Thursday, December 18, 2014

Is Quality Ambitious Enough? Facilitating Uncommon Connections.

Evangelize: To promulgate or promote something enthusiastically (

In his December post on the ASQ blog, A View from the Q, CEO Tony Hill challenges the professional quality community whether we are doing enough to grow the impact of our community of practice:
  • How do we encourage those who work in quality to understand their own value?
  • How do we spread the message of quality in a marketplace overflowing with ideas about how to boost profitability and ever-changing management trends?

Alternatively stated:
  • How do we bring non-traditional quality improvement practitioners into the Quality CoP - people/roles such as customer listening, process improvement, patient safety, etc. 
  • How do we better communicate our values and vision (our "Why") to a new generation of potential quality leaders?

It is my opinion that Quality professionals, by nature, tend to be altruistic and generally introverted. Yet in order for us to increase our reach and grow our impact we must elevate our thinking, stretch our goals and raise our voices to promote and demonstrate the broad impact of quality beyond the traditional focus of compliance, standardization and convergent thinking for incremental improvement. While these areas of concern are certainly necessary and important for business continuity and efficiency, they are not wholly adequate to ensure sustainability and growth.

Today's ever-increasing rate of change and complexity requires divergent thinking and transformational leadership to solve truly wicked problems confronting individuals, teams, organizations, countries and society at large. Wicked problems cannot be effectively solved using simple solutions alone. The good news is that Quality has a unique opportunity to sit front and center at the round table. Critical thinking skills, 7 Management and Planning Tools, new Creativity tools, and Statistical Thinking are the preferred tools in the systems-thinking quality professional's toolkit to help individuals and organizations build their profound knowledge to drive innovation and disruptive change. Creativity tools are a terrific approach to gather ideas from all levels of the organization, and to explore new ways of thinking, making uncommon connections, and discovering innovation.

Image from
Author unknown

Quality professionals must also adopt and become proficient in the use of social media to reach the highly-connected (and sometimes less social) younger generation of future leaders. We must increase our agility, become "comfortable being uncomfortable", and think globally in today's flattened world.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Transformational Quality [Business] Leadership

In his November post to A View from the Q, ASQ CEO Bill Troy explores the linkage between Quality and leadership. Bill suggests that the quality professional, wherever he or she may be and at whatever level of management, must be a leader to be effective.

I subscribe to the theory that the primary role of the Quality leader in any organization is to manage the organizational white spaces at the hand-offs between siloed functions within horizontal work processes and systems.

The most effective leaders possess and expertly demonstrate "soft skills" necessary for promoting and advancing teamwork, collaboration, cultural diversity and a high-performing, engaged workforce, while exhibiting strong project management skills, decisiveness and acute global business acumen.

The successful quality professional / leader is also a teacher, coach, mentor and influencer.


During the first 15 years of my career I focused on the effective application of traditional tools and methods to improve processes and products. Today, as a Quality leader, I strive to be a mentor and coach, helping others to grow and succeed. Today’s increasing rate of change and complexity requires transformational leadership - a performer who achieves results and also a community builder who helps others in the organization to succeed. The rate of change is accelerating exponentially, complexity is growing, "wicked" problems are increasing.

"Transformational leaders establish enhanced, more effective mindsets within their community. They are inspired by a deep understanding of individual and collective purpose; and they successfully bring into creation that which previously did not exist."                                         – EOQ Transformation Summit 2005

Current ASQ Chair Stephen Hacker has authored nine books on the topic of transformational change including most recently, How to Coach Individuals, Teams and Organizations to Master Transformational Change: Surfing Tsunamis. Stephen Hacker defines a transformational leader as one who balances creativity and administrative responsibilities; is analytical yet visionary; energetic and empowering; a performer and also a coach. The transformational leader is equally skilled leading compliance/standardization type activities and breakthrough continuous improvement projects. The transformational leader effectively balances workforce focus to improve internal efficiencies for operational excellence while strengthening the organization's customer focus for sustainable growth.   See illustration below.

*Used with permission. Stephen Hacker, CEO and Founding Partner, Transformation Systems International, LLC (www. more information about Transformational Leadership, please read the paper "Transformational Leadership: Creating Step-Functional Change" by Stephen Hacker.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Using Social Collaboration to Improve Customer Experience

Today's definition of quality is “customer experience”. Customer experience (‘CX’) is defined as the sum of all experiences a customer has with a supplier of goods and services, over the duration of their relationship with that supplier. From awareness, discovery, attraction to interaction, purchase, use, cultivation and advocacy. I am also reminded of the following perceptions of quality:
  • "Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the customer gets out of it.”- Peter Drucker
  • “Customers must get what they want…When they want it, the way they want it, at a fair price.”-Unknown

Customer advocacy is regarded as the ultimate expression of customer engagement and brand loyalty. While a key measure of customer loyalty is “willingness to recommend”; a key measure of customer advocacy is “Net Promoter Score” or word of mouth recommendation. Word of Mouth marketing such as customer reviews, leveraged by social media, seems to outperform traditional forms of corporate marketing and advertising. Building trust is a cornerstone to increased customer advocacy.

Producers in the consumer market have at least two distinctly different - but very important - types of customers: the retail channel partner (“account”), and the end-user (“consumer”). Success in the Consumer market depends on producer's ability to consistently demonstrate and deliver increased profitability to the retailer, while delivering predictable quality and reliability to the consumer. Understanding, supporting, and owning the retail customers’ strategic plans coupled with flawless operational and tactical execution, helps assure preferential placement of the producer's product versus competition, resulting in increased sell-in. But sell-in is not the sole variable that dictates sales growth. The producer must also consistently meet its end-user consumers’ expectations in order to achieve increased purchases, or sell through. Anticipating consumers’ unmet, unarticulated needs through such tools as prototyping, focus panels and QFD, manifesting in exciting, innovative, new products and features help build customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. Delivering exceptional service to their retail customers and superior experiences to their consumers ultimately drives the trifecta of increased sell-in, sell-through and frequent replenishment. Operational excellence coupled with consumer-focused continuous improvement will help assure sustainable quality growth.

Understandably, purchasing agents in many traditional B2B industrial markets give preferential treatment to suppliers with demonstrated, capable quality management systems (e.g. ISO-registered) as a means to reduce their supply chain risk. Certainly, an effective QMS is also important to the B2C retailer in the consumer market to promote operational efficiency, but word of mouth recommendations (“earned” media) tend to drive end-user purchasing decisions. Indeed, customer Ratings & Reviews are gaining more credibility in both B2B and B2C markets. In a recent study it was revealed that
  • 62% of surveyed B2B professionals read user Ratings & Reviews for business products or service
  • 92% of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as Word of Mouth recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising
  • The average social customer will tell 42 people about a good experience
  • The average social customer will tell 53 people about a negative experience.

In the growing world of social collaboration, recent studies have also shown that:
  • 50% of Facebook users expect a response to an inquiry in 1 day or less
  • 80% of Twitter users expect a response to an inquiry in 1 day or less
  • 58% of customers who have tweeted about a bad experience have never received a response from the offending company

Special software today allows businesses to crawl the internet searching for Twitter comments whenever their brand is mentioned – positive or negative. Software also allows organizations to capture social media comments when their product or brand is mentioned, whether posted to its brand website or its retail partner website (e.g.,,, etc.) The organization's Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) then attempt to contact that individual to learn more about the source of their dissatisfaction for purposes of delivering timely, satisfying resolution, turning a negative situation into a positive experience for that consumer. Consumers' comments are compiled, categorized, and prioritized for root cause analysis and corrective action planning. Analysis of consumer Ratings & Reviews and feedback from product sampling trials are captured for future product improvement opportunities.

Social media tools are gaining importance as yet another means to improve customer listening, build customer loyalty and identify opportunities for process and product improvement.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Recruiting Members and Volunteers in a Changing Landscape

In response to the latest blog post by ASQ CEO Bill Troy, "Recruiting Members and Volunteers", I thought I'd offer my experiences in recruiting new members and volunteers to two member units of ASQ: the MN Section and the Statistics Division.

I actively served in the ASQ Statistics Division between 1991-2003 and the local MN Section between 2004-Present. For a little background, ASQ is a not-for profit global professional society of "people passionate about quality who use the tools, their ideas and expertise to make our world work better." ASQ is comprised of 28 Divisions, Forums and Interest Groups whom own the bodies of knowledge within ASQ, 248+ Sections that function as local communities of practice, plus several on-line "Communities" formed around specific topics of interest. All ASQ member units are member leader driven. Division and Section objectives are achieved through engaged, active member volunteers who contribute their time, energy, experience and expertise to better the Society and their chosen profession.

Regardless of the type of organization involved, recruitment of engaged employees and volunteers begins with a shared vision and purpose. Simon Sinek, noted motivational speaker and author of Start with Why and Leaders Eat Last reveals the concept of the Golden Circle and the critical importance of organizations to understand and effectively communicate their "Why", rather than What they do. Simon Sinek famously states that "People [loyal employees, partners and customers] do not buy what you do; People buy why you do it".

Effective strategic planning is a crucial element to driving organizational growth and success. One of the first things we did as member leaders of the ASQ Statistics Division and ASQ MN Section was to revisit our vision and mission as part of our strategic planning process. Is our vision compelling? Is our purpose inspiring? Is our mission articulate and differentiating? In the latest strategic planning session recently completed by the ASQ MN Section leaders we fine-tuned our vision based on feedback of our members, an environmental scan and a SWOT analysis. Leaders create and sustain the organizational culture. The MNASQ Section leaders understand the need - the urgency - to recruit more engaged volunteers to help the Section achieve its goals and objectives to grow and deliver increased member satisfaction.

MNASQ Vision
To be the community of choice providing professional development focused on creating & sustaining a culture of Quality that embraces innovation and enhances the total customer experience.

With a shiny new vision established, the Section leadership then identified several key strategies to recruit and retain members while also recruiting and placing member volunteers. We use the X-matrix and business execution process to align our metrics, tactics and annual objectives to our long-term strategies and vision, mission, culture ("True North"). Sample annual strategies include increased networking opportunities such as an unstructured "unconference", increased alliances with complementary professional societies to expand our portfolio of products & services while growing our base of potential members, increased use of technology to connect and collaborate with our Section members outside of the Twin Cities metropolitan area, implementation of our volunteer placement process, and a renewed focus on recruiting employees from within ASQ "Site" and "Enterprise" organizational member companies. Supporting the organizational member recruitment strategy, the MNASQ Section will soon launch its 3rd annual Executive Roundtable - a by invitation only, peer-to-peer networking session targeted to senior leaders of local businesses, healthcare providers, educational institutions, not-for-profits, retailers, financial sector and local gov't.

A new strategy we are embarking upon in 2015 is one we term "assumptive volunteerism". Because ASQ is by its very nature a member-driven professional society, the MNASQ Section Leadership will welcome every new member as an assumed (i.e. implied) volunteer. Every new member will be assigned to one of several committees or project teams with the option to select a different committee or project based on his/her interest, or to opt out all together. (We recognize that not every Section member has the time or the desire to actively participate; hence, our need to understand how that new member defines a satisfying customer experience). The key is not to passively ask individuals to volunteer for some nebulous, undefined activity, rather to assertively assign new members a meaningful role in the organization.

In the end, the success of strategy implementation is dependent on effective leadership. In closing I offer this link to Brian Lassiter's blog, Yours in Improvement. Brian is President of the Performance Excellence Network serving Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. Brian's latest post offers 31 leadership quotes and 31 things leaders should STOP doing to improve their effectiveness.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Charting a Strategy to Quality

In his September blog post ASQ CEO Bill Troy offers 5 key strategies for strategic planning based on his experience with the US Army:
  1. What are key facts and assumptions
  2. What is your theory of victory
  3. Can you actually accomplish each aspect of your strategy?
  4. Is your organization doing things that sit outside your strategy?
  5. Have you left enough planning time to test your strategy?
Bill Troy asks how you approach strategy. 

It has been my experience that many organizations fail to honestly assess their internal capabilities, skills and competencies required to successfully implement their strategy. Many great strategies on paper are doomed to failure by lack of execution. 

George S. Patton is credited with having said, "A good plan violently executed ... is better than a perfect plan executed next week."

I believe that the ASQ Statistics Division (STAT) developed and implemented a best practice around strategic planning and deployment back in 1999-2000 with continued refinement and continuous improvement. The STAT strategic planning process is a multi-step process that examines:
  1. Current state
  2. Review / revise Mission, Vision, Purpose (Simon Sinek's "Start with Why")
  3. Desired future state
  4. Underlying contradictions
  5. 3-5 year Strategic Intents
  6. Annual Objectives and Tactical Plans

The Minnesota Section ASQ has done one better by taking this same strategic planning approach and incorporating the business execution tools of X-matrix, A3 project plans, tactical planning project management, bowler scorecards and management by fact PDCA reviews. The MN Section of ASQ has successfully launched new initiatives to reach executives, senior quality leaders and even CEOs in communicating its value proposition to develop employee skills towards helping organizations achieve their growth plans.

Michael Porter, a leading authority on competitive strategy, points out that, "Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it's about deliberately choosing to be different." In choosing to be different the winning organization is that enterprise which recognizes the importance of innovation and disruptive technology. Authentic, EQ leadership, shared vision and empowered, engaged employees are critical to the flawless execution of innovation strategies.

Hoshi kanri and Business Execution are two strategic planning deployment tools that are helping organizations realize their growth plans.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Future of Quality: Evolutionary or Revolutionary?

In the August post to A View from the Q, ASQ CEO Bill Troy asks how will the future of Quality unfold: evolutionary of revolutionary? I believe the most likely scenario includes both types of change - resulting in uneven incremental, breakthrough and disruptive levels of performance improvement.

Several megatrends are shaping the future of quality like never before:
  1. The rate of change is exponential. Customers are more discerning and demanding, and - thanks to social media and e-commerce - hold much more influence today than just a couple of years ago. "Customer Experience" is the next evolution of quality focus for organizational growth and success. Delivering consistently superior customer experiences requires reliable, exciting product quality to be sure, but also depends upon above and beyond, exceptional service quality - before and after the sale. An engaged, empowered workforce is paramount to delivering satisfying customer experiences. Impassioned leadership, shared vision and purpose, and institutionalized systems & structure help assure that the correct mental models are in place to sustain the customer focused culture of quality.
  2.  The aging population and Workforce of the future require revolutionary changes to the quality of training and learning systems. The "Flipped Classroom" is an example of revolutionary change in blended learning whereby students learn new content online by watching video lectures, usually at home, and what used to be homework (assigned problems) is now done in class with teachers offering more personalized guidance and interaction with students, instead of lecturing.[source: Wikipedia].  As the large Baby Boomer generation nears retirement more efficient and effective learning systems and knowledge management are necessary to rapidly improve the skillset of a whole new, smaller generation to prevent organizational knowledge backsliding, hold the gains and accelerate new learnings.
  3. Globalization and Social Responsibility are two megatrends broadening the definition and role of quality, bringing greater visibility and awareness on the potential impact of quality to risk management, data and personal security, environmental sustainability and welfare of the society. I believe that innovations in quality are needed to successfully address the complexities and uncertainties of these new frontiers. 
The Baldrige Criteria defines two levels of innovation: "meaningful change" and "disruptive change". A meaningful change can result from the intentional application of a best practice or the replication of a successful project / new process into a new area. The development and implementation of an organizational Quality Playbook assuring the consistent deployment of systems, structures and metrics resulting in sustained elevated performance can be an example of a meaningful change. Disruptive innovation, on the other hand, delivers significant breakthroughs resulting in a step-change level of improvement, often leapfrogging the competition, and occasionally changing the very basis of competition.

Both evolutionary and revolutionary change is welcome and necessary in one's quality journey. Entropy is everywhere and always lurking. If you are not improving, then you are falling behind.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Grow Spectacularly

In my previous blog post, "In Search of performance Excellence", I spoke on the importance of leadership and strategic planning to organizational success and performance excellence.

In his 1989 book “On Becoming a Leader,” Warren Bennis offers a distinction between leaders and managers as: the manager does things right; the leader does the right thing. The Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence's Leadership category asks how senior leaders' personal actions guide and sustain the organization: how do they lead? how do they set the vision and values? how do they promote and demonstrate legal and ethical behavior? how do they create a sustainable organization? how do they communicate with and engage the entire workforce and key customers? how do they create a focus on action that will achieve the organization's objectives, improve performance, enable innovation and intelligent risk taking, and attain its vision? how do they create and balance value for customers and other stakeholders?

This month I wish to elaborate further on the topic of leadership, providing one company's example of alignment and integration of its vision, values, strategies, culture, ethics and behaviors to achieve sustainable growth.

I am proud to share my experience as a 33+ year employee of 3M company. I have experienced seven different CEO's at the helm since I began my 3M career in 1981. Some were better than others with regards to sustaining the organization. Like many businesses, 3M has had its share of challenges over its (112 year) history delivering consistent revenue growth against increasing expectations, and we have successfully sustained our rich culture of innovation and quality. 3M's corporate culture of innovation and quality begins with the revered McKnight Principles. William L. McKnight, who served as 3M chairman of the board from 1949 to 1966, encouraged 3M management to "delegate responsibility and encourage men and women to exercise their initiative."

About 3M: 3M captures the spark of new ideas and transforms them into thousands of ingenious products. Its culture of creative collaboration inspires a never-ending stream of powerful technologies that make life better. 3M is the innovation company that never stops inventing. With $31 billion in sales, 3M employs 89,000 people worldwide and has operations in more than 70 countries.

Shortly after taking office in 2012, new CEO Inge Thulin announced 3M's new vision, key strategies, growth levers, and a new set of leadership behaviors. The new vision statement perfectly fits 3M's matrixed organizational structure and culture of innovation, quality and customer focus:

Our Vision

3M Technology Advancing Every Company
3M Products Enhancing Every Home
3M Innovation Improving Every Life

Our Values

  • Act with uncompromising honesty and integrity in everything we do.
  • Satisfy our customers with innovative technology and superior quality, value and service.
  • Provide our investors an attractive return through sustainable, global growth.
  • Respect our social and physical environment around the world.
  • Value and develop our employees' diverse talents, initiative and leadership.
  • Earn the admiration of all those associated with 3M worldwide

Our Strategies

  • Expand relevance to our customers and our presence in the marketplace
  • Gain profitable market share and accelerate market penetration everywhere
  • Invest in innovation: Invigorate existing market opportunities and Focus on emerging megatrends
  • Intensify capabilities to achieve regional self-sufficency
  • Build high performing and diverse global talent
  • Drive consistent superior levels of operational excellence

Our Growth Levers

Portfolio Prioritization
Invest in Innovation
Business Transformation

More recently, 3M Talent Development published a new set of "Leadership Behaviors" in alignment with key strategy #5 to develop high performing and diverse global talent. These new behaviors replace the previous set of Leadership Attitudes. Why the change from attitude to behavior focus? Behaviors are observable and measurable. Behaviors can be learned. These new leadership behaviors help to shape employee engagement - a critical factor in delivering superior customer experiences. Accountability, empowerment and employee engagement result from workers and teams who continually ask the accountability question posed by Roger Connors’ The Oz Principle: “What else can I do to operate Above The Line and achieve the desired results?”

Leadership Behaviors

Today and every day …

Inge Thulin, his senior leadership team and management at all levels constantly and consistently reinforce the 3M Code of Conduct. 3M's Business Conduct policies and Code of Conduct are hard-wired into our culture. Even more recent than the new Leadership Behaviors, 3M senior leadership has launched a new series of videos describing the Code of Conduct Principles.

Code of Conduct Principles

BE GOOD: Obey all laws and 3M Code of Conduct
BE HONEST: Act with uncompromising honesty and integrity
BE FAIR AND IMPARTIAL: Play by the rules, whether working with government, customers, or suppliers
BE LOYAL: Protect 3M’s interests, assets and information
BE ACCURATE: Keep complete and accurate business records
BE RESPECTFUL: Respect one another and our social and physical environment around the world

Yes, I am biased towards 3M based on my personal work experiences. However, many other excellent examples of aligned leadership and culture resulting in operational success can be found among previous winners of the state and federal performance excellence awards. I encourage you to peruse the Baldrige website for a listing of these role model organizations.

Monday, July 14, 2014

In Search of Performance Excellence

Congratulations to ASQ for achieving "Excellence" level of achievement for the 2014 Wisconsin Forward Award. The Wisconsin Forward Award is essentially the state-level equivalent of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in the U.S.

In the June blog post to A View from the Q, ASQ CEO Bill Troy asks whether we have been part of an organization that has embarked on an excellence program, and what has been our experience with this exercise in organizational self-examination?

I have been actively involved with the Malcolm Baldrige Criteria since 1997 when 3M Dental Products Division won the national Baldrige Award. I continue to serve as a Baldrige Evaluator for the State of Minnesota through the Performance Excellence Network (PEN). PEN is a non-profit, membership based organization that builds networks and helps leaders navigate various pathways and routes in pursuit of performance excellence. Though 3M Company's Quality Council is a Site (organizational) member of PEN, I continue to maintain my Individual membership as well.

The Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence are organized around 7 Categories of:
  1. Leadership
  2. Strategic Planning
  3. Customer Focus
  4. Measurement, Analysis and Knowledge Management
  5. Workforce Focus
  6. Operations Focus, and
  7. Results
My two areas of greatest interest, focus and passion among the Baldrige Criteria are Leadership and Strategic Planning. During the first 15 years of my professional career as a Quality Specialist and statistical practitioner I focused primarily on the rigorous, disciplined use of tools and methods to improve the quality of processes, products and services. Over the years, my appreciation of a system and of Deming's profound knowledge has evolved to my significantly greater emphasis today on the importance of culture and leadership as foundations to continuous and breakthrough improvement. Thought leaders in leadership and management, and human factors experts, such as W. Edwards Deming, Peter Senge, Peter Drucker, Roger Conners, Simon Sinek, and many more, have shaped my belief system that shared values, vision, purpose, accountability and leadership create and foster the culture necessary to ignite and sustain the passion for excellence.

It is my experience that an impassioned workforce, inspired and empowered by leadership, that is laser-focused on creating positive customer experiences, is an absolute requirement to employee engagement resulting in organizational success and growth leading to sustainable performance improvement.

The Baldrige Criteria, its organizational assessment tools and army of Evaluators and Judges, and the assemblage of previous role model organizations, together provide valuable benchmarks and roadmap for this improvement journey.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Quality in Education

In a guest post contributed to A View from the Q, Julia McIntosh highlights the 2014 WCQI closing keynote by education reformer Michelle Rhee. Michelle spoke about the poor quality of education in many U.S. public schools. Paraphrasing Michelle: low-quality education results in a low-quality workforce. Another challenge, according to Rhee, is that students in the U.S. are praised for poor performance or for “just showing up.” As a result, they expect to be celebrated for mediocrity, rather than for quality.

Sadly, I share the same experience having raised my two children in a typical middle class Twin Cities, MN  suburb. (MN is known for its relatively high quality educational system- I shudder to imagine how poor the less well funded public educational systems might be...). I can vividly recall participating in a parent-teacher conference with my children where the teachers basically asked the child what grade he/she was aiming for that school year. My child initially stated his goal was a 'C' because..." 'C' was average" - and I got the distinct impression from the teacher that a C was a perfectly acceptable goal because it established a contract between the learner and the instructor. To be fair, this teacher did encourage my child to aim a little higher. Nonetheless, these low expectations are not delivering minimum standards of educational performance, much less helping develop the skills needed to compete in today's highly competitive global society. As a result of poor quality K-12 educational systems, colleges are having to enroll more and more incoming freshman in college prep courses. 5 year college degree programs are fast becoming the norm - creating greater hardship on families struggling to send their children to college, and further increasing student debt. Employers are having to pick up the slack too, delivering more basic reading, writing and math skills training to their workforce.

I reminded my children on numerous occasions that they were not just competing for jobs with other students in their class, school, community or even the U.S. - that their competition is increasingly from overseas. In a 2006 YouTube video "Shift Happens 3.0" Karl Fischer (The Fischbowl) stated an alarming statistic that there are more honors students in India than there are students in the U.S.  High paying, high tech jobs require employees possessing strong STEM skills and competencies.

Now, I am not bashing our teachers and educators, many of whom are committed, dedicated, passionate, hard-working professionals giving 110% to their students. There are many reasons for the decline of our public educational system: years of cost-cutting and neglect, the very nature of global competition, the exponential pace of change, the all-consuming focus on taxation, economic recession, the loss of higher-paying manufacturing jobs, the general decline of the middle-class, etc.  Recalling Maslow's hierarchy of needs, basic physiological needs must be met before one can ascend to self-actualization. Simply stated, our children cannot learn on empty stomachs. In today's "Walmart economy" (a phrase used to describe the characteristically low consumer purchasing power in today's retail-driven economy), many families are forced to turn to the government for nutritional assistance. Public school districts are having to provide nourishing meals for children of low and middle income families to better equip the student to learn, placing even greater burdens on our educational system.

Our educational system, like our highways and roadways, is a strategic asset that is critically important to our national defense and the future and viability of the United States of America. They are essential to a strong, robust economy - to our very survival. The U.S. can no longer ignore the decline of these strategic assets. In terms of recruiters' expectations, today's post-graduate masters degree holds the same value as yesterday's undergrad degree. However, graduate and post-graduate study is not for everyone - nor should it be. Not everyone can afford to go to college; not everyone is cut out for post-graduate study. The good news is we also need more skilled workers. Opportunity abounds for tradesmen and women. In fact, a study recently published by the Manufacturing Leadership Summit states that the age of skilled craftsmen is returning. Paul Tate of the Innovative Enterprise states that "new manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing are providing the catalyst for a resurgence in craftsmanship".
new manufacturing technologies as providing the catalyst for a resurgence in craftsmanship – especially technologies such as 3D printing. - See more at:
new manufacturing technologies as providing the catalyst for a resurgence in craftsmanship – especially technologies such as 3D printing. - See more at:
new manufacturing technologies as providing the catalyst for a resurgence in craftsmanship – especially technologies such as 3D printing. - See more at:

I believe Albert Einstein is credited to have said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Our educational system needs drastic reform. Incremental, even breakthrough, levels of performance are not adequate to stay ahead of our global competition. We need innovation and disruptive change. One such innovation is the concept of the "flipped classroom".  In these times of larger class sizes, the flipped classroom concept utilizes technology - the internet, laptops and notebooks - to deliver online self-paced instruction outside the classroom, thereby allowing the teacher to provide one-on-one hands-on homework assistance to the student in the classroom setting.

Such requirements for innovation and meaningful change are embraced by the Baldrige Criteria as a means to achieve organizational performance excellence. The Pewaukee, WI school district was the education category winner of the 2013 Baldrige Award. Pewaukee is a role model for other public school districts to benchmark.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

WCQI Conference Survival Guide 2014

Will you be attending this year's ASQ World Conference on Quality & Improvement (WCQI) on May 5-7, 2014 in Dallas, TX? The theme of this year's conference is "The Global Impact of Quality". I am planning to arrive Friday evening, May 2, in order to attend weekend meetings and events as a member leader of the Minnesota ASQ Section, and participate in the Executive Roundtable as the 3M company representative.

In the latest post on the "A View from the Q" blog Paul Borawski asks:
  1. Which networking events, conferences, or workshops do you typically attend? How do you decide they’re worthwhile? Is it more about the learning or the networking or both for you?
  2. What are your tips and advice for making the most of the events you attend?
I generally try to attend all of the keynote addresses, the international team process presentations, and many of the various networking events before, during and after the conference hours. I do drop in on several conference sessions of keen interest to me in my role as change agent and quality leader, but I particularly enjoy visiting many of the ASQ Division hospitality suites in the evenings to meet conference speakers and visit with fellow member leaders.

My tip to make the most of the events is to follow Twitter feeds and blog updates of WCQI attendees. This year's hashtag is #wcqi2014.


Sunday, February 02, 2014

Business Growth Linked to Employee Engagement

In ASQ's most recent Manufacturing Outlook survey nearly 46% of global respondents say the economy continues to be the biggest hurdle to operations, while 18% said the shortage of skilled workers is the biggest challenge they foresee in 2014. Smart manufacturing, defined as “the integration of network-based data and information that provides real-time understanding, reasoning, planning, management and related decision making of all aspects of a manufacturing and supply chain enterprise" is slowly gaining momentum and credibility in industry.

Similarly, The Conference Board conducts an annual CEO Challenge survey. The 2014 CEO Challenge reveals that today's CEOs are cautiously optimistic about the global economy and are turning their attention to leadership development, employee engagement, customer satisfaction, innovation, brand management and culture change - all aided by the use of big data - for improved business performance.

According to the 2014 CEO Challenge, CEOs around the world are more focused on their business performance , and rank big data analytics as their number one "hot-button" issue. Big data analytics are seen as a unique opportunity linking employee skills development and organizational culture to improved competitiveness, productivity and business success. The use of big data provides the CEO with greater insights to the synergistic benefits of leadership, strategic planning, hoshin kanri, project management, PDCA and the balanced scorecard.  As a result, CEOs become more aware and willing to re-evaluate their organization's culture in order to improve customer focus, employee engagement,  personal accountability, and organizational agility for distinct competitive advantage. Hence, Human Capital is the number one CEO challenge in Asia and Europe, and number two in the United States and Latin America. A talented, engaged workforce and a diverse leadership team are imperative to innovation and superior customer experience.

The adoption of Six Sigma as a leadership development tool has dramatically increased the use of data by senior leaders and executives to make better business decisions. Big Data analytics is the next, natural progression of the use of data to improve organizational performance. I am reminded of W. Edward Deming's System of Profound Knowledge, his 14 Points for Management, and the principles of statistical thinking whereby the knowledge and management of variation are keys to success.