The February topic in ASQ's A View from the Q is "Where do you plan to take your career in 2016? What’s your view of careers in quality today - what challenges is this field facing? How can someone starting out in quality succeed?"
2016 brings significant change to my quality career, as I retired from 3M in June 2015 after 34 years of dedicated service as a product developer, process engineer, quality engineer, quality specialist, quality manager, and Quality/Lean/Six Sigma teacher-trainer-coach-consultant. Through the years I have enjoyed building my global network of business leaders as well as quality professionals, colleagues and peers - many of whom I am happy to call friends today.
30+ years of ASQ membership, participation on various ASQ National committees, member-leadership roles in ASQ Divisions and Sections, numerous papers presented at the World Conference of Quality and Improvement (WCQI), membership in the Performance Excellence Network (PEN) and service as a Baldrige Evaluator to the state of Minnesota, all played important roles in broadening my professional network leading to professional growth. My most cherished role is that of mentor and coach. I am so proud to have helped influence the careers and professional growth of my direct reports and mentees, and to have helped shape and sustain the business success of my internal clients and external organizations.
Having retired from 3M last June and moving from Minnesota to Phoenix last July, I am now focused on building my strategic quality leadership consulting business: QualityBob® Consulting. Over the decades I purposely and mindfully built a reputation and personal brand of authentic quality expertise and leadership. Many years ago my friends and colleagues inside and outside of 3M began calling me "Quality Bob". A business associate one day kiddingly inquired as to whether I had given thought to trademarking the phrase "QualityBob". Intrigued, I checked into the process and two years later QualityBob® Consulting became a registered US trademark. Since retiring from 3M my wife and I have been primarily focused on remodeling our Phoenix home (A projected four month project that is finally wrapping up in its eighth month...). I have also launched my professional website and continue to nurture my network. I have renewed my membership in ASQ and Southwest Alliance for Excellence (SWAE) - a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation that advances improvement and excellence in organizations, communities and individuals throughout Arizona, Nevada and Utah by using the Baldrige Criteria. This May I am giving a presentation on strategic planning, deployment and business execution at the ASQ Phoenix monthly Program meeting.
Reflecting on changes observed since I began my 3M career back in 1981, I view the biggest challenges facing communities, organizations, governments and even the quality field itself as the exponential rate of change, globalization of financial markets, data security, lack of clean fresh water, global warming and all the associated ills that it brings - droughts, floods, disease, pestilence, famine, etc. But most disconcerting to me is the continued lack of systems thinking by our leaders. Today's complex problems cannot be solved with simple solutions and quick sound-bites. Interconnected, systemic problems require transformational thinking and novel solutions; cooperation and collaboration, not unhealthy competition and lose-lose compromises.
To today's students and apprentices of quality I encourage you to seek out a trusted mentor, participate in professional member societies of quality and organizational excellence, contribute your knowledge, skills, talents and passion to local communities and non-profits, and engage in special projects to broaden your experiences.
Retired from 3M (a great company to work for), but not retiring from Quality,
Robert 'QualityBob' Mitchell