About This Blog

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.

Friday, April 10, 2015

ASQ Conferences for the Engaged Member

In response to the latest View from the Q blog about conferences, I want to set the context around my opinion.

As an ASQ Regional Director, I have access to various member databases.  One collection is the list of Unpaid Members, which is a collection of members who have not renewed their ASQ membership since their last expiry date, and are at risk of either attrition or termination.

My observation of the Unpaid member profiles revealed two key characteristics:
- none of these members belonged to any ASQ Divisions, Interest Groups, or Technical Committees
- less than 1% of the members possessed ASQ certifications

The implication of this is that Engaged ASQ members are those who do belong to one or more Divisions, Interest Groups, or Technical Committees, and possess 1 or more ASQ Certifications.  This post is intended and directed to those who are engaged, to convey the benefits of attending conferences.

Before I outline and summarize the benefits, I will reveal some personal disclosure. As a result of years of ASQ involvement and tactical selection of activities, I have been able to earn, procure, or acquire discounts for certain ASQ events.  I strongly recommend that each ASQ member inquire and pursue member benefits that would enable them to save money on these opportunities.  One almost has to adopt the mindset of a post-secondary student seeking scholarships or sponsorships to support their further education.  If you do get sponsored or supported, it behooves you to follow through and enjoy the benefits offered to you.

Now a true advocate of ASQ conferences should be willing to justify why they would attend if they had to do so without sponsorship or financial assistance.  In this context, the pros and cons are more meaningful and important to consider.

Given my home location in the Pacific Northwest region of Canada, my proximity to conference locations will determine whether or not I attend.  Although there is an excellent conference in Orlando, Florida, where the Technical Communities meet, the travel across three time zones, an international border, and 8 hours of flight time each way make the trip relatively burdensome and expensive. The additional travel time has to be considered when taking time away from work supporting my clients and professional practice.

When attending, a prudent approach is required in order to secure the desired schedule and accommodations for a reasonable cost.  Delays and late bookings will increase the transportation costs and reduce the available options, reducing the overall value for money spent.

In addition to cost, scheduling is also important.  In our professional and personal lives, our various commitments create priorities that may conflict with conference events.  Whether it is a long-planned family gathering, timing of university exams, or a critical path project milestone, sometimes conferences simply do not work and have to be skipped for that time period.

As far as justifying attendance, in my opinion ASQ conferences support the efforts and aspirations of the engaged member.  The focus at conferences shifts from section activities to divisions, and provides members of ASQ divisions, interest groups, technical committees, and other initiatives a chance for face-to-face interaction and constructive teamwork.  As a personal example, I can catch up with my various groups and continue the engagement and involvement, as well as supporting the efforts and initiatives of the member units.  This is also a chance to explore and adopt new groups in which to become more closely involved.  For example, I became an ASQ Influential Voice blogger as a result of attending WCQI in 2012.

For the ASQ member interested in attaining or retaining their ASQ certification, ASQ conferences offer multiple"fast-track" options including:

- Professional Development: (attending a 3 day ASQ conference annually will fulfill the category maximum of 9.0 Recertification Units)

-  Courses - Student Credit: Most ASQ Conferences schedule additional courses immediately adjacent to the conference, either before or after.

-  Committees: The proximity and presence of ASQ divisions, interest groups, and technical committees will enable attendees to attend committee meetings and earn credits toward their recertification.

- Certification/ Exam Proctoring:  Most ASQ conferences offer examinations, and ASQ members can apply or arrange to be either examinees or proctors, providing additional recertification units.

- Electronic Media: ASQ conferences like WCQI provide the presentations in a format that can be downloaded and viewed after the conference.  This can support learning by obtaining the material one may have missed due to time conflicts, and also can add important recertification units.

- Publishing: Taking notes and submitting a summary of the presentations is not only suitable for learning, it can provide additional recertification credits if the articles are published in ASQ newsletters, journals, magazines, or other publications.  This is an excellent way to support personal learning and build visibility and professional stature.

Conferences are social activities, and one must be prepared for frequent and constant interaction.  I believe that if an ASQ member is already engaged, then conferences would enhance their ASQ member experience and enable them to get value for their membership dollar, thus building up Loyalty Capital.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Grand Confederation of Quality should include Lean and Six Sigma

Today within the ASQ Influential Voices, past and present, there are conflicting opinions about the respective merits of Lean and Six Sigma.

A recent post on a Lean Blog takes issue with particular characterizations of Lean by certain publications.  As the examples arise from personal anecdotes of a self-styled "life coaching consultant", the intellectual rigor and supporting references cannot be referenced to support or dispute his assertions.

A counter-opinion is offered on Scott Rutherford's Square Peg Musings.  The point is to move the discussion away from the nuances separating the different "tribes" within the performance improvement domain, and focus on working with organizational leadership constructively to adopt quality practices.  I agree with this approach advocated by Scott.

One of my prized personal references in my library is Juran's Quality Control Handbook, 4th edition, which was published in 1988.  While this massive tome does not specifically reference either Lean or Six Sigma, many of the practices and principles now claimed by both "camps" are shown and demonstrated in considerable detail.  When I qualified as an ASQ Certified Quality Engineer in the mid-1990s, I did so without having to declare myself as a proponent of either Lean or Six Sigma.  In my opinion, I belong to neither camp because my involvement in the profession predated both brands.

In addition to being a quality practitioner, I can say with modesty and humility that I possess certain rank and stature within ASQ, both as a leader and a thought-leader.  I can personally attest that the various bodies of knowledge within ASQ are inclusive and have enthusiastically embraced Six Sigma and Lean practices as essential components of Quality knowledge.  One cannot decouple Lean or Six Sigma from Quality; they are now core practices.  Juran's Quality Handbook, 6th Edition, includes detailed summaries of Lean and Six Sigma, along with its relevance to the Quality practitioner.  Therefore, as I have mentioned previously, when a Lean practitioner makes inflammatory comments about Quality or Six Sigma, they are inadvertently insulting their precious Lean, which is actually a subset of the Quality Body of Knowledge

In my professional role, I am presented with increasingly demanding challenges to deliver solutions to clients in a competitive and time-sensitive manner.  If any practices from Lean or Six Sigma pertain to the situation and promise to support the overall objectives, I am at liberty to deploy the most effective methods at my disposal for the benefit of my team and my client.  Through my experience, I have found this to be most effectively performed within the confines of a structured management system supported by senior executives.  Without the management system setting clear objectives and holding individuals accountable for personal performance, both Lean and Six Sigma can potentially devolve into detrimental and costly programs that conflict with their intended aims.

In my role at ASQ, I must aspire to show leadership and embrace divergent communities of practitioners whose views may not agree with my own.  While others have the luxury of making inflammatory comments, I owe it to my Quality Profession to bring together the respective virtues of the different communities into a Grand Confederation of practitioners.  A confederation does not imply uniformity of opinion, but a healthy respect for diverging views and a quest for synergies and common ground.  I welcome dialogue and commit to seeking to understand different viewpoints before drawing conclusions and expressing opinions.

I call upon those using social media to use their communication forum in a positive and progressive manner. If we as a profession do not work from a common body of knowledge and commit to scholarly research and due diligence in our practices, our profession is at risk of diminishing and deteriorating our stature and livelihood.

The enemy of Quality is negligence and apathy.  When inflammatory remarks are made, this fuels the cynicism and diminishes the respect and stature which should be rightly due to a virtuous and altruistic group of professionals, seeking improvements not just for our clients and companies, but for the greater society at large.