Thursday, June 28, 2012

Making Connections for Improved Experience

In a guest post to A View from the Q, ASQ Managing Director Laurel Nelson-Rowe reports record attendance at the World Conference on Quality & Improvement (WCQI) and a 75% lift in attendance to the ASQ Lean and Six Sigma Conference. Laurel asks "Why do you attend events, conferences, or meetings that bring quality professionals together? And if you don’t—why not?".

I, too, have seen a resurgence in interest in the field of Quality and continuous improvement. I am hopeful that Quality is beginning to connect more on an emotional, personal and community level. Quality is more than a set of impersonal, rational methods and tools to deliver improved product, processes and service. Perceived Quality is about the total experience. Customers want what they want, when they want it, a price they are willing to pay for the perceived value.... but they might not know what they want until you give it to them - consistently, flawlessly time after time. Simon Sinek is famously quoted, "People do not buy what you do, people buy why you do it".  The connection between engaged customers-suppliers and employees is on a deeper limbic brain level of emotion and purpose.

As a 25 year member of ASQ I have been attending the WCQI (known previously as the ‘AQC’) since 1989. I think I may have missed maybe 5-6 ASQ conferences over those 25 years. I have attended as a regular attendee, a speaker, a session moderator, or a member leader of the ASQ Statistics Division. The Statistics Division – like most ASQ Divisions – has its own annual conference as well. The “Fall Technical Conference” is targeted specifically to the Statistics Division membership; the papers tend be more detailed and advanced than those presented at the WCQI, but both conferences fulfill their intended purpose. I find the conferences a terrific opportunity to build my professional network, learn new topics and renew old acquaintances.

The ASQ Section is a geographical community of practice, whereas the Divisions are the technical bodies of knowledge (subject matter experts). The MN ASQ Section (#1203) to which I am a member offers professional ASQ certification prep courses as well as monthly Programs for its members. Many programs are structured to deliver a “hard” tools presentation pre-dinner, and a “soft skills” topic post-dinner. These programs offer best practice sharing and yet another face-to-face opportunity to build one’s professional network. The Section has held special Programs dedicated solely on building your professional social network where we have sponsored speakers to discuss tips and tricks to improve your Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and ASQ Communities experience. The MN Section is currently exploring the feasibility of offering remote training to our out-state members in the far reaches of our section's boundaries via web conferencing and/or self-paced computer-based training. The MN Section, too, has its own annual quality conference, called the ‘Professional Development Summit’, featuring papers and short course workshops.

A relatively new development in the networking space are “flashmob” type of impromptu meet-ups of young quality professionals. I have observed several such impromptu sessions in 3M grow from a simple, single suggestion between 2-3 individuals quickly blossom into a gathering of 10-20 like-minded people, thanks to internal social collaboration tools. One such recent meeting was initiated by a couple of new 3M CQEs seeking more information about the CMQ/OE certification from a more seasoned quality professional. The meeting grew to an after-work gathering during Happy Hour at a local watering hole.

It is indeed heartening to see the growing interest in and excitement about Quality.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Moving Quality up the Corporate Agenda

In his June blog post ASQ CEO Paul Borawski asks, "What success have you had in moving quality beyond product?"

In addition to my role as an "Influential Voices of Quality" blogger I am also the incoming Chair of the Minnesota section of ASQ.  During my term as chair-elect I led a project team to design, develop and deliver an Executive Roundtable to gather up to 60 senior executives of businesses and organizations throughout the MN section's geographical area.  This Roundtable was an invitation-only peer-to-peer networking meeting where executives discussed common challenges and best practices to operational excellence, innovation and growth. The event was co-sponsored by MNASQ, the MN Council for Quality (recently re-branded as the Performance Excellence Network), and the Manufacturers' Alliance. A pre-Roundtable survey was distributed to the target audience to prioritize their areas of interest and need. These MN executives and senior Quality leaders' common challenges and concerns are focused around innovation for growth - not just products and services, but more importantly, business processes and building a culture of innovation; plus, the increasing rate of change, the aging workforce (retiring Baby Boomers) and talent management.

48 executives and senior Quality leaders from 44 organizations in the Twin Cities metro, out-state Minnesota, and as far away as western South and North Dakota participated in this 1-day event, representing a wide cross-section of the local economy, including manufacturing, healthcare, biomedical, food-drug-cosmetic, retail, business and personal services, banking, insurance and finance, education, state and local government and non-profits. Based on their survey responses the day's discussions were framed around the 2011 CEO Challenge, the 2011 Future of Quality study, and the MN State demographer's talent profile of the Minnesota economy. In addition, the President of Cargill Kitchen Solutions presented a keynote on innovation and quality.

Feedback from the inaugural event has been phenomenal! 100% top-box satisfaction. The MN Section is already planning the 2013 Executive Roundtable event. The executives benefited from the peer-to-peer networking, learning and sharing. The MN ASQ Section gained valuable insights (e.g. Voice of Customer) to help us develop new, relevant, targeted training material and explore multiple delivery methods to reach members and potential members in all four corners of our geographical reach, to help their organizations achieve success.

Closer to home, my employer has been on a journey to incorporate hoshin kanri, PDCA and business execution into its strategic planning processes. Tools such as the X-matrix, A3s, bowler scorecards and management by fact are helping to prioritize business objectives, identify and resource top improvement opportunities, deploy aligned project teams and improve key performance indices. Senior executives are leading corporate teams. These methods and tools are not only used in the operations side of the enterprise but also in the support functions like Quality, HR, Legal, Finance, Supply Chain, etc. Certainly we have product quality, productivity and cost goals and objectives, but at 3M "quality" has definitely penetrated the C-Suite.