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Engaging Quality in the Workplace… Priming the Workforce


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)


Personal Wellness w/ Quality Tools


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.


C-Suite Speak… “Quality”


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…





World Quality Month 2015… Wooooo


Yup… Brace yourself. Quality Month is coming.

I take World Quality Month pretty seriously for a few good reasons. The best reason is that it gives me an opportunity to talk about what I love, which is also what I do.  For those of us working in quality, we know all too well that folks outside the circle don’t necessarily understand what quality really is, or what the people working in the industry do.  We have tools that makes things better.  We should share them.

Throughout November, I take the opportunity to let quality shine. Last year in our local section, we hosted a picnic celebration in lieu of our regular monthly meeting. There were quality giveaways and fun activities that made the day really special.  The best part was seeing the families of the members that attended.  That was special.

This year, the Section 1508 Board has a few ideas in mind.  I’m looking forward to presenting as an introduction. I want to use some of the facts and other resources ASQ has posted to share with our local members.  And, I’m hoping to engage in some fun quality bingo or quality trivia and have prizes and raffles. Who doesn’t love prizes and raffles? One of the Board members suggested “I Love Quality” temporary tattoos… Win.

In addition to the local section activities, I’m organizing stuff for work. I’m in an interesting spot here because I work for a quality services provider. So, my audience is much larger than our team. I’m able to extend the message to our client base via email, blog posts, etc.  I don’t use it as an opportunity to sell. Rather, it is a genuine attempt to share the resources and spread the word.  I will say we’ll likely be offering special promotions on services too though. That’s just the marketer in me, so it had to be done. I am also working on organizing some special lunch celebrations in our offices throughout the world.  I’d like to get some pics and share them among our global team.  World Quality Month connects us.

I’m wanting to at least post something to Facebook a few times throughout the month.  I love quality quotes, so I’ll probably use those across my personal social media network.  Oh, a quality quote overlaid on a kitty pic for Facebook.  Hmmmm.  People would read that, no doubt.

LinkedIn is really the perfect place to share this stuff. I’m hoping to directly post something to my feed and also see what’s going on in the groups.

For real though, I’m getting psyched. I was excited to see this month’s View from the Q post is asking for ideas and suggestions. I’m looking forward to reading the other Influential Voice’s posts and general comments. Starting in October, I’m also looking forward to participating in the photo contest again… #quality2030. Let’s do this!

PS: I made a word search and crossword a few years ago.  Access them here (Word SearchCrossword), and challenge yourself and/or your team. In 2013, I did “30 Days of Quality.” Use mine, or create your own.



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