Sunday, September 25, 2011

Baldrige Blues

The U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science recently voted not to fund the Baldrige Program for fiscal year 2012. Everyone agrees that the U.S. Government must drastically cut its spending to reduce our national debt. However, not all spending is the same; not all dollar-for-dollar cuts are equal. The Baldrige Program costs just $10M per year; its return on investment is estimated at $25B in benefits to the U.S. economy. I agree with Paul Borawski that model programs such as Baldrige ought to be "showcased not eliminated."

The Baldrige Program is a proven systemic management framework helping organizations achieve performance excellence. Senior leaders use the Baldrige Criteria to build and sustain an organization focused on continual performance improvement, accomplishment of strategic objectives, innovation, and organizational agility. In today's world of a recessionary global economy, low growth and a highly erratic stock market many organizations lack the confidence to hire for growth. Spending is again significantly curtailed in order to preserve cash, similar to what we experienced in 2009 when Cash was King.

What is needed now is a roadmap to growth and profitability; a framework that is the Baldrige Program. Given today's economic environment, businesses need to remember the key teachings of the Deming Chain Cycle: do not pursue cost reduction for cost savings sake; rather, focus on delivering customer value through quality and productivity improvement. Institutionalize constancy of purpose and view quality as a competitive strategy. Customer-focused quality improvement will result in less waste and scrap, improved productivity, lower costs, increased customer satisfaction, more market share, more growth... and more jobs.

I encourage everyone to contact your elected government officials to save - and expand - the Baldrige Program.

Monday, September 05, 2011

Quality - Past and Present

In his latest blog post Paul Borawski asks two questions pertaining to the past and future of quality and ASQ.

Does the quality community bear some responsibility for making sure its philosophic foundations are not lost to history?
As a Certified Manager of Quality / Organizational Excellence (CQM/OE) and a Certified Quality Engineer (CQE), I always felt that ASQ over-emphasized the importance of being able to match the Quality guru with his contributions to quality philosophy in its certification exams. Quality philosophy, principles, tools and methods are bedrock. In this age of the internet, powerful search engines exist that provide almost instantaneous global access to man's acquired, accumulated knowledge. Social and professional networking tools such as wiki's, websites, webinars, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, microblogs, etc., offer unlimited access to case studies, best practices, benchmarking, discussion boards, tools, templates, and global collaboration with knowledge experts. In addition, there are numerous, prestigious awards that honor and perpetuate the memory and philosophy of the quality gurus. More important, I believe, is ASQ's role and value proposition to couple and disseminate quality theory, philosophy, and principles with continuous improvement methods and tools, organizational and project management skills, team dynamics and interpersonal communication skills, change management, leadership principles, and organizational design to empower individuals and organizations to achieve excellence. Knowledge of what to do, and how to do it are only part of any solution. A good plan poorly executed is no better than no plan at all. Flawless execution is what separates the winners from the losers; and, execution requires more than just an understanding of how to use a tool.

What do professionals under the age of 35 see as the future of quality?
I am not a member of this demographic, but my role in 3M has me teaching, coaching and consulting many younger professionals as well as seasoned experts. In more recent classroom discussions of "Quality" many of the younger professionals cite customer focus, defect-free features, entitlement thinking, reliability, speed, and end-to-end value stream performance. Definitions of Quality range from the traditional "Conformance to Requirements" (Crosby), "Fitness for Use" (Juran), "Delight the Customer", "Loss to Society"(Taguchi), etc. but on a more personal level I hear phrases like service, community, social responsibility and sustainability.