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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.

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.

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