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A QualitEvolution is intended to capture positions and experiences as a participant in the evolution of the Quality profession into the 21st century. From its origins as the brainchild of Corporate Industrial Statisticians, our profession has transformed and evolved to incorporate and adapt to the demands and expectations of our modern existence.

The scope of the subject matter within A QualitEvolution extends to the furthest ranges of quality, business transformation, management science, and quality issues especially pertinent to the members of ASQ in Canada.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

What's Your ASQ Loyalty Capital?

Last month I had the eminent privilege of addressing the quality community with a guest posting on the illustrious View from the Q blog.  With such a broad global audience, I felt that my opportunity would be best served by advising the ASQ Membership and professional community at large on how to get the most from their ASQ membership.

I believe that optimal value can be realized by actively participating in the programs and benefits available to ASQ Members, and by supplementing these with ongoing tracking for recertification and awards (i.e. ASQ Fellow Membership, ASQ Medals).  From this perspective, I view ASQ as a professional loyalty program.  I can personally testify that upon achieving certain levels of achievement and advancement, more privileges and opportunities are available within ASQ.  Through this forum, I aspire to create awareness of and draw attention to some valuable elements of ASQ by which the optimal value for membership can be obtained.

What’s Your Loyalty Capital?

Having been a member of ASQ for approximately 18 years, I believe that the aggregated benefits and privileges can be characterized as a tangible asset, to which I will assign the label of Loyalty Capital.  By clearly understanding the value, the decision to renew and sustain continued membership can be tracked and calculated objectively.  The concept of Loyalty Capital can be generically applied to other organizations or pursuits, where the value is defined and tailored on a personal level. 

At a WCQI focus group session in 2012, I was part of a group of international ASQ members tasked to calculate the relative Return on Investment by comparing the costs of my membership relative to the aggregated benefits.  What most people don’t realize is that the benefits are compounded by years of experience and exposure.  The interdependency and interconnectivity between the individual member and the available resources and expertise within ASQ provide a positive multiplier.  The compounded benefits of membership can take years to accumulate but can be continually harvested for substantially longer.  This is why I refer to this asset as Loyalty Capital.

Not every organization is appropriate, and not every member is suitable for a particular organization.  Only when there is alignment of personal and organizational principles, can the foundation of a long-term membership relationship be established.  ASQ aligns with my own attributes in the following ways:
·         Professional: ASQ is oriented for academic and vocational growth in the Quality profession.
·         Participatory: ASQ welcomes and encourages its members to have involvement and influence
·         Provocative: ASQ explores issues and takes positions reflective of quality ideals.
·         Prudent: ASQ is deliberate and measured and conscientious of personal and organizational budgets
·         Passionate: ASQ supports energetic and enthusiastic pursuits for thought leadership and innovation.
·         Persistent: ASQ provides continuity and constant support across industries, generations, and nations.

Build Your Personal ASQ Loyalty Capital

It is not enough to simply join an organization or subscription to realize benefits.  The initial burden is placed upon the member to make a reasonable “bona fide” effort.  Just as an airline or hotel loyalty program would require you to actually be a passenger or hotel guest, an association or society places certain expectations.  For a professional association like ASQ, some effective ways to build loyalty are summarized below:
·         Get connected on multiple outlets for Social Media. Many of the programs within ASQ are becoming increasingly dynamic and dependent upon having ASQ membership reachable through channels including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, and other online community groups, particularly the one hosted from the society website at www.asq.org.
·         Present yourself as a respectful professional.  This applied to both personal and online presences.  When attending a meeting, be appropriately attired and groomed.  Conduct yourself in a positive and pleasant manner.  Respectful behavior includes timely arrivals, minimal disruption, and polite indulgence of programs and speakers.  Networking is intended for exchanges, not high pressure sales pitches. 
·         Explore areas of interest.  There is no shortage of diversity within ASQ, which spans many countries, industries, and levels of professional and academic accomplishment.  I personally believe that the Quality profession should be sufficiently versatile and portable to be equally effective across multiple domains.
·         Step up into new challenges.  ASQ presents many opportunities to advance and grow at various scopes within communities (e.g. local, regional, virtual), within roles (e.g. auditor, metrologist), within industries (e.g. automotive, software), or in areas of broader scope.  In addition to participating as an attendee or passive reader, ASQ offers the following experiences to its members:
o   Organize: Assist with the setup and operation of programs or initiatives.
o   Facilitate: Lead the interaction or connection between ASQ and its constituencies, stakeholders, or audiences.
o   Research: Investigate and explore successful approaches applied within the Quality profession.
o   Write: Prepare and submit compositions for publication.
o   Speak: Participate as a panelist, event speaker, or facility “tour guide” to enlighten other members.
o   Mentor: Share insights from experiences to benefit others
o   Instruct: Serve as a clinical instructor within meetings, at training sessions, or formal education programs.
·         Pursue certification and professional experience.  This member benefit provides exceptional value for money, and allows the time spent within ASQ to be effectively leveraged to the benefit of your career.  As a personal example, I leveraged the combination of an ASQ Certified Software Quality Engineer peer recognition and ASQ presentation experience to enable eleven years of recurring Software Quality teaching engagements at three post-secondary institutions in my vicinity, realizing a substantial return on investment for professional and financial gains.

Retain The Value of ASQ Loyalty Capital

Imagine the loyal customer who has faithfully flown or booked rooms with the same organization, only to miss out on benefits they had earned.  The same principle can be applied to ASQ.  By having the mentality of a loyalty program, I have included suggestions that should be vigilantly applied to protect and capitalize on the beneficial contributions already made.

·         Hold Your Gains.  To avoid having your work vanished or eliminated through neglect, it is important that attention is placed upon certain tasks which prevent potential difficulties and frustrations.
o   Remain in Good Standing.  By paying and renewing membership fees in a timely manner, interruptions are avoided.  While continuous membership is an acceptable norm, a disrupted or intermittent record may create restrictions or lost opportunities for certain benefits.
o   Track your achievements and accomplishments as they occur.  This is an easier approach and permits recording with a maximum of accuracy and thoroughness.  Delaying the tracking may cause important accomplishments to be forgotten and not properly credited.
o   Complete your recertification.  Unless you take great pleasure in writing 4 hour multiple-choice exams on a frequent basis, the steps to recertification will permit you to retain your professional standing by submitting your validated records of professional involvement without requiring repeated testing.
·         Quick Wins. Having made a “bona fide” effort as a member, there are certain practices and benefits from which a member can realize greater gains.  The collective benefits from these Quick Wins far outweigh the level of effort needed to complete, making them essential for the savvy and opportunistic member.
o   Upgrade to Senior Membership. This member level is available after ASQ members have attained or achieved levels of experience and fulfillment in particular areas (i.e. certification, career level, duration of membership).  While the annual membership rate has a higher price than that of the regular member, the immediate financial benefit can be realized from the free journal, the value of which exceeds the incremental membership cost.  ASQ Senior Members also have clearance to take on additional levels of responsibility and influence within ASQ.
o   Membership Pricing and “Early-Bird Specials. The incremental price difference between members and non-members is often (deliberately) set to match or exceed the cost of membership.  For a frequent conference attendee or patron of the ASQ Press book catalogue, the member discounts can justify the annual cost of membership consistently.
o   Volunteer benefits Those ASQ members who devote their time as reviewers, authors, presenters, moderators, curriculum developers, or intellectual property contributors may be eligible for additional rewards which can include gifts, discounts on ASQ merchandise, honoraria, subsidized or complimentary conference registration, and recognition events.

Realize Long-Term Dividends of ASQ Loyalty Capital

Having been a member of ASQ for nearly two decades, I can attest to the continuity and constant connectivity which has sustained multiple roles and employers.  In addition to the explicit incentives which include the relevant and readable Quality Progress subscription and the pertinent Monthly “bundles”, there are implicit professional benefits which I have been fortunate enough to receive directly and observe being enjoyed by others.

·         Access to career opportunities.  This can range from the frequent, high profile notifications to informal insider tips on “hidden jobs” which are revealed through personal contacts. 
·         Growth of expertise.  The exposure to the subject material over time will permit a long-term member to expand their own personal competency and proficiency.  This will have a beneficial effect on the reputation and prestige of the member, who will be more frequently consulted and sought for opinions and recommendations.
·         Conference and event hospitality and fellowship.  It is a delightful experience to be met in a strange location and unfamiliar hotel by cordial and supportive people with common interests.  This is most evident at the annual World Conference on Quality and Improvement.  I can honestly attest that during my time in Dallas at WCQI 2014 I never dined alone during the four days but was always received and welcomed at ASQ society or division events and hospitality suites.
·         Unlimited knowledge base.  This dividend combines the wealth of intellectual property retained through collections of publications, as well as the exposure to global expertise from experienced and successful practitioners, academics, and authors. 

Rise Above to Breakthrough Levels of ASQ Loyalty Capital

If an ASQ member is inclined to limit themselves to enjoying membership discounts, conference hospitality, and recertification renewals, they will have realized substantial value in their membership, and their loyalty will have been rewarded many times over.  However for the exceptionally savvy and opportunistic among us, ASQ provides a top echelon of member experience, where ASQ Loyalty Capital can be compounded and optimized.  This can be described as the “Good to Great” chasm.  I will offer some suggestions which I have used to cross this “chasm” and realize a very privileged experience within ASQ.

·         Explore New Peer Groups.  This requires members to initiate and engage people outside of their comfort zones and natural coterie.  When I first joined ASQ my focus was on ISO 9001 registration for a manufacturing company.  ASQ has created and supported resources to facilitate the operations of different peer groups, termed as “ASQ Communities”.  By diversifying my peer groups, I expanded my career scope and reach to include software, services, consulting, education, and social responsibility. 
·         Cultivate Mentor/Protégé Relationships.  It is essential to have relationships in both direction whereby one is always learning from experienced elders while concurrently indulging the next generation of practitioners with experience and insight.  Professional “career coaches” or “executive coaches” command hundreds of dollars per hour, and thousands per engagement.  In contrast, a professional mentorship relationship conducted within the context of ASQ can be arranged over a conveniently arranged meal or cup of coffee,
·         Pursue Senior Leadership and Governance.  As a participatory organization, ASQ provides those willing to make the necessary time and travel commitments with opportunities for selection into roles of authority and influence.  This provides exceptional opportunities to demonstrate leadership and interact with corporate and government leaders.
·         Position For Higher Honors.  This is a category which a limited number of ASQ members are fortunate enough to attain. Ranging from the ASQ Fellow Membership and Honorary Membership grades to the array of ASQ Awards, these recognitions profile outstanding members.   In order to withstand the scrutiny and competitive selection process, a personal portfolio must be sufficiently robust and reflective of diverse and versatile professional and personal accomplishments.  Conversely, any gaps or deficiencies revealed in this process can stimulate the desire for additional efforts in particular membership areas.

Having encountered this level of ASQ membership, I can personally attest to the personable and devoted dedication of the ASQ core staff, several of whom I now consider trusted personal friends.  The involvement and support of the key operational liaisons and facilitators reflects a commitment beyond that of a typical employee.  Even when problems or misunderstandings emerged, I found that their cordial and professional manner enabled positive dialogue and satisfactory resolutions.  When I visualize ASQ, I don’t perceive a logo or a remote building; my impressions gravitate to those particular ASQ staff members with whom I have the most frequent contact, and toward whom I have the highest personal regard and professional respect.

Preserving ASQ Loyalty Capital

As ASQ is not for everyone, not everyone will be supportive.  The ideals and virtues of a life spent pursuing and promoting Quality often run contrary to contemporary trends or fashions.  Even within the profession, there are disgruntled practitioners who view with suspicion and contempt those who aspire to levels of outstanding accomplishment and innovation.  It is important not to let the ill will of others diminish or taint the precious and valuable Loyalty Capital before it can be fully matured and enjoyed.

Attempting any worthy pursuit brings the risk of disappointment, failure, and discouragement from others.  There will be those who, having become frustrated with their own modest limitations, will seek to diminish your goals and aspirations with their attempts at mockery and malice.  This can go beyond constructive critiques to be detrimental and potentially limiting.  This unfortunate circumstance is not unique to high achievers, and when confronted with this, I take solace in the wise encouragement of President Theodore Roosevelt (amended for gender neutrality). 

“It is not the critics who count; not those who point out how the strong one stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the one who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends one’s self in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if one fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that one’s place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” 

To get the most from the Loyalty Capital you have cultivated over time, it is imperative that you rise above those who would limit or derail your ambitions.  Strive for the promise of your full potential, and all that awaits you within ASQ, and wherever your passionate pursuits may lead.

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