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.

Influential Voices: How does your Quality Grow?

In a post on Measuring the Value of Quality, Paul Borowski laments that we don’t have a line outside the door of folks searching for answers on how to bring quality to their organization.  Statistics like, “[t]wenty cents of every dollar of revenue in manufacturing is lost to poor quality” and “[t]hirty cents of every revenue dollar in service is lost to poor quality” and perhaps the scariest one, “[s]eventy cents in healthcare” – are you scared yet? If you’ve every worked in manufacturing, beyond the financial costs of poor quality, this also results in wasted time, lost customer satisfaction, and lost resources. Philip Crosby famously said “Quality is free. It’s not a gift, but it’s free. The ‘unquality’ things are what cost money.” Whether or not you believe in Crosby’s Zero Defects philosophy, this quote rings true.

As natural resources become increasingly scarce, a renewed focus on quality is needed. What if we returned to designing reliable products that were meant to survive  a generation, rather than the current system of planned obsolescence? What if our leadership provided more incentive to produce cost avoidance due to doing right the first time instead of cost reductions and improvement efforts due to kaizan activities? What if we stopped saying it’s not my job and started saying how can we solve this problem together? In most organizations, business as usual will simply not be sustainable in the future. How can we plant the seeds together to make quality grow? What is growing in your quality garden?

Raising the Voice of Quality

Paul Borowski asks the question in his blog post  this month, “So, what would it take to get the world’s attention to focus on that truth? What would it take to have the world realize the full potential of quality?”

I think that the answer to this question may come from a story that you may have heard me tell before. In 2006, on the shuttle on the way to the ASQ World Conference, I started to chat with one of the women who also was on the way to the hotel. The conversation went something like this…

Aimee, “Are you on the way to the ASQ World Conference?”

Woman, “Yes, but I’m not in quality, I’m a nurse.”

Huh? I think that perhaps that was the moment that I decided my “mission” was to help people make the connection that what we all do is quality.  World Quality Month may be a time to help remind of us this, but I don’t think that a promotion is going to get us there. This is a grassroots, person by person, all hands on deck effort. When we use quality tools at home and on our way, when we give teacher books that help them introduce kids to quality when they’re young, when we talk about quality in civic organizations, when we write and talk about quality.

How do you raise the voice of quality?