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.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Quality Professional Development - Flexibility, Reusability, Eligibility

ASQ can be very expensive with high priced options for certification, education, conferences, and events.  This article is to show ways to satisfy member demand for professional growth while doing so in a cost-effective way by applying best practices for flexibility, reusability, and eligibility.

Being part of ASQ should not be synonymous with high-pressure sales, exaggerated claims, and misleading misrepresentations about the future benefits of overpriced certifications.  ASQ has survived and sustained itself for 70 years by being relevant and suitable for its membership.  A modest and methodical approach, carefully and thoughtfully considered, and emphasizing prudence and thrift, will enable ASQ members to realize their personal and career aspirations in a way that does not disrupt or diminish other elements of their personal or professional lives.

This article captures some personal and reflections and perspectives on my 25+ years of professional education and growth.  I wanted to share my own experiences in managing professional upgrades and training while concurrently fulfilling my job duties and personal commitments (i.e. home, family, other pursuits).
An early experience came when my employer declined my request to sponsor my attendance to a quality conference with the rationalization that if I deemed it a personal priority, I would find a way to muster the resources myself to attend.  Through a combination of prudent choices and thrifty purchase selections (red-eye flights on stand-by, distant motels, public transit) and cost-effective alternatives (breakfast from grocery stores rather than restaurants or coffee shops), I was able to come within a personal budget that made conference attendance viable.
20 years ago, ASQC had twice as many members as it does today, with less overhead and fewer options.  Consequently, certifications and conferences were considerably less expensive.  The situation in the late 1990s and early 2000s was that the training, references, and examination fees could be acquired for a few hundred dollars, making it comparable in cost to a single class at a local accredited post-secondary institution.  These endeavors were greatly supported by the eminent educators and mentors found within ASQC who devoted their services and expertise voluntarily to assist and guide participants.
When you have to spend your own money, the importance of the pursuit is considered in the context of not only the potential gains from completing the certification or conference, but also the competing financial commitments of home, family, and other personal pursuits.  For this reason, no ASQ member should ever be pressured beyond their personal comfort levels to partake in a costly training or networking initiative, lest family and personal lives be disrupted. 
In the 20 years since I attended my first ASQ meeting at the Metrotown Holiday Inn, I have acquired 7 renewable ASQ certifications and attended 8 World Conferences.  If someone were to start today and match the same levels based on full prices or "rack rates" for training and registration, that level of involvement would require a personal commitment of over $25,000. 

Spending $2000 or more per individual certification just to train for and write an open book exam is not sustainable for our membership.


I recommend three approaches for professional development to build your Quality portfolio within your financial means.
The ASQ exams or equivalent credentials from similar professional societies demand a certain level of proficiency, but do not mandate exactly how that proficiency must be acquired.  You can arrive at the exam site on foot, by public transit, on cycle, in a car, or by a limousine or private jet.  Once you step in and take your seat, your status is equal to all other examinees.  The same mentality should be considered whether you acquired your knowledge from personal tutors, expensive courses, webinars, or independent self-study.  Knowledge is knowledge, and does not discriminate by the size of the invoices paid.
As part of your preparation, you should understand your present proficiency level in the subject area.  People who don't know what they don't know (misunderstand their ignorance) will have a false impression of their readiness.  The best approach is to acquire practice exams that will reflect the complexity and coverage of the various questions, and indicate areas where additional study is required.
Not all training is required to be provided by ASQ or ASQ affiliated instructors.  For exams like CQE and CSSBB, there is a statistical component.  This can be augmented by generic training in statistics for business and management, and used to support preparation efforts.  You have every right to select your source of knowledge.
There is also flexibility to participate.  ASQ does not require perfect attendance, and it is better to pick your spots to focus on the most meaningful and impactful events.  Personal commitments (i.e. wedding anniversaries) should be prioritized, and as ASQ has been around for 70 years, you should never be pressured with a "last chance" sales pitch.  Unlike a fly-by-night operation that packs up when the carnival or exhibition leaves town (to find a new set of suckers), ASQ will remain to accommodate the time that is more conducive to your schedule.
When you acquire assets of knowledge or intellectual capital, these are yours to apply and reuse personally and professionally.  Some of the best (i.e. Juran's Quality Handbook, Gemba Kaizen) are filled with relevant and practical knowledge that can be applied to both academic exams and practical work situations. 
ASQ Certifications are distinguished by having an approved Body of Knowledge, which is continually reviewed and regularly updated by industry and academic participants.  Often the same elements of the overall Quality Body of Knowledge (QBoK) are reused across multiple certifications. 
Lean, as an example, is a subset of the Quality Body of Knowledge, and the following ASQ Certifications include a section on Lean Tools (i.e. Cycle Time, 5S, Kanban, Kaizen, Value Stream Mapping) within the training and exams.  Because Lean is already so infused into the Quality continuum, one set of references should be adequate to support study preparations for up to 12 distinct certifications. 
  • Certified Quality Improvement Associate
  • Certified Six Sigma Yellow Belt
  • Certified Six Sigma Green Belt
  • Certified Quality Technician
  • Certified Quality Inspector
  • Certified Quality Process Analyst
  • Certified Suppler Quality Professional
  • Certified Lean Bronze (SME with ASQ contributions)

  • Certified Six Sigma Black Belt
  • Certified Quality Auditor
  • Certified Quality Engineer

  • Certified Manager of Quality and Organizational Excellence
In addition to Lean, multiple certifications cover overlapping content for Quality BoK subjects including Statistical Process Control, Cost of Quality, and Design of Experiments.  The best approach is to contact existing long-term ASQ members who already have multiple certifications, which means they likely have a wealth of knowledge gathering dust on their bookshelves.  This reusability can support cost-effective training and the overall growth of professionalism within ASQ among members.
This section refers to those activities which enable a person to attend or audit a training course or presentation without paying the full registration.  I have been able to do this by being a reviewer and auditor.  Also, if you are a presenter at a conference, one of the privileges is the ability to attend other sessions for free or at a discounted rate.
ASQ also provides its qualified members with the opportunity to be a behind-the scenes reviewer of content and questions. This requires some work and commitment, but the benefit is that participants actually get initial exposure to current knowledge and transcripts, and are literally paid to learn Quality.
When a new exam is released, early adopters have the ability to take the exams at a discounted rate.  These savings can be compounded as ASQ releases more training and certification options, or retools their existing offerings to incorporate technology and innovations.
This eligibility is one of the reasons and selling points for promoting each and every ASQ member to pursue and attain the level of Senior Member.  It does not cost anything to upgrade, and with the self-verification option, there should be no restriction once a member is eligible.  An additional benefit of ASQ senior members is the eligibility to receive a free ASQ journal, filled with important content that will also support professional development and knowledge within the Quality profession.
The expression "the rich get richer" has validity in ASQ because once a person gets established as an author, speaker, and contributor, more opportunities are presented to them to entice their participation in additional conferences and publications.  Surprisingly there is a shortage of knowledgeable speakers and authors, making this the perfect time to become involved. 
If your approach incorporates flexibility, reusability, and eligibility, your time and financial commitments will go farther, you will more quickly yield returns and cost recovery, and many advantages and savings will come your way.