ASQ’s 2011 Futures Study: My Two Cents…


What is the ASQ Futures Study?

“In an effort to anticipate the future of quality, ASQ conducts a Futures Study every three years. The effort began in 1995.” For 2011, ASQ reached out to more than 150 panelists from over 40 countries. “The purpose of identifying the Forces and descriptions is to stimulate discussion about the future of quality and the implications to those who practice quality and those who lead organizations.”

Where can you read more about it?

While this year’s study will not be released until September, Paul Borawski’s blog includes a summary of the key forces for review.

My two cents…

Global Responsibility – Unfortunately, I’ve heard a lot of talk about global responsibility and sustainability over the years, but my expectations of corporate commitment have failed to be realized.  I’ve been talking to organizations about this since 2000 when Pro QC incorporated social audits into the mix using the SA8000 standard. At that time, I also attended a few conferences and was excited by what I saw.  The momentum at the time seemed strong and the organizations represented at the events (Toys R Us, Nike, Eileen Fisher, etc.) were all on board .  But, through the years, I’ve failed to see the momentum really take off.  All talk and no action doesn’t mean much at the end of the day.  My conversations with organizations today regarding Pro QC’s ISO26000 audits has a common theme.  It’s difficult to get past the idea that performing social audits or otherwise ensuring sustainability affects the bottom line and isn’t just something to make you look good to stakeholders.  My wish for the future of quality is that more organizations realize global responsibility isn’t optional.  If we want to continue reaping the rewards of a plentiful existence, the global village must all commit and realize the saliency. It makes sense… business or otherwise.

“What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone?”~Winston Churchill

Consumer Awareness – I look at consumer awareness from a marketing perspective.  And, from that perspective I believe we are doing a much better job of fulfilling consumer wants and needs.  Technology is certainly behind the ability to connect with and listen to consumer.  Competition continues to drive quality and create satisfied consumers.  Here, the future looks bright!

Globalization – To me, globalization is no longer a force.  It’s simply a reality, as it should have been from the start. Opening up borders creates value and opportunity for everyone.  It isn’t something to be feared.  It isn’t something to try and evade.  For the future, I would like to see organizations (and consumers) recognize all of the wonderful things that come from sharing and working together as a global community.  We need to get over the “us vs. them” mentality and understand that we all share the planet and would be best served by maximizing  competitive advantages and reaping rewards at all levels.

“It has been said that arguing against globalization is like arguing against the laws of gravity.” ~Kofi Annan

Increasing Rate of Change – One of my MBA professors was known to repeat the mantra… “There are three things you can count on in this world: death, taxes and change.”  And, it’s true… but, a little organization and effective communication can go a long way towards managing at least the change component.  Most people fear change, but we often fear the unexpected or what we don’t undertand.  Organizations need to focus on better communicating change and demonstrating top-down commitment.  Strong leadership can subdue even the most reluctant and apprehensive followers.

“There is nothing wrong with change, if it is in the right direction.” ~Winston Churchill

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” ~Gandhi

Workforce of the Future – While I think the United States offers amazing opportunities for education, I think we fall short on effective strategy for meeting the workforce requirements of the future.  I see other countries making this realization as well, but I don’t think any of us are acting fast enough.  The problem itself isn’t easily simplified because it spans a wider spectrum, I get that.  From preschool to corporate training, the education worldwide has some very real and present dangers to contend with.  Among the most critical is certainly the point where we realize we don’t have enough trained people to fill key roles. So, what do we do?  I’ve mentioned many times before that making education a priority and standing behind it with commitment and action are undeniably necessary.  But, we have a good idea what jobs will be like in the future, so why not put some effort into recruitment and training now?  We need to help our youth assess their natural aptitude and help them along a path to that realization.  The result is win-win.  The individual is engaged in something that peaks an interest and/or comes very easily to them so they have a certain level of job satisfaction in the future.  The organizations seeking people with the skill will have a forecasting resource pool to select from and have a certain level of confidence in each individual’s productivity and overall success.  It really is that simple.  Proving guidance (aptitude evaluation) and support (financial & training opportunities), creates a foundation that stabilizes this overall concern.

“Planning is bringing the future into the present so that you can do something about it now.” ~Alan Lakein

Aging Population – I admit to being a little concerned about the aging population.  I fear our system isn’t setup to accommodate their needs.  Without funds allocated to cover the increasing costs of this group, it will be up to my generation and my children’s generation to cover their general welfare when they can no longer work.  And, what happens when we no longer have a meaty talent pool to fill our job requirements? What are we doing to ensure that our youth are properly trained to help pick up the gaps in manpower?  The way we treat our older citizens speaks mountains regarding our society as a whole!

“What this country needs is radicals who will stay that way regardless of the creeping years.”  ~John Fischer

21st Century Quality – The most successful companies incorporate change and transformation into the fabric of their organizations.  I’d like to see the 21st Century of Quality evolve into a time when quality isn’t a separate function but rather one integrated into all activities.

“The future you see is the future you get.” ~Robert Allen

Innovation – Peter Drucker said something I’ve never forgotten… “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two €”and only two €”basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.” Innovation isn’t an option, either now or in the future.  When you look at the most successful companies worldwide, the one thing they all have in common is a focus on innovation. Leaders must be free to take risks in order for an innovation nurturing environment can exist.  A little environmental scanning and a focus on stakeholders over shareholders can open up a world of opportunity.

**If you look at each of these “forces” as a whole, they map out a truly bright future given the assumption that we learn from the information we have available to us now.  I think the make-or-break will be how much today’s organizations are willing to recognize and adapt.   If today’s organizations take action and set an example for future organizations, we’re in good shape!

“Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”  ~Malcolm X


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