My Top 10 World Quality Takeaways – #WCQI16

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FullSizeRender (2)ASQ’s World Conference on Quality and Improvement has once again come and gone, this year celebrating 70 years of quality in Milwaukee, the association’s current headquarters.

I think this is my 7th WCQI, or at least that’s how many badges I’ve retained.  This year, as ASQ reflected on seven decades, I considered my own journey. I was inspired to see a local quality superstar, Ken Stephens, acknowledged for over 60 WCQIs. I have a long way to go!

The first few years of attending WCQI, I did so to gain more knowledge about quality because it was the industry I worked in. I also thought networking among the community would be good for both my personal and professional endeavors.

As the years went on, I continued to get inspired to be one of the people you notice walking around the show either presenting or participating as an obvious part of the member-driven association leadership. When a good friend of mine asked me to consider a position as our local section’s Education Chair a few years ago, I saw the value of ASQ and my experience at WCQI go up significantly.

You miss a lot at WCQI as just a passive observer.  You’d be misled to believe the key value of the show includes what you learn from the sessions. Underneath is a close community of like-minded individuals that participate and make ASQ what it is. Participation is mandatory here.

My top 10 takeaways from this year’s WCQI include:

  1. It is such an honor to return again as a speaker at this event. For real. I’ll admit I was a little apprehensive about my time slot coinciding with a local tour, but I was relieved to see a good number of people attend. Connecting personal wellness and quality tools was personal. It was cathartic.
  2. There is never enough time to spend with everyone you want to at this annual event! Throughout the year, I connect with so many seemingly wonderful quality professionals that I look forward to spending time with. But, it goes by so quickly. When I do see a new face with a name I recognize, it’s always a joyful feeling and a welcome personal introduction.
  3. Hospitality suites must be managed carefully. I have yet to perfect attendance here.
  4. Exhibitor life is not nearly as fun as that of an attendee. I’ll just say it like it is.  Setting up a booth, hanging out in the booth and taking down the booth can at times seem daunting.  But, I’d be lying if I said talking to people that stop by doesn’t completely recharge me. This year, Pro QC generated some solid leads and added a few auditors to the team. The “<3 Quality” pins I had made were a hit! – I also worked the Social Responsbility Technical Community booth for a couple of hours. With limited resources, we really pulled together something that definitely helped spread the word. We collected ideas on a flip board that we’ll be following up with via the LinkedIn Group over the weeks to come.
  5. One person, or a small number of people, can really make a difference.  There are only a handful of us leading the SRTC currently, but we worked together to get a few minutes of time at the SAC meeting.  And, I believe we were successful in communicating the SR purpose and educating leadership on how their respective sections can make a difference within their own communities. That’s good stuff right there.
  6. I finally did OK with the ASQ TV taping.  For the past few years, I’ve been asked if I would like to participate in sharing a brief story with ASQ TV. But, this  is the first year where I think I’ve actually represented myself well. Laugh if you will, but that camera turns on and I get stupid. I challenge myself each time they ask because that’s who I am and it’s advice I give to others. So, I tried and tried and think I finally came up with something acceptable this year.  I’m taking props on that one. Personal win.
  7. The Tuesday evening networking event is a must-do. ASQ did such a great job this year getting attendees to and from the Harley Davidson Museum. It was a great environment to follow-up with a few of the people I had met earlier.  Dancing is always fun too, although my karaoke version of Son of a Preacher Man on the first evening did leave something to be desired.
  8. Milwaukee was a blast! Sure, it was chilly for a Florida girl… But, it is a beautiful city with a pretty good selection of local brew and a complementary local culture to match. I checked out the Wicked Hop and Bryant’s as local dives. Both were awesome!
  9. This is my first year volunteering with the Education Division. I recently stepped down from the local section and have gotten more involved here.  I’m so thankful for the new connections I’ve made, and I can’t wait for the Quality Education Conference & Workshop (QECW) coming up in November! I’m excited to be working with them on the conference and with social media in general. Check out our Twitter page for pics and posts from WCQI. Fun group! Great mission!
  10. Turkeys mating. Thanks for ruing the breast Dubner!  

Counting down to next year…

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Dallas Dunlap… Author, Economist, Friend…

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I’ve always been an avid reader and writer… a lover of communication of all kinds. At some point after college though, I said farewell to my comics, to Vonnegut, Rand, Huxley, and Robbins. I found a comfortable home in non-fiction, both as a reader and a writer. Today, I spend my time reading about superstar CEOs, management & marketing stuff and of course quality… My writing is almost always rooted in quality, with more creative fiction certainly something I long to be able to tap into one day.

For fun, I teach at the local community college because I actually do enjoy business that much. Over the last several years doing that gig, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting interesting characters of all kinds. One of my favorites is an adjunct economics instructor I’ve come to admire and really enjoy spending time with. He reminded me why I loved fiction!

I can’t remember exactly how I met Dallas Dunlap… adjunct training or something like that. I kind of gravitated to Dallas because he’s such an interesting guy… a true Renaissance Man of sorts. He seems to know something about everything, never forgets anything and has held a fascinating assemblage of jobs that range from life as one of the first EMTs in Florida, to economist, to independent author of crime fiction that incorporates sprinkles of science fiction and erotica here and there. He built his own house and even designs his own cover art for his books. I’m not sure there’s anything he can’t do!

I wanted to pick Dallas’ brain a little to see how his writing process works.  I like digging into interesting people’s brains to find out what makes them tick and usually find some inspiration for myself that I like to think of as a bonus.

Why does he write?

“I have a rich fantasy life. When I write, I get to experience other lives and other worlds.”

Where does he get his ideas?

“I don’t get ideas. I have visions… daydreams really. A question trips a whole sequence of daydreams as I explore all the ramifications. What happens if some Southern rural teenagers find a time machine? What happens to them? To their parents? To law enforcement? That process made The Cabin.

Or, what would a real life vampire be like? How would a rural Sheriff’s Department deal with a vampire? That launched The Food. If I may brag: To make my vampire character believable, I inserted him into an extremely detailed and realistic environment – Narvaez County – and pitted him against vivid and realistic characters. The characters, who continue from one book to the next, are so real to me that I can close my eyes and see them. When it’s quiet, I can hear their conversations about their everyday routines. I don’t feel that I am creating people. I feel that I am watching them. I describe what they do and write down what they say.” 

What does he find to be the hardest part of writing?

“Editing. I edit as a I go. My characters are like everyone else. When they talk, they drift off topic, use incomplete sentences and bad grammar. I write down what they say, but I have to rework conversations to move the story along while keeping each character’s unique voice.  Also, there are many vignettes and even whole subplots that ultimately have to be left out in order to keep the story to a reasonable length. But, beyond the mechanics of writing, the hardest thing is keeping faith. You have to believe that finishing the book is worth doing.” 

What’s his process?

“I try to write at least one page a day. There are many days when I edit out more than I write, though. And, there are many days when things come up and I don’t write anything. But, once I sit down to write one page, I usually end up with five or so.”

Writer’s block?

“I don’t get writer’s block in the sense that I can’t think of anything to write or can’t get started. Sometimes though, I have several alternative directions to take the story so I stop for a few days and think about it.”

His advice to aspiring writers…

“Write something. Writing isn’t something you aspire to. It is something you either do or don’t do. If you want to be a published author, go to a college or university that as an international reputation for its creative writing program. Take it from there.  If you just want to write, write.  Be an indie writer. Learn how to write, edit and do cover art. It’s fun, interesting, and if nothing else, you can give your books to friends for Christmas.” 

I like quality people, and Dallas Dunlap is one of my very favorites. He inspires me. Earlier today, I sent him a random text asking him what his purpose in life is… His response: “Learn and do things that interest me.” 

Check out his books on Amazon!  

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Engaging Quality in the Workplace… Priming the Workforce

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ASQ has reached out to members asking about employee engagement… More specifically, to what extent do organizations engage about the importance of quality? And, how should companies approach the issue and make a real difference?

To what extent dTVRBNA==o organizations engage about the importance of quality?

I play a little game with myself and make a note whenever I see “quality” referenced.  I find myself chuckling regarding the saturation of the word in our marketplace vocabulary. We want stakeholders to associate us with quality and figure saying it a lot or putting it in the company name is going to do the trick. We think adding signs around our workplace or inserting the word into our mission statements will do the trick. Not terrible ideas… But, it doesn’t seem to be that simple.

How should companies approach the issue and make a real difference? 

I’m currently reading Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell.  In this book, I found the inspiration for my response here… Priming.

Priming is a nonconscious form of human memory concerned with perceptual identification of words and objects. It refers to activating particular representations or associations in memory just before carrying out an action or task. Additionally, priming can also refer to a technique in psychology used to train a person’s memory in both positive and negative ways.” (Source)

What if employers used priming to engage (influence) employees regarding the importance of quality? For example:

  • Conceptual Priming – Determine what related ideas are necessary to prime the response. What words do employees associate with quality? Use this to prime people before shifts, during meetings, within written communications, etc.
  • Non-Associative Semantic Priming – Same as above, but consider concepts instead of words.
  • Repetitive Priming – Repeat communications related to quality to influence later thoughts.

In the absence of my recent association with Blink and considering I have little experience in this particular field of psychology, I’d offer more traditional suggestions like this:

  • Incorporate quality into KPIs and associated incentives. Research has shown this isn’t enough on its own, however.
  • Offer and support ongoing training.
  • Consider the focus on quality within the metrics you’re using to evaluate performance. If I’m pushing you for sales or production numbers and don’t incorporate or support quality metrics within that, I’m basically telling you to get sales and/or produce at any cost.
  • Create a true culture of quality, which is defined as “environment in which employees not only follow quality guidelines but also consistently see others taking quality-focused actions, hear others talking about quality, and feel quality all around them.”  There’s an excellent Harvard Business Review article where that definition originates.  In the article,  Four Essentials of Quality are discussed. These include:
    • Maintaining a leadership emphasis on quality
    • Ensuring message credibility
    • Encouraging peer involvement
    • Increasing employee ownership and empowerment

The bottom line:

“Employees who ranked their company in the top quintile in terms of quality reported addressing 46% fewer mistakes in their daily work than employees in bottom-quintile companies. In our surveys, employees report that it takes two hours, on average, to correct a mistake. Assuming an hourly wage of $42.55 (the median for CEB client companies), a bottom-quintile firm with 26,300 employees (the median head count) spends nearly $774 million a year to resolve errors, many of them preventable—$350 million more than a top-quintile firm. Although figures will vary according to industry and company, here’s a broad rule of thumb: For every 5,000 employees, moving from the bottom to the top quintile would save a company $67 million annually.” (Source)

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Personal Wellness w/ Quality Tools

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There’s a specific feeling you get when you receive the email that your session was approved for a conference, in particular the World Conference on Quality & Improvement. While I attend this year with partial tail between legs as I was only one point away from Fellow this year, I relish in the idea that I’ll be helping out with the new SR Technical Community booth and of course Pro QC’s activities.

This year, I received word that my “After 5” session was approved, which means I’ll have some flexibility for interaction and more time to really dig into the process. I’m super excited about this. It also just so happens to complement the Quality in the First Person article I’ve got coming out in April’s Quality Progress. Nice touch, I thought.

So, the idea for connecting personal wellness and quality has roots in my own journey of successes and failures in this regard.  I’m lucky continuous improvement is a common thread in quality, because I certainly continue to work on my wellness plan. I’ve also done some research and spoken on quality of life as it relates to productivity and can say without hesitation that personal wellness and quality of life are not inseparable.

I guess what I want to share at WCQI is the connection to the tools that I’ve found. And, because I’m comfortable with the tools and trust the tools, I’m finding these are more effective than the methods I’ve tried in the past.

I’m working on the presentation materials. My goal is to quickly come to the same page on what personal wellness is and then assess our individual current needs. From that, we can develop personalized wellness plans that take advantage of those beautiful quality tools.

So, what do I think personal wellness is? What is it?

What it isn’t limited to is fitness and nutrition. I hear that a lot, but it’s more than that. Personal wellness includes vocational, spiritual, emotional, social and intellectual considerations as well.  Wellness is commonly defined as “the state or condition of being in good physical and mental health.”

How do you assess your own current personal wellness needs?

Good question. I like to good old Likert rating scale. Example:

For the majority of the time, I get the recommended amount of sleep.

Strongly Agree  —  Agree —  Neutral — Disagree  —  Strong Disagree 

I would consider myself active and would say I usually meet or exceed 10,000 steps per day.

Strongly Agree  —  Agree —  Neutral — Disagree  —  Strong Disagree 

I’m wrapping up an assessment tool that I’ll be sharing at WCQI!

Another idea… Conduct a 5 Why analysis.  Example:

  • Who can I be? Dream big.
  • What is my purpose? You need a mission statement. After all, you’re You, Inc. 
  • When do I want to make this happen? Be realistic. Start small and plan big.
  • Where do I start? Get organized. 
  • Why am I doing this? The real reason… the sustainable one.
  • How much time can I really dedicate to reaching my personal wellness goals? Be realistic. Set a real schedule.

I always have to throw out personal SWOT analysis out there. It’s probably my signature “go to” at this point, along with PDCA. I can’t help but utilize these for everything. For personal wellness, it’s a great way to identify opportunities for when you can make specific wellness actions happen.

Based on your assessment, identify 1 or 2 SMART goals. What’s a SMART goal:

Specific (Significant), Measurable (Meaningful), Achievable (Action-Oriented), Relevant (Rewarding) and Time-B0und (Great template here) 

So, how does it all work?

As quality professionals, we know we have to Plan > Do > Check > Act (See…). We need to make it fun and get that data we love.  Use technology, get old school with a pen and paper, or whatever.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Gantt Chart – Organize your steps to action so you can monitor your progress. What do you want to accomplish this year? Plan it out month by month.
  • Fitbit (or similar) – Get in those 10,000 steps. Make it competitive.
  • Smartwatch – Data galore as you can track your sleep, blood pressure, steps, etc.
  • Apps – There are a number of free meditation apps worth checking out, nutrition database apps, etc. Replace Facebook time with meditation and stand back as you watch the zen take over.
  • Excel – The old favorite. Why not record your weight and your exercise? You can get some pretty cool pie charts and bar graphs from that stuff.
  • Calendar Notifications – Set those notifications. Are you being mindful? Have you walked around in a while?
  • Walking meetings, anyone? Consider things you can do at work. If you’re in management what things can you do to impact your team in a positive way?

I’m excited for May and have a lot to add here… Good times.

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C-Suite Speak… “Quality”

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Dr. Suresh Gettala is guest blogging on ASQ’s View from the Q this month, and he’s discussing “talking quality” with the C-suite.

As today’s senior executives continue to be inundated with analysis and recommendations from all departments fighting for their attention, getting that message of quality heard can be challenging.

Dr. Gettala provides several great tips…

  • Address both the long and short-term benefits.
  • Use metrics, shareholder and customer-related to be specific.
  • Make the economic case for quality. Prove quality as an investment, not a  cost.
  • Be a storyteller.
  • Highlight the Big Q by keeping a broad scope.

Here’s what I’ll add…

Respect their time.

One of the first things I learned about communicating with the C-suite is that they don’t have a lot of time. It’s not personal, but they’re probably not going to be as into quality or whatever it is you’re discussing as you are. They’re usually big picture kind of folks, and I think they appreciate it when we get to the point and offer solutions quickly. An Inc. article referenced the following:

“Half a minute is forever in a boring conversation. Studies indicate that on the phone, the listener is considering whether to exit or stick around every seven to 11 seconds. In face-to-face meetings, you get a little more grace–say, all the way to 30 seconds. If you are not constantly generating someone’s interest, you are losing him.”

Make connections – Connect to organizational goals.

Our brains thrive on short-cuts. We tune out sometimes when things aren’t interesting or it requires too much allocation of brain power at that given time.  But, also in that sense, our brains work by making connections. If we’re able to consistently draw connections to things like organizational goals, we’re more likely to have an active listener in our midst.  It’s more challenging to dismiss.

Identify risks – Sell them value.

The C-suite eats and breathes risk.  It’s their language, and they’re comfortable decision making in this space. If you identify the risks and offer a solution that brings value, you’re staying in their comfort zone and allowing them to do what they do best.

Always have a call to action – Present solutions & not concepts.

In marketing, you’re always reminded of the need for a call to action.  Without it, our brains don’t necessarily know that there’s something required.  Whenever we’re concluding and wanting something to happen, it needs to be clearly expressed and not implied.  What is it that we want to happen to fix this problem or address this issue or whatever it is? If more time is required for discussion and/or analysis, when can follow-up be scheduled and what specific information would they like to see? What’s next?

At the end of the day, make sure you’re conveying your message correctly and that it is received as such…

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