah failed to do his work. In an ordinary situation, this may not be such a big deal, but in this case it was – as a result of the employee’s negligence, the city lost some funding that it needed. Ed fired the employee. The employee filed a complaint with the union, and was reinstated when Ed left office. Even though proper channels had been followed Ed was unable to fire an incompetent employee. In general, I do not have an issue with unions, but this anecdotal story is just a hint at some of the issues that rules that protect the status quo in government can create when exercised. There has to be a path forward that protects the rights of the indivdiduals while allowing the government the ability to manage employees appropriately. That does not appear to have been in place in Tomah at the time that Ed was the mayou.

On the other hand, I see a lot of work being done at the county and local level that is done quickly, efficiently, and sometimes on a shoe string. They may be using quality tools without even knowing it, because a lot of the methods and messages are things that just make sense.

As customers of our government, we can certainly ask for change, something the Occupy! movement is currently doing in the U.S. But can we drive this change? Realistically, if a change is going to be made, it needs to be owned and driven internally. It may need customer feedback, for example when looking to improve transactions with the customer, assessing the voice of the customer would be a valid input. The government needs to create an environment that drives, sustains, rewards and supports continuous improvement.

Influential Voices: Quality in Education

I have to admit that my first thought when I read Paul’s April blog post, my first thoughts were competitive ones. I went to HS in Wisconsin for most of two years. My freshman year I was at Homestead High school in Mequon. My sophomore year I was at Nicolet High school in Fox Point. Both of these schools are in the general vicinity of the Pewaukee school district. In April of my sophomore year, we moved to Florida. I thought both Homestead and Nicolet were excellent schools.  Really, though, education in all schools should be a race to the top.

One of the things that has impressed me the most with my own children’s education (on the other side of Wisconsin) is that in spite of the fact that they are in what one would consider to be a traditional classroom setting, I see them being treated as individuals rather than part of the group so that they can excel. My son (age 9, grade 3) is asked to help mentor other students when he finishes his own work – this helps reinforce his own learning of the material as well as prevents boredom. My daughter (age 7, grade 1) is in an advanced reading group with one other student, and should be on chapter books before the end of the school year. Both of my kids have learned through their education and experience to set goals in ways I can’t imagine having done at their age. I still can’t get over Hannah breaking down her larger gymnastics goals into by event goals, and then setting new goals as she achieved the ones she set earlier. This is the same approach she has taken in her reading goals – one level at a time, currently on L, they typically start chapter books after M. This flow down of goals, helping individuals see how their own actions are tied to a higher goal is consistent with the Baldrige criteria.

Whether or not schools embrace Baldrige (ours hasn’t and still outperforms the state averages in spite of being a rural school district), the important thing is the commitment to quality. Is No Child Left Behind and AYP the answer? I don’t have an answer for that. Perhaps what we should aspire to teach our teachers to teach and our administrators to administer in a way that quality is integrated, not separate from what they do. What if the Baldrige criteria were taught as the standard way to run a school district and its schools? What if quality in education wasn’t something extra, a program – it was just what we did? What if?