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, September 18, 2015

Bad "Car"Ma: Defeat Devices Not Legitimate Quality Nor Socially Responsible

On September 18, there were multiple reports concerning the Notice of Violation by the EPA and the Government of California against Volkswagen concerning their "Defeat Device" software which was installed to enable the cars to consistently pass emissions tests.

For reference, this story has been corroborated across multiple web publications as shown below.









The summary is that between 480,000 and 500,000 (482,000 by multiple accounts) vehicles will need to be recalled.  These cars had software known as a Defeat Device installed to activate all emissions control capabilities during testing, and disable the majority of those controls during normal operation, when the emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) would be estimated to be 10-40 times higher than the emissions released during testing.

I consider this to be "Contrived Quality" because the vehicle was designed with a feature to demonstrate a particular result under a particular configuration that was not reflective of normal use.  (This is like a roofing company boasting about having no water leaks during a drought, but changing their statement once it actually starts raining).

These outcomes were discovered by an independent emissions study conducted in West Virginia, and the reports of that study were communicated to both the Environmental Protection Agency and the California Air Resources Board.  After initial resistance, VW was forced to disclose the presence of the defeat device.

In addition to the recall of multiple diesel models, the overall VW brand is tarnished.  Consumers who had paid a premium for a vehicle with emissions control are now disappointed that their "clean diesel" cars are not legitimate.  All future purchases from VW will be made with extra caution based on this act of noncompliance.

With respect to Social Responsibility, this is an excellent example of a product which was marketed as a Socially Responsible solution, but due to its technical manipulation was actually Socially Detrimental.  Nearly half a million vehicles are on the road with excessive emissions, adding to the contribution of nitrogen oxide in our environment.

This is not without recent precedent.  In November 2014, Hyundai and Kia were fined a combined $300 million for violating the Clean Air Act.  The Financial Times estimates a fine of $37,500 per vehicle, which could result in a combined fine to VW of $18 billion.  How is that for a Cost of Quality and Cost of Social Responsibility?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

ASQ Mission and Fulfillment

I read with interest the recent View from the Q from Patricia La Londe.  Among the interesting items was the fact that she was introduced as an ASQ Fellow, which brings considerable exposure and stature to this credential.  I encourage others in ASQ to pursue this particular credential in order to get the most from their time and investment in an ASQ membership experience.

With respect to the article, it was very well written with many questions posed.  I will respond to the questions with my own comments and observations.  For visual purposes, the text captured from the article is in italics and credited to Patricia La Londe.  I also have set my comments to a different color.

If an organization is seeking to improve its culture of quality, a closer look at the three areas —vision, values and leadership—is likely a good place to begin. I encourage you to take a fresh look.
I agree except that I would order it differently.  Long-term leadership, through their choices and priorities, set the vision and values. There is a fourth element: governance.  The governance will ensure fulfillment of the mission.

How often do you consider a company’s mission when choosing a retailer or a business partner? As it turns out, probably more often than you think. At ASQ, we recently conducted a global brand and reputation study.
This is not a consideration as missions are aspirational.  I am more inclined to look at the track record and reputation as a predictor of future expectations.  Again, governance and culture triumphs and defines the outcomes of the organization.
One of the most surprising findings of the study is that respondents rated organizational mission as highly important in their consideration of an organization that provides training, certification, membership or books/publications related to quality, continuous improvement or performance excellence.
This is an ambiguous area for ASQ.  In addition to being a professional society of quality providers, ASQ is in and of itself a provider of goods and services in the quality domain, making it both a professional society and a potential competitor to other quality trainers.  
I am a member of ASQ, but I do not work for ASQ.  In fact, I believe that it is my role as a member-leader to counsel other ASQ members on how to get the best deal and reduce their ASQ membership costs through strategic purchases (i.e. member discounts, early-bird specials, bundled incentives with early membership renewal, complimentary journal with Senior Member upgrade).  This is an example of where my inclination as a member conflicts with ASQ as a business by promoting discounts and savings, reducing overall revenue levels but increasing member engagement.
First, the ASQ mission is: To increase the use and impact of quality in response to the diverse needs of the world.
As stewards of the global quality movement, ASQ is advancing ideas, tools, techniques, and systems that will help the world meet tomorrow’s critical challenges.  Yet there remain significant opportunities to dramatically and positively impact public thinking around the role of quality.
There are others who claim stewardship of quality.  ASQ has many international partners, but there is still confusion as other professional groups (i.e. Project Management Institute) also aspire to drive the quality agenda.
While nobody is opposed to quality, there are conflicting pressures to reduce bureaucracy, overhead, delays, headcount, complexity, and other attributes often associated with quality control and compliance.  There is also the desire to remain ignorant and have plausible deniability so that when problems do occur, accountability can be deflected elsewhere.  For these reasons, quality is often squashed and suppressed within organizations (think of how the 1973 White House attempted to block and deflect the FBI and the Washington Post - that is the same mentality some have toward the Quality department).
Quality is really about establishing authenticity and trust.  Once those virtues are compromised, the quality practices become a tool to mislead others and provide a false sense of security.  This was demonstrated in the US mortgage financial crisis, where sub-prime mortgages were blended with other investments to have an artificially high financial rating, characteristic of low risk investments.   
What are we doing about these opportunities? We have identified the following themes that underscore our mission and developed plans to address them.
•   ASQ is aligned and united to grow and advance the Global Quality Community.
We’re continuing to expand our global footprint with offices in the United States, Mexico, India, China, the United Arab Emirates, and Brazil. Our aim worldwide is to enhance and sustain the role of quality, help those who need quality concepts and tools for professional and organizational success, and to demonstrate the value of quality. This is, of course, in addition to our established geographic, topical, and industry-specific communities that foster career development and facilitate professional networking.
I am a Canadian member based in the Pacific Northwest.  I have raised the point before about the ASQ Customer Care, specifically that from its Milwaukee location, it does not provide live agent service to me after 3PM (5PM Central), and does not offer service in French (second official language in Canada).  ASQ should take better care of its "backyard" along with its global aspirations.
I also want to comment that my observations at WCQI (which were very well run thanks to the efforts of Patricia La Londe and her conference teams) demonstrate that our international counterparts are leading and dominating the quality spectrum, and ASQ's global initiative is simply catching up to this reality.  For example, ITEA participants and award recipients are well represented by teams and individuals from outside of North America.  The Feigenbaum Medal (distinguished quality practitioner aged 35 or younger) is a model of ethnic and demographic diversity as every recipient has been either a visible minority, a woman, or someone born and educated outside of the USA.   
 ASQ is committed to and investing in member value, this year and beyond.
In the next several years, we’re making significant technological improvements to our technology infrastructure to improve the customer experience with ASQ. For example, we will be addressing our website experience, expanding offerings available in multiple formats (i.e. hard copy, mobile, Kindle), and optimizing the volume of emails sent from the entire Society.
I have calculated my "Loyalty Capital" to capture the cumulative value of my membership experience, and compare that with the cost of continued membership.  To understand member value, ASQ first has to have a clear sense of the goals and aspirations of its members, and then position ASQ offerings and deliverables as an essential component to the achievement of those goals.  
Investing in capital and infrastructure, and assigning the label of member-value, does not necessarily improve the membership experience.  The cost recovery and return on investment for capital purchases has to come from more specific gains than just a speculative and subjective impression of member value.
To be truly experienced by the membership, the benefits should be visible at the connection between the ASQ member and the immediate Member Unit (ASQ Section or ASQ Division).  Without this connection, the ASQ member will lose engagement, and the benefit will be lost.
•   ASQ in 2015 has its challenges, yet is responding, evolving and adapting, to ensure our members’ and customers’ success in a rapidly changing, competitive, global environment.
It’s critical to the future of quality that ASQ continues to evolve and grow with its members and customers to provide them with the up-to-date knowledge and tools. By systematically studying emerging topics and monitoring the future of quality, we’re working to ensure that we respond to the global needs of today and tomorrow.
ASQ should still continue to serve its traditional "bread and butter" constituency, namely the hands-on quality practitioner.  With the growth in automation, technology, and virtual workplaces, ASQ has to adapt its programs to accommodate 21st century occupations.
With respect to the future of Quality, I propose that a greater effort be made to emphasize the quality-related aspects of professionals in technical support, business analysis, service management, IT systems maintenance, project management, and personnel recruiting.  These are all roles which increasingly define and determine the quality of organizations, and are not explicitly represented within ASQ as distinct divisions or technical communities. 
For example, ASQ will be testing new membership and engagement models and programs, locally and globally, for individuals and organizations over the next year as well as increasing the Society’s attention to leadership and professional development programs. ASQ is also cultivating the next generation of leaders through programs designed for young professionals.
There has to be a progressive membership model.  If you think of a pyramid, a wide base of low-impact members can draw in people.  However there should also be a set of benefits available only to those at the pinnacle of membership, in order to create an incentive for long-term, intensive commitment and involvement.