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 3, 2017

Alternatives To Boring Meetings In Windowless Rooms

As I reflect on this beautiful Labor Day weekend, I contemplate how we can get the ideal balance in our lives to ensure the optimal mix of work, recreation, service, fulfillment, and wellness.

As I was cooking ribs and chicken breast on the barbecue last night, I found myself enjoying the fresh air of my backyard more profoundly than if I were confined to a restaurant, dependent on others.  I actually find it invigorating and stimulating to select different approaches to preparing and marinating my meat dishes.  For example, I have recently discovered that tenderizing my chicken in advance will greatly improve the texture of the meat, and also permit the lime-based marinade to more effectively infuse into the chicken.  I like to think of this as my personal Design of Experiments laboratory.

If this summertime exhilaration could be captured and replicated throughout the year, life would indeed be delightful.  It is in this context that I find myself wishing for alternatives to the typical indoor meeting.

A year ago, I was at the beautiful Hotel Irvine in Orange County, California, to attend ASQ member leader events.  To the credit of ASQ Community Development, the reception was held outside in the patio, and we were given frequent breaks to enjoy the daylight.  However, my question remains who ASQ has to conduct its sessions and meetings in windowless rooms, shutting out the light and exuberance of the day.

If we are looking to innovate ASQ and professional activities in general, I think that location and experience are very important things to consider.  Since sunlight is a positive stimulant, this also improves the mood, tone, and temper of the event.  One "win" for ASQ was to have the Awards Recognition Reception on Sunday in a conference foyer instead of a dark room requiring artificial light.

I realize that the weather does not always cooperate, so having outdoor events may not be amenable.  However there are indoor locations which have skylights or natural light.  Often these areas have opportune times to meet when they are not particularly crowded.

Option 1: Shopping Mall Food Courts
Although stores will open mid-morning, many malls leave their public areas open to permit walking traffic.  As food courts do not have portable tables, an early riser can have their pick from dozens or hundreds of seats.

Option 2: Historic buildings
Depending on the community, there are architectural masterpieces that sit empty for all but special occasions.  Even the lobbies of such places have abundant spaces and seating.  An example in Vancouver is the Marine Building which was built in the Art Deco style of 1930 and is of such magnificent design as to have been included in the setting of several Hollywood feature films

Option 3: Public attractions
I have attended work functions at natural parks, aquariums, and museums.  In fact, the ASQ gala has been located at NASCAR and Harley-Davidson museums, which provides interesting visual and interactive experiences.

For the meetings themselves, I have found the most satisfaction from attending sessions with lots of participation, elicited contributions, and movement.  Instead of setting up camp at a back table for the duration, ASQ meetings should be fluid with motion, interaction, and dynamic structure.

An ASQ meeting has to be an event, and it has to justify being prioritized over work, family, and other pursuits.  A desire within each attendee must be created.  If people come because they feel compelled or obligated, they will only provide the minimal engagement.  It is much better if there is a genuine excitement and inspirational energy around each meeting, program, or event.

This starts with a desire to extend gratitude and comfort.  Part of that comfort is to create an environment of warm reception, and in turn induce the attendee to be curious about additional programs or events.  Nobody should be left alone to sit in cold silence.

Even if the rooms do not have windows, there are effects which could replicate brightness and cheer.  Serving fresh fruits and juices with sparkling water will provide the effect of a summer patio.  This is much more refreshing than dark, stale coffee or syrup-based soda.   If the sunshine cannot be brought in from outside, it should be evoked from within.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Taxes, Gratuities, and Expensive Salad Bowls

I am writing this, partly as a personal confession, and partly as a lesson learned from the Food and Beverage industry.

At the recent ASQ World Conference, I was entrusted to select the menu for a networking event hosted by one of the Divisions.  Likely due to prior arrangements or fulfilled conditions, the costs of meeting rooms were covered so we were charged for food and beverages.  As the conference was in Charlotte, North Carolina, there was a buffet with "Low Country" cuisine.  In my wisdom, I thought that the regional delicacies would be a special treat, particularly since the dawn-to-dusk events of the conference would limit the opportunities for dining independently.  However I am also sensitive to certain dietary regimens which may limit the enjoyment of local favorites like pulled pork shoulder and grilled chicken.  To supplement the meats and potatoes, I augmented the buffet with a modest bean salad, priced at $N per portion.

To my realization, the hotel served the beans in a bowl and simply augmented the cost by the quantity of diners.  While nobody specifically demanded that a bean salad be added, I took comfort in the fact that vegetarian diners had an additional option for selection.  What seems like a modest supplement actually represented a 15% cost increase for what represented a 4-5% increase in the dining options.

But wait, there's more!  The fine print of the quotation also referenced taxes and a 24% taxable gratuity.  This meant that for every $100 spent, $124 would be eligible for the various taxes charged by the hotel.  The taxes added an additional layer of costs to the final amount.

For events and activities to be feasible, the costs have to be recovered.  I recommend transparency on any costs to enable and support informed decisions on events and programs.  My personal lesson learned is that catered events will come with a 30% premium over stated costs and this should be considered as part of any fees or sponsorship amounts.  It also helps to understand why a modest meal at a catered hotel event can be so much more expensive than when the same meal is independently prepared and brought in by the volunteers.

Fortunately my event did not include alcoholic beverages.  Judging from the cost of soda and bottled water (which was not purchased in favor of the vats of coffee, iced tea, and lemonade and complimentary pitchers of iced tap water), a single alcoholic beverage would consume a minimum of $8-15 per item, depending on the grade or vintage.  A two-drink provision for a gathering of 50 attendees would add an extra $1000 to the costs; even more when taxes and gratuities are considered.

In advocating thrift, I am promoting care and attention to detail.  Hotels and catering companies use add-ons (think of the used car salesman offering ancillary items and warranties to inflate the cost of the car from the lot).  These add-ons, along with the fine print items, can come as an unanticipated and expensive surprise unless a contingency has been built in.

If you presume 30% cost overruns and another 20-30% of no-shows, the true break-even point is almost double the expected outcome.  For an event of 100 people with expected costs of $10,000 ($100 per attendee), the cost overruns of 30% and the 30% no-shows will result in having 70 people required to fulfill $13,000 ($185 per attendee).  Knowing this in advance and making the appropriate adjustments will protect the financial viability of the ASQ member unit, and ensure sustainability in the years to come.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Build a Case for Conference Attendance and Sponsorship

I received an excellent article which provides guidance on how to request permission to attend and be sponsored for a professional conference.  The source was STAREAST, and I am sharing it because it is also relevant for ASQ events, including the upcoming World Conference on Quality and Improvement.

For convenience, I am providing the STAREAST content on this post, applying ASQ where appropriate.  While organizations like STAREAST and ASQ would benefit from more attendees, my motive is to support the individual participant by improving their chances to get the necessary time and financial assistance to partake in professional activities.

Get Started: Build a Case for Your Attendance
  • Get Informed: Familiarize yourself with the conference schedule and speakers before you discuss the conference with your boss. Determine which learning sessions best align or contribute to you and or your organization’s short-term and long-term goals and objectives.

  • Draft Your Request: Open and customize a justification letter based on the goals, objectives, and interests you’ve defined.  An example is pasted below:

Subject​: Great Testing Conference Opportunity


Hi [Insert Boss’ Name]​,

I am writing to request your approval to attend the <QUALITY> conference, taking place <DATE> in <LOCATION>. <CONFERENCE NAME> will cover both foundational knowledge and new methodologies to further develop Quality skills, enhance my knowledge, and provide new and exciting business strategies to bring back to the team. You can view the full conference details here:


Some of the highlighted features at the conference will include:

  • Speakers
  • Concurrent Sessions
  • Tutorials and Workshops
  • Pre-Conference Training
  • Networking Events


Many of the training courses, tutorials, and sessions at this conference are clearly aligned with our goals—or specifically address some of our biggest challenges. Here are a few of the sessions I would like to attend:


  1. [Titles of Sessions and/or Tutorials you plan to attend]
  2. [Titles of Sessions and/or Tutorials you plan to attend]
  3. [Titles of Sessions and/or Tutorials you plan to attend]

Attending the sessions above would especially help me on these company projects:

  1. [Add a project or initiative]
  2. [Add a project or initiative]
  3. [Add a project or initiative]


Here’s an approximate breakdown of the conference costs:

  • Airfare = $ XXX.XX
  • Transportation/Parking = $XXX.XX
  • Conference Hotel  = $XXX.XX plus taxes
  • Meals (breakfast and lunch already included) = $XXX.XX
  • Registration Fee: $ XXX.XX (this is waived or subsidized for speakers, moderators, volunteers, or member-leaders)
  • Total:​$ XXX.XX

I would appreciate your approval as soon as possible in order to maximize both conference and travel discounts.
Thank you for considering this request. I look forward to your reply.



[Your Signature]


  • Start Early: Start the approval process early to take advantage of the biggest ways to save discounts. Putting your request in early will also ensure enough time for the approval process and coordinating schedules for any additional team members attending the conference or for those covering your projects in your absence. Some conferences offer incentives and registration discounts to groups of 3 or more.

During the Conference: Make the Most of Your Conference Experience

  • Take Notes: Be sure to jot down at least three key takeaways at each session and identify actionable items with an asterisk for easy reference later.
  • Share the Knowledge: Post insightful observations and takeaways about the sessions you attend on your favorite social media channels while you are attending the event. You'll gain new followers, grow your network, and your colleagues will see what you're learning in real-time. 
  • Work It: Take advantage of the conference networking and solutions opportunities to exchange thoughts with like-minded industry peers and mentors. Reach out to fellow attendees to meet at the events throughout the week and broaden potential discussions.

After the Conference: Create a Report and Share What You Learned

  • Review the Goods: Download the conference proceedings to recap the learning sessions you attended as well as any you might have missed. Most conference keynote, tutorial, and concurrent session slides will be available post-conference online which will make it easier to share information with your team when you are back at the office.
  • Prepare Your Report: Review your takeaways, actionable items, and social media posts with this conference summary report example below to create a report detailing what you learned.

Conference Summary Report

[Summarize the specific information and specific benefits and knowledge gained .]


[Connect knowledge and experience gained to any personal or company goals identified in your request to attend.]


Relevant, Realistic, and Refined Information to Share with the Team


[Refer to your session notes, social media posts, and insight gained from the knowledge shared between attendees. Attach the list of sessions you attended to this report.]


[List the new information you’re bringing back, such as: relevant in-depth technical know-how; realistic new development and implementation approaches; tips to streamline your work; refined case studies of success to emulate; or promising new techniques and technologies.]


[Include any relevant presentation PDF files from the conference proceedings.]


People, Companies And Projects Of Note

[List key contacts you made during the conference along with their potential value to your organization.]


[List vendors and products or tools that interested you or might affect your company; case studies of special interest, or projects similar to what you are working on.]


Action items

[List the top realistic action items to implement, such as: ideas for new approaches to problems; technologies to consider; training your employees or peers; case studies to share; or setting follow-up meetings with vendors or new business contacts.]

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Tribute to Russ Westcott (RIP)

On Feb. 14, I was informed that Russ Westcott had passed away.  It is with sadness and respect that I take a moment to acknowledge Russ as a friend and colleague, and as a major contributor to ASQ and our Quality profession.

I knew Russ as a constant and frequent presence within the Quality Management Division, and as an educator and mentor in ASQ.  In addition to his prolific writing, Russ was an effective instructor whose influence and guidance enabled many to successfully attain their certification in ASQ's Quality Management program.

At the 2015 WCQI, I had the privilege of partnering with Russ to answer questions and receive visitors to the Quality Management Division booth.  Russ impressed me with his energy, wit, and delightful personality.  He was always very gracious to anyone who had questions for him, and his astute recollection of facts and quality principles made him very much in demand as a person to meet and engage at the conference.  He was very cordial and personable, and I enjoyed his companionship and conversation.

Russ was very much a product of a past era, when ASQC was at its peak and Quality people demonstrated their convictions by their personal examples in work and life.  I was very honored to have interacted with Russ, shoulder to shoulder, as an ASQ Fellow, Quality Press author, and QMD Member Leader. 

Russ will be in my thoughts at WCQI 2017, and anything that I may do to share or impart mentorship, instruction, influence, or guidance to future generations of Quality practitioners will be done as a tribute to the legacy and inspiration of Russ Westcott.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Humbled and Exalted

There is a phrase, expressed multiple times in scripture, which contrasts the relationship between modesty and boastful behavior.

To paraphrase, "Those who exalt themselves shall be humbled, and those who humble themselves shall be exalted".

There is another old writing from Desiderata, credited to Max Ehrmann.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Our present society and business culture tends to reward the boastful and the greater the claims, the more extensive is the admiration.  Such tendencies are reinforced by the immediate successes realized by bombastic individuals who make extravagant claims and assertions.

Humility is a virtue, and should not be confused with shame or weakness. The foundation of humility is the recognition of our true natures, and acceptance of such limitations.  Through authenticity and integrity, we can take realistic assessments of our respective capabilities and manage our expectations accordingly. 

Humility is essential in situations requiring teamwork and collaboration.  This is the foundation for servant leadership and enables the trust and mutual support to be formed.  When participants do not feel diminished or marginalized, their best qualities can emerge to create surprising new capabilities.

Those who exalt themselves without humility attempt to raise their stature without authenticity or integrity.  When challenged, these self-promoters, lacking a foundation of legitimacy, conduct themselves like the cornered rat and attack their critics with inflammatory and disparaging invective.  The true intent is to deflect attention from their own shortcomings to incite doubt and suspicion toward anyone who would dare to question their exalted status.  This creates a toxicity and hostility that overtakes any virtuous influence that could come from exalted stature.

The true nature of humility is revealed when accolades and rewards are shifted back to the cause.  One example is when the Nobel Peace Prize money, awarded to the recipient, is instead donated to the victims of the cause.  This humble act not only draws attention from the individual to their causes, but induces others to make similar selfless gestures to their passionate concerns.

This is not meant to diminish the accomplishments and recognitions that one may receive.  Think of it as a way to sustain the hope in your heart, for as long as you have hope in your heart, you'll never walk alone.