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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 10, 2015

ASQ Conferences for the Engaged Member

In response to the latest View from the Q blog about conferences, I want to set the context around my opinion.

As an ASQ Regional Director, I have access to various member databases.  One collection is the list of Unpaid Members, which is a collection of members who have not renewed their ASQ membership since their last expiry date, and are at risk of either attrition or termination.

My observation of the Unpaid member profiles revealed two key characteristics:
- none of these members belonged to any ASQ Divisions, Interest Groups, or Technical Committees
- less than 1% of the members possessed ASQ certifications

The implication of this is that Engaged ASQ members are those who do belong to one or more Divisions, Interest Groups, or Technical Committees, and possess 1 or more ASQ Certifications.  This post is intended and directed to those who are engaged, to convey the benefits of attending conferences.

Before I outline and summarize the benefits, I will reveal some personal disclosure. As a result of years of ASQ involvement and tactical selection of activities, I have been able to earn, procure, or acquire discounts for certain ASQ events.  I strongly recommend that each ASQ member inquire and pursue member benefits that would enable them to save money on these opportunities.  One almost has to adopt the mindset of a post-secondary student seeking scholarships or sponsorships to support their further education.  If you do get sponsored or supported, it behooves you to follow through and enjoy the benefits offered to you.

Now a true advocate of ASQ conferences should be willing to justify why they would attend if they had to do so without sponsorship or financial assistance.  In this context, the pros and cons are more meaningful and important to consider.

Given my home location in the Pacific Northwest region of Canada, my proximity to conference locations will determine whether or not I attend.  Although there is an excellent conference in Orlando, Florida, where the Technical Communities meet, the travel across three time zones, an international border, and 8 hours of flight time each way make the trip relatively burdensome and expensive. The additional travel time has to be considered when taking time away from work supporting my clients and professional practice.

When attending, a prudent approach is required in order to secure the desired schedule and accommodations for a reasonable cost.  Delays and late bookings will increase the transportation costs and reduce the available options, reducing the overall value for money spent.

In addition to cost, scheduling is also important.  In our professional and personal lives, our various commitments create priorities that may conflict with conference events.  Whether it is a long-planned family gathering, timing of university exams, or a critical path project milestone, sometimes conferences simply do not work and have to be skipped for that time period.

As far as justifying attendance, in my opinion ASQ conferences support the efforts and aspirations of the engaged member.  The focus at conferences shifts from section activities to divisions, and provides members of ASQ divisions, interest groups, technical committees, and other initiatives a chance for face-to-face interaction and constructive teamwork.  As a personal example, I can catch up with my various groups and continue the engagement and involvement, as well as supporting the efforts and initiatives of the member units.  This is also a chance to explore and adopt new groups in which to become more closely involved.  For example, I became an ASQ Influential Voice blogger as a result of attending WCQI in 2012.

For the ASQ member interested in attaining or retaining their ASQ certification, ASQ conferences offer multiple"fast-track" options including:

- Professional Development: (attending a 3 day ASQ conference annually will fulfill the category maximum of 9.0 Recertification Units)

-  Courses - Student Credit: Most ASQ Conferences schedule additional courses immediately adjacent to the conference, either before or after.

-  Committees: The proximity and presence of ASQ divisions, interest groups, and technical committees will enable attendees to attend committee meetings and earn credits toward their recertification.

- Certification/ Exam Proctoring:  Most ASQ conferences offer examinations, and ASQ members can apply or arrange to be either examinees or proctors, providing additional recertification units.

- Electronic Media: ASQ conferences like WCQI provide the presentations in a format that can be downloaded and viewed after the conference.  This can support learning by obtaining the material one may have missed due to time conflicts, and also can add important recertification units.

- Publishing: Taking notes and submitting a summary of the presentations is not only suitable for learning, it can provide additional recertification credits if the articles are published in ASQ newsletters, journals, magazines, or other publications.  This is an excellent way to support personal learning and build visibility and professional stature.

Conferences are social activities, and one must be prepared for frequent and constant interaction.  I believe that if an ASQ member is already engaged, then conferences would enhance their ASQ member experience and enable them to get value for their membership dollar, thus building up Loyalty Capital.

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