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: STEM and the Future

As I read Paul’s blog post this month, I found myself thinking about my current frustration with my son’s education. In the past, I’ve said good things about the education that my children are receiving, but this year, my son hit the front of the pack in his class with his math skills, he has a teacher who is not able to be as flexible as I’d like to be able to accommodate multiple levels in the classroom. From the sound of things, my son is now working independently a unit or more ahead of his class, but it is not clear if he is being taught the material or he is learning it on his own. He was supposed to get a high school student who was advanced to work with him, but I’m not sure that this has happened, and my son hasn’t told me.

So why am I telling you about my son when we are talking about STEM and the future? Because my son on his own is not the future, but my son, and each of his peers, and the rest of his school, and all the other children that age ARE the future of STEM. If we lose them one by one because they are not getting what they need because they are not at the middle of the pack, STEM is not going to have a future. I love that when I take my son to my daughter’s gymnastics meets, he wants to add up the scores and come up with his own metrics. I love that my son asked for science kits for his birthday and is teaching my daughter and doing projects with her from the kits. I can manage the expectations of hard work or a costly education if the school doesn’t turn my kids off to STEM before they have the opportunity to explore it as a career.