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.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Be A Quality Ambassador - Do's and Don'ts

Another World Quality Month is upon us and as members of ASQ and the Quality Profession, we have an opportunity to project the importance of quality.  For example, ASQ members will be again provided with the opportunity to extend the Voice of Quality with a complimentary 6 month membership to be provided to a friend, colleague, family member, or worthy recipient.

In this context, we all have an opportunity to function as Ambassadors of Quality.  Using a sports analogy, this is similar to the effective and successful engagement of sports teams to make their fans feel that they are part of the team's success.  In this context


This is a tremendous privilege, but also bears responsibility.  In an effort to effectively harness the enthusiasm and channel all efforts to realize the best outcomes, without disrupting or undermining the progress made to date, I am proposing a simple guideline of DO's and DON'Ts for this type of initiative.  As a consequence of World Quality Month, we all want our ASQ to be stronger, more robust, more diverse, and more sustainable in order to enable those who follow us to have the same opportunities that we have.

DO: Do advocate quality and ASQ when interacting within your employers, customers, acquaintances, and communities.  Conduct and project yourself in a way that represents your profession and affiliation in a positive and inspiring manner.

DON'T:  Don't purport to speak on behalf of an official ASQ Body (i.e. ASQ Board of Directors) or Member Unit (i.e. Section, Division) without first securing permission from the current presiding officers of that group.   Doing so will create confusion and be detrimental when that legitimate ASQ body or group communicates their own message.  For clarification, please refer to the official ASQ Leadership roster at this location.

DO: Do demonstrate the honor and stature that comes from being a respected professional.  Display with pride your hard-earned and well-deserved legitimate credentials, ASQ certifications, and recognitions.

DON'T: Don't create misleading impressions by unilaterally enhancing your credentials with extended descriptions (i.e. referring to yourself as a Master Black Belt when you only have a Six Sigma Green Belt) fabricated titles or appointments.  Instead, be authentic and aspire to gain your stature through legitimate means and actions.

DO: Do engage and interact with other professional societies and organizations.  I especially encourage  interaction with your alumni association from your university or college.

DON'T: Don't mislead or falsify your level of authority within ASQ to attempt to further your own personal interests or acquire gifts or free admission to events.  This might create the expectation of reciprocation by ASQ.  If there are any commercial interactions, the best approach is to clarify the relationship or arrangements with a official Memorandum of Understanding between ASQ and the external organization.

DO: Do express personal opinions and positions which advocate for the good of quality and society at large.  We all support quality and social responsibility, and the world will be a better place for having more voices support altruistic endeavors.

DON'T:  Don't invoke the brand equity and reputation of ASQ to purport endorsement of a particular political figure or movement.  In one case, I had to intervene when a random individual took it upon himself to express the "wholehearted support" by ASQ of a Conservative political figure during a federal election year.

DO: Do follow ASQ's bylaws, policies, and guidelines for publicity and social media.  If you are not familiar with these, I suggest you consult ASQ directly at 1-800-248-1946 to speak to a knowledgeable ASQ resource first-hand.

DON'T: Don't mock up or fraudulently make unauthorized revisions to ASQ templates (i.e. by inserting your personal home address as the official press contact - yes that really happened!).  Again it is misleading and confusing when the public at large is provided with multiple points of contact (both legitimate and illegitimate).

DO: Do interact respectfully and politely with ASQ Staff and Member-leaders.  ASQ is here to assist and support the quality profession, and wants all members to effectively success individually and promote quality globally.

DON'T: Don't interpret your role as an ASQ member and patron of ASQ's products and services as a license to berate and abuse employees and member-leaders.  No ASQ Staff member should have to endure antagonistic and emotional ramblings or overt threats made by a disgruntled character who in their confused state takes on a most indefensible opinion or position, particularly if it is easily refuted with verifiable facts and actual events.

The opportunity to create and sustain the Magic of Quality throughout our organizations and communities is a privilege which demands from all of us the correct and appropriate approach.  I hope by communicating this, I will have provided some necessary guidance to get the most from this opportunity, with the fewest problems.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Gaming The System

I have thought about the "defeat devices" used by VW.  As I understand based on the articles and reports, the defeat device would activate the emissions controls to a level sufficient to pass the regulatory tests, then deactivate these same controls during normal operations so that power and performance would not be diminished.

Unfortunately our data-driven management systems reward companies that pass the tests illegitimately, until they are finally caught.  Like performance-enhanced athletes, the companies who skirt regulatory scrutiny can prosper and dominate.

Where does the ethic start?  Who among us can cast the first stone, so to speak?

Having been involved in software quality, I know that there are conditions upon which the same product can be shown to pass, or to fail the test.  The scope and breadth of the test is as important as the result, along with the conditions and potential interactions.  Seasoned testers can break a system with very little effort, often by incorporating a few known failure modes into the equation.  For example, adding a name with accents, hyphens, and apostrophes to a database operating concurrently with anti-virus software could cause a performance issue leading to data corruption.

I also know that having set up multiple product demonstrations for sales presentations, the end-to-end display of the features is not always reflective of actual operating conditions.  User choices and options are often reduced to show only those working features, and results pages are often hard-coded to show the expected outcome, rather than take the chance of an error message or interrupted function appearing.  This is best demonstrated in the movie Tucker, where the prototype automobile was being fixed on the stage immediately prior to its display.

Here is an administrative example related to the new ASQ budgeting format.  The revenues and costs are structured to distinguish between General and Administrative (G&A) and Member Value (MV), with the target that ASQ Member Units should have 70% of their budget emphasizing Member Value items (known as the PAR Ration - Performance Awards and Recognition).

5500 Contract & Professional expense category is Member Value if the item is used for Subject Matter Experts, Instructor Fees, or Member Value events.

4600 tracks Contributions and Sponsorships as Member Value for revenue from Contributions and Sponsorships.

Dan – eminent and illustrious ASQ Fellow – agrees to speak at an ASQ section for 1 million dollars and a cup of coffee.  In turn, Dan – generous benefactor of quality – contributes 1 million dollars back to the section (but keeps the coffee).

Revenue and Expenses for Member Value are sufficiently skewed to show a PAR ratio of 99%, due to the million dollar line item in both revenues and expenses attributed to Member Value.

1 million is absurd, but $5000 is a palatable speaker fee.  If I were to do the $5000 in-and-out swap, the books would balance but the totals would be artificially inflated in order to get closer to the target PAR ratio.

The root cause comes to the overall intent, which is to have a contrived status report based on artificially inflated levels of activity.  When the status reports become the drivers of success or failure, the efforts will shift from legitimate quality pursuits (setting up processes and systems to consistently provide successful outcomes, delivering compliant solutions, satisfying customers, controlling outcomes) to contrived results and outcomes (i.e. "interpreted" statistics, "doctored" test results, inflated completion numbers, extrapolated estimates of total savings).

Also there is an obligation on the part of leadership and governance to not place reliance on a single set of measures.  This was the flaw in EPA with respect to VW in that after the controlled emissions testing was done, their perceived obligation was met.  It was only through independent after-market testing conducted at the University of Virginia that the excessive NOx emissions were revealed.  The mitigation is for the testing and control agencies to adopt a more rigorous after-market surveillance program.

If quality is legitimate, the tests are simply a formality.  If quality is contrived, then the testing will reveal the shortcomings.  These increases in appraisal activities will make the systems harder to manipulate and falsify, thus increasing the assurance.