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Inside the Bubble: WCQI 2015

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UntitledIt’s well known that I’m a fan of the World Conference on Quality & Improvement.  This year added something a little different, as I’ve increased my involvement in the association.

Participating more closely in the inner workings of ASQ has enlightened me in many ways…

There are awesome people in the world that you can hang out with. For real, as humble as they may be, there are authors, professional speakers and recognized industry award winners everywhere at WCQI… Oh, and I even met one of the engineers that works on the Mars Mission jet propulsion system. These guys/gals are everything I want to be when I grow up… And, I’m working on it.

Speaking to your peers is an amazing experience.  No doubt, when I told myself I had to be a speaker at WCQI, the actual moment exceeded my expectations. I must do that again.. Achievement unlocked.

You’ll never find a more supportive group of people.  At WCQI, it’s all about helping and encouraging people.  For example, as I was waiting for my presentation, one of the individuals I’ve come to know decided they would tag along and give me some constructive feedback.  I had asked for the feedback so that I could improve before next time in October.  This guy and another one hung out for a while afterwards and gave me some incredibly valuable advice. And, the guy that moderated my session is someone that has taken considerable time over the years to assist with my Fellow nomination, inform me of complementary opportunities, introduce me to other awesome quality peeps and more. This kind of support is just really kind of special, and it doesn’t stop with the conference. Everyone I’ve met at WCQI has a helpful heart.

Member volunteers run the association. As I’ve gotten more involved in the Section and now with the new SR Technical Community, I have a different perspective of ASQ.  I never realized how much members volunteering their time really do in terms of driving the direction of the association. They run the place.  As a member, everyone has an opportunity to be a part of this, and I highly recommend it.  It’s a great experience, and there’s certainly a sense that you’re making a difference.

Let your quality geek flag shine at WCQI. Want a picture with Deming or Juran? You’ll have to wait in line at this event, or you may be special enough to snag some nifty notecards or guru magnets. It’s the place where quality tool stickers are highly sought after and prized. Go with it… It’s nice to be around people who share similar passions.

As I’ve returned energized and am in the process of sorting through the contacts and inquiries from the exhibition, I’m smiling in anticipation of Milwaukee next year. Good job ASQ!

ASQ (American Society for Quality) is a global community of people dedicated to quality who share the ideas and tools that make our world work better.

QualityGurus

 

 

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Should Quality Go Global? Obviously.

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ASQ’s CEO, Bill Troy, is talking about taking quality global... He’s soliciting some discussion regarding why we should do it.

Here are the first few reasons that came to mind in defense of globalizing quality:

Kaizen

To a quality professional, continuous improvement is part of who we are. And, to somehow put a  limit on how far that improvement should reach seems isolationist and not good for a competitive marketplace. It is our duty as quality professionals to “raise the voice” and share/learn ideas and knowledge from within the global community.  That’s how we accomplish real kaizen!

“The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” ~Albert Einstein

Benchmarking

This is a key concept in quality.  Limiting the scope of this important strategy doesn’t make sense.

“Vision is dandy, but sustainable company excellence comes from a huge stable of able managers.” ~Tom Peters

One World – Globalization Benefits 

When there’s transparency in our knowledge about quality, we improve the lives of others around the world and create a competitive market that benefits consumers and the planet.

“A sustainable world means working together to create prosperity for all.” ~Jacqueline Novogratz

Case in Point – If you need an example to support taking quality global, consider Deming and the effect he had on Japanese manufacturing and ultimately quality practices worldwide.

“Learning is not compulsory… neither is survival.” ~Deming

Troy concludes with the following question:

“ASQ’s mission statement talks about increasing the use and impact of quality in response to the diverse needs of the world.  Are we doing enough, throughout the world, to accomplish that mission?”

So, are we doing enough?

My answer is no simply because one thing we know in quality is that it’s never enough.

Here’s a more specific reason… I work for a company that utilizes quality engineers and professionals in over 38 countries.  And, I can honestly say that l rarely find any of them familiar with ASQ.  After a recent meeting with our General Manager based in Shanghai, I forwarded the information for the local ASQ resources in cities where we have offices and suggested we consider the certifications for our inspectors. We do have an extensive in-house training program, but even just the networking and knowledge transfer associated with ASQ membership would have a significant impact.

I am left wondering how we are marketing to other countries. Is there a strategic plan that identifies key growing global markets and ensures that local sections are setup and have the resources they need and an outlet in which to share their knowledge as well?  I am hoping to hear more on this at WCQI in May.

Speaking of WCQI, there was a solid point made at the last World Conference.  It’s the “world” conference, but we’ve never held it outside of the U.S.  That would show a sure sign of support for the mission simply by providing the international community with more convenient access to what WCQI brings to the table.  Anyone who has attended will tell you it’s a massive event where “increasing the use and impact of quality in response to the diverse needs of the world” is conversation you might hear over breakfast. Even focusing on an increased international attendance here would be a solid step in expanding our reach.

Finally, the big elephant in the room is branding. ASQ still infers “American” society for quality, so I think from a sub-conscious behavioral perspective, it’s difficult for other countries to call it their own.  Rebranding does take time though, especially with so many seasoned members.

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Calling all members…

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My career has been in the B2B space.  As such, I have a fond relationship with various associations related to the industries we work with.  I look to them as the best sources of secondary market data, utilize their broad membership to stretch my marketing budget on related trade exhibitions/conferences, use their knowledge base for insightful details/resources, and look to their membership as ideal candidates to partner with on various quality related projects.

In fact, my very entry into the quality industry and associations in general started with ASQ. It’s how I got acclimated into the industry as I started my career out of college.  Sixteen years later, I’m ASQ certified, blog, have a Fellow application pending and am active in the local section as Education Chair.  Bill Troy hit home in his latest View from the Q post: “Think leadership experience, practice and application of skills, and personal achievement.”

Levelling up with recruitment & volunteering…

Now, having seen a local perspective of ASQ serving as Education Chair, I do see the challenges of recruiting members and getting people engaged as volunteers to further the message and advocate what we do.  For example, I was successful with the national Adding New Voices referral program last year, but was discouraged to find out many of our local members had not heard about it.  In fact, I’m discouraged to find out more and more members I speak with only attend our local meetings for recertification units.

We went to social media for increased engagement and have seen little gains there.  In fact, a small percent of our members would be considered active. So, how do associations call people to action at a local level?

You see it at WCQI each year, but as sections we need to bring that feeling and momentum home and spread the word to our coworkers and friends.  ASQ reaches so many areas now that it’s challenging not to find someone within a company that wouldn’t benefit from the networking and knowledge that the association provides.

Here are a few ideas I’ve considered for our local section:

  • We have organized a World Quality Month BBQ picnic at Veteran’s Park where we are encouraging members to bring friends and family.   We have also partnered with another association, APICS, on this event.
  • I would like to see us promote and offer more coupons to individuals who bring in new people to monthly dinners. Incentivize sharing the love.
  • We could offer brief introduction/presentations to local businesses.  Bring bagels… they’ll come.
  • We could host networking events and encourage members to bring a co-worker or friend. Cooperating with other local and related associations broadens the possibilities here.
  • We could have a presence at local trade events, such as job fairs. Many people I speak with don’t even realize there’s an association out there related to quality!
  • We could reach out to the Tampa Business Journal or others. They always need content, and we need exposure… win-win.
  • We could consider placing a classified ad or other announcement in a local business journal.  Many times, just posting an event is free.
  • We could reach out to local trade schools or community colleges with quality related courses and get students involved as they start their careers.
  • We could also offer students or people new to the industry local member mentors to guide them and answer any questions they may have.

I’ve got more, but quickly learned during our first strategy meeting that our objective was mostly in retention of existing members. And, the challenge really exists in our ability to get people to volunteer their time.  Life is busy… I certainly understand and respect that.  But, we’re even having difficulty filling Board positions and the people already volunteering are maxed out.

I will say that ASQ is unlike any other association I’ve been involved with over the years and the only one that has remained consistent.  The passion in the people you do meet at WCQI suck you into a world where you feel like you can really make a difference.  And, the association is there to back you up in your efforts.  We just need to get that feeling to our local sections and spread the love to the community.

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The WCQI experience… World quality at its finest

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I’m a self-proclaimed quality geek, and that’s OK.  I knew weeks in advance that the ASQ World Conference on Quality & Improvement would be the only place where others would appreciate my “got quality?” shirt as much as I do.  I wasn’t wrong about that one!

While the 2014 conference came to a close in Dallas last week, I’m still riding on the excitement of having spent that time in what I like to refer to as the “quality bubble.”  It’s the one place I’ve discovered over my last fifteen years in quality where you don’t have to spend too much time explaining what you do and find genuine interest in similar pursuits.  It’s very motivating… and fun.

Exhibiting for the first time did make attending sessions a challenge, but I made it to a couple of good ones and even learned a little more about the ITEA process sitting in on the Nielson Quality Impact Session.  Those teams sure do work hard, and their enthusiasm is contagious! I’ll admit that being a judge would be a pretty cool gig as well.

So, I’ll be the first to brag about our booth site selection though.  I knew the ASQ Bookstore and Division booths were where the action was, and even our VP that attended with me agreed that I nailed that one.  I had a blast talking to everyone that stopped by.  The Software Division is a fun group, and here’s to Innovation moving forward! (I’m an Innovation Developer. What are you?) From people interested in working for the company, to existing clients, to personal friends, to sales inquiries… there wasn’t a dull moment.

Oh, I will say there was some controversy with the cheerleaders that Quality Council of Indiana presented as a way of generating booth interest.  As their booth neighbor, I did have a front row seat to what went from an empty booth to one where people were lining up to take photos with two cheerleaders of some team I don’t even recall.  While I didn’t support the booth by standing in line, I do have to give props to Chad Walters, fellow ASQ Influential Voice, for speaking out against that particular primitive sales technique. I do think the general consensus of professionals is that this isn’t in good marketing taste. In reality, I didn’t see anyone hanging around to buy the books.

But, the keynotes at the conference were impactful!  I’ll admit I was surprised by Mike Abrashoff‘s discussion on leadership.  I wasn’t expecting to be glued to my seat filled with emotion as he discussed his life and the decisions he’s made along the way.  That guy was inspiring, no doubt.  I didn’t even look at my phone during his presentation, and that speaks volumes!  Michelle Rhee closed out the conference with a standing ovation.  I was familiar with her story from Waiting for Superman and wish more people in public education had the strength and courage to push the agendas that best serve our kids and our future.  Like Michelle, I think education is the key and where our priorities should be.

I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention the good times to be had in the evenings throughout the conference.  Hanging out with new friends and those that I haven’t seen since Anaheim and Pittsburgh was kind of awesome.  It’s really nice to spend time with people who share your passions.  Our VP also mentioned that the ASQ crew was different than associations he has been involved with in the past, simply by how connected we are to the industry and to each other.  There’s a sense of commitment and camaraderie that you just don’t see in other professions.

I always come back from WCQI pumped and ready to make a difference in the world through quality.  I discovered that I have enough points to apply as a Fellow, which is AWESOME.  And, I’ve got enough content to write about for months and even have a few speaking ideas for our local meetings. Good stuff… Good times.

A few quality peeps I enjoyed closing down the reception with…

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(Me, Chad Walters AKA Lean Blitz, & Heather Hegger – Photo credit to Daniel Zrymiak) 

The art at the Hilton Anatole was pretty cool. One individual I met shared a sketchbook that I had to include as further example that quality people are consistently cool. Daniel E. Sniezek, thank you for letting me share this one! 

lion_Hilton_Anatole

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Sniff a Crayola… World Quality Conference Update

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So, here I am in Dallas among hundreds of others who share my passion for quality.  The week is going by almost too quickly, as only two days are remaining of this once a year opportunity to let my quality geek flag fly.

My highlights so far:

Achievement unlocked…

Arriving early as an exhibitor this year, I faced an empty 10×10 space and a small trunk that would soon be turned into a masterful booth.  Without instructions, I laid out the parts and got it done. My pride when our VP arrived shortly afterwards was certainly noticeable.  Getting that thing together was no easy feat, and I wasn’t required to do it.  But, I did.  And, I’m proud of that.

 “The Force” is strong in quality…

My observation of  “The Force” within quality professionals is validated.  Pro QC’s VP, an ASQ newbie and my boss, said he’s never seen anything like it!  I’ve had a ridiculously fun time networking and reconnecting with some special peeps I haven’t seen in a couple of years.  You can really feel the love here.  No joke.

Sniff a Crayola…

I’ll admit I was hesitant to think a graffiti artist as a keynote presenter to kickoff the conference was a good choice, but Erik Wahl really delivered.  His performance art presentation on disruptive innovation and unleashing creativity really struck a chord.  In reality, he mentioned Apple a few times and painted a Steve Jobs portrait on stage… Sold.  Really though, he was good and definitely thought provoking.  One fun fact that resonated is that research shows that sniffing a Crayola crayon reduces blood pressure. I’ve got a whole bag at home, so I may just hide one in my purse ongoing for those moments in traffic.  I’m going to send a box over to my mom as well!

False alarm…

Earlier today, the hotel fire alarm went off.  Hundreds of quality professionals and other guests headed outside.  Despite the chaos, the interesting thing here is that only a group of quality people would start talking about how to improve the evacuation process.  Hilton Anatole, we have some solid suggestions for you guys if you’re interested!

Too busy…

My only regret, and it’s not really a regret, is that I haven’t been able to attend all of the sessions I wanted to.  Our booth has been so busy that I felt bad leaving my boss to man it by himself.  We’ve been so busy, in fact, that I had to have additional sales material overnighted for tomorrow.  But, on the flip side of things, a busy booth has afforded me more time to chat it up with people.  After all, I’ve got the presentation materials to take home, but you can’t take home the conversation.

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