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: 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: 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: 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?

Influential Voices: Talking Quality at Ford

I’ll preface this post with a little explanation on the header: I’m planning to start blogging more often, so I’m going to include information in the subject line that makes my posts easier to identify.

Last month at WCQI, Paul Borowski interviewed Bernie Fowler, the VP of Quality and New Model Launch at Ford and wrote about it on his blog. Unfortunately I’m not able to watch the video, but something that struck me in Paul’s comments was the statement, “quality must focus on more than product—it must focus on the entire customer experience.” Having recently completed a marketing class, I can’t help but notice the similarity between Bernie’s comment on what quality is today and the definition of marketing.

I’ve seen this highlighted in determining where to send my kids for gymnastics lessons. The spotty quality of coaching is one thing (the product), but when I combine that with a director who plays favorites with kids, coaches and parents (the experience), moving the kids to a club further away from home was actually an easy choice.

In my own work, my company sells not just a product, but also services, and our teams develop  close working relationships with their customers. In a previous role, I had a customer frustrated with working with someone at a supplier, and worked with the supplier to fix the issue, which in turn improved our customer’s experience. We all have the ability to impact our customers, whether they are internal or external by focusing on the experience. How do you impact the experience of your customers?

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