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.