Social Responsibility: Making a Quality Difference Where We Live, Work, and Play

This is a guest post by Jennifer J. Stepniowski, communications director at Pro QC International, a third-party quality consulting and engineering firm. She is an Influential Voices blogger for ASQ, vice chair of ASQ’s Social Responsibility Technical Community, and Education Chair for ASQ Section 1508. Stepniowski is also an adjunct instructor for Hillsborough Community College and HCC’s Institute for Corporate and Continuing Education.  Her personal mantra is inspired by Peter Drucker, which includes “the best way to predict the future is to create it.”

ASQ recently announced the approval of a Social Responsibility Technical Community.  According to the Community’s charter, its responsibilities will be to establish and administer general policies related to society-wide SR activities and to serve as a member-leader advisory board related to the Body of Knowledge.

This is exciting news that further demonstrates the salience of this topic and its progression into quality.  Further support is found in the United Nations Global Compact that claims more than 12,000 organizations in over 145 countries have committed to showing good global citizenship in the areas of human rights, labor standards, anti-corruption, and environmental protection.

SR is of special interest to quality professionals for several reasons.  The big-picture reason considers the definition of quality as meeting or exceeding customer expectations.  With that, it was cited in a 2010 IBM study that “83 percent of CEOs believe customers will expect an increasing focus on social responsibility.”  In fact, ASQ’s 2011 Future of Quality Study identified global responsibility as “the most significant force shaping the future of quality.”

Want to know more? Additional resources that further demonstrate the quality/SR connection include:

Social responsibility continues to gain momentum, and with it come increased opportunities for us as individuals to make a difference where we live, work, and play.

In a 2007 Harris Poll, 31 percent of those surveyed indicated a belief that “people have a personal responsibility to make the world a better place by being actively involved with various issues and causes.”  And yet in the same survey, 25 percent of respondents indicated “social responsibility has little consequence in their lives.”  (See the Harris poll data.)

So, how do we increase awareness and engagement? How do we become more socially responsible as individuals?

I decided to ask around for some ideas and am grateful for the feedback received.  It turns out that as individuals, there’s a lot we can do.

•    Learn stuff.  Check out ISO 26000, or explore the recently posted Body of Knowledge that ASQ has posted on the subject. Fast Company lists 51 resources in this article. Be inspired to incorporate what you learn at home and at work. Walking meetings, anyone?

•    Review your investments and reallocate to more SR-friendly sources whenever possible.  Several studies indicate that socially responsible investment (SRI) mutual funds are competitive with their non-SRI peers. Socially responsible funds performed well even during times of economic turmoil: Large-cap SRI mutual funds outperformed the S&P 500 by 6 percent in 2009. Source.

•    Make conscious purchasing decisions.  Start with evaluating the top 20 percent of your expenditures. Get into the habit of checking labels before you buy.

Did you know? Some 52 percent of global respondents in a 2014 Nielsen survey including over 30,000 consumers in 60 countries say their purchase decisions are partly dependent on the packaging – they check the labeling first before buying to ensure the brand is committed to positive social and environmental impact. Sustainable purchase considerations are most influenced by the packaging in Asia-Pacific (63 percent), Latin America (62 percent) and Middle East/Africa (62 percent) and to a lesser extent in Europe (36 percent) and North America (32 percent). Source.

•    Join your Homeowners’ Association (HOA) if you have one. Granted, I wasn’t winning any popularity contests with this one. But, it felt good to have more trees planted in my neighborhood, hire an environmentally friendly pest control company, and organize events like community garage sales.

•    Give blood. It’s not something that can be manufactured and must come from volunteers. According to the American Red Cross, someone needs a blood transfusion every two seconds. As little as one pint can save up to three lives.

•    Find a cause and donate some time and/or money. Feed the homeless, help at an animal shelter, volunteer at the hospital, support a crowdfunding project or consider using a website like VolunteerMatch.org to get ideas more suited to what you’re passionate about. I’m working with my ASQ section to organize one SR speaker per year and a follow-up community event to “increase impact” and satisfy strategic objectives.

Did you know? According to a 2010 study, one in five U.S. adults (21 percent) feel that people should generally take part in things such as voluntary service, donating to charities or getting involved in community activities because it is the right thing to do.  Source.

•    Tune in and speak up. Communicate your opinions on policy or other issues and let your public representatives know how you feel.  Sites like Change.org create awareness and provide an opportunity for action.

Did you know? A 2010 Harris Poll revealed among those who have taken action as a result of following a cause online (39 percent), over half (54 percent) say they have talked to a friend or a family member after reading something on a nonprofit or charitable organization’s social networking site, a third (33 percent) have contacted an elected representative, 31 percent have made a financial contribution to the organization, 23 percent have made a financial contribution to a cause the organization supports and 23 percent have attended an event sponsored by the organization. Source.

•    Talk to kids. American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt provided some insight here when he said “we cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build out youth for the future.”

•    Support local parks and outdoor spaces. They’re perfect for family picnics and team building events.

What else?  Share your ideas in the comments!  And, contact me at jenn@proqcna.com if interested in ASQ’s Social Responsibility Technical Community.

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” ~William James

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The Gift of Knowledge Transfer Through Technology

This is a guest post by ASQ Influential Voices blogger Manu Vora, chairman and president of Business Excellence, Inc USA. He is an expert in organizational excellence and the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, and blogs at Thoughts on Quality.

Most quality professionals are very proficient in technical knowledge. However, they generally focus only on the technical aspects of their work and overlook “soft” or support skills, which are also crucial for organizational success. In a global economy, professionals need to be more proficient in communication practices and principles to be successful.

One way to approach the development of communication skills and creativity is by experimenting with simple technology such as Google Hangout on Air to share knowledge with a wider audience. As an example, I will describe how this platform was used for a 12-topic leadership excellence series and presented to large audiences in organizations as diverse as Indian universities, large corporations, and ASQ member units, with more presentations planned for the future.

For working quality professionals, Google Hangouts on Air can be used for meeting with offsite colleagues, professional training, or nearly any other professional collaboration.

In regards to ASQ members in particular, with 240 ASQ Sections, 26 Divisions/Interest Groups, and 47 Local Member Communities (LMCs) outside the U.S., there are a large number of technical meetings and conferences being held almost year-round. The Google Hangout platform can easily be used to engage well-qualified speakers from around the world to deliver their topics of expertise. This platform opens up many new opportunities for member units to invite outstanding speakers with minimal time commitment and no expense for travel.

Advantages

There are several advantages to using Google Hangouts on Air.

  • It’s a free, live video conference call (note that Hangouts on Air are different from Hangouts. The Hangouts are not recorded or publicly broadcast and are intended for private conversations).
  • Note that you can certainly record a webinar through a traditional platform like WebEx, but the advantage of the Google Hangout on Air is that it’s free and also immediately shareable through YouTube and, consequently, through other social media and blogs.
  • Up to 10 different participants can take part in the Google Hangout on Air call and there’s no limit to the number or people who can watch the call.
  • Hangouts on Air are automatically recorded and posted on YouTube post-call for easy sharing and viewing (no log-ins, subscriptions, or payment). This is similar to the massive open online courses (MOOCs) distance learning effort that has been gaining popularity in the last five years.

The technology requirements for hosting a Hangout on Air are fairly simple:

  • Stable Internet connection
  • Laptop with microphone and camera
  • Gmail account for the moderator or originator of Google Hangout On Air and the active participants (but not viewers, who only need Internet access).

If using in a conference setting:

  • LCD projector
  • Screen
  • Microphone for Q&A
  • Conference room

Wide reach, low cost:

Here are a few examples of how a Google Hangout on Air can have enormous reach through fairly little organizational effort (unlike, for example, a conference or a physical meeting).

  • The aforementioned leadership excellence series has been shared with more than 6,500 students at the Indian Institute of Technology (ITT-BHU), in Varanasi, India. This series will benefit students during their school years, in their job search, and at work. The leadership excellence series topics (LES), by the way, were: leadership excellence, effective teamwork, effective time management, effective meeting management, effective decision making, effective project management, effective risk management, effective talent management, voice of the customer management, effective operational excellence, sustainable change management, and effective supply chain management.
  • With the success of this program at the IIT BHU, in collaboration with ASQ India, a consortium of engineering and management schools was set up with eight or nine institutions to be on Google Hangout at the same time:
    –At ASQ Mumbai LMC, eight Commerce, Science, Arts, Engineering and Management colleges started the LES program using Google Hangout On Air (live audience of 1,000 or more).
    –ASQ India has collaborated with eight to nine engineering and management schools to initiate similar LES program using Google Hangout On Air (live audience of 1,000 or more).
  • For international students at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, a leadership excellence series will be offered using Google Hangout platform starting in August 2015. The resultant YouTube videos will be shared with the entire campus community (7,900 people).
  • The series was also presented via Google Hangout to eight to nine regional locations of Vinmar India starting in July 2015. This will benefit the entire company in India with new knowledge.

Caveats and Conclusions

As with any software or meeting program, Hangouts on Air are occasionally prone to glitches and setup difficulties. Below, I’m sharing links to several tutorials to help make your Hangout a smooth experience, as well as a video with more information on using Hangouts in Indian universities.

In the 21st century, knowledge can be transferred globally leveraging technology. Hangouts, as well as other technology platforms, provide tremendous benefits to manage scarce budget resources for learning, development, and training.

For Discussion

What kind of resources are you using in your organization or your personal life to share information? Do you experiment with new platforms or do you prefer traditional means of transferring knowledge?

Helpful Resources

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June Roundup: Using Quality Tools In Everday Life

Quality isn’t just meant for the office. If you’ve ever followed a checklist when packing for a trip, you’ve used a quality tool in everyday life. In June, we asked ASQ’s Influential Voices bloggers how they use quality off the job. The kickoff post was by ASQ blogger Sunil Kaushik, who wrote about traveling in Egypt for $500. Many other Influential Voices shared their “real-life” quality adventures, showing that quality has a place far beyond our jobs.

John Priebe wrote about everyday risk management, while new blogger Suresh Gettala wrote about using PDSA in everyday decision-making. Luciana Paulise, too, blogged about using PDSA outside the office. Manu Vora shared his experience using Baldrige tools to manage a non-profit.

Jimena Calfa used SCRUM to navigate through the U.S. green card citizenship process, while Pam Schodt uses lean in home organizing and gardening.  Nicole Radziwill reflected on the many applications of DMAIC, including in loading the dishwasher. John Hunter wrote about using quality in many aspects of daily life, from travel to family life, when growing up. On that note, another new Influential Voice, Prem Ranganath, wrote about teaching children about quality. Lotto Lai discussed the personal lives of modern-day quality gurus.

Like blogger Sunil Kaushik, Aimee Siegler, too, used quality tools to save money while traveling. To use quality in “real life,” Cesar Diaz Guevera argues that it must be a way of life and led by example. And Scott Rutherford reminds us to remember the human consequences of applying quality outside its traditional realm—what may work in the office may not work in the home.

Finally, Edwin Garro had a different interpretation of the topic, writing a comical post—what if your company was a TV sitcom–poking fun at common archetypes in the quality field.

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Roundup: How Should the Quality Field Prepare For the Future?

In May, ASQ released its 2015 Future of Quality research report. We’ve compiled a report on the future of the field every several years since 2006, but this year’s publication was a departure from the norm. This time, we looked to experts and authors beyond the quality community to compile the major forces that will impact global priorities—and how the quality world will need to respond.

ASQ’s Influential Voices bloggers looked to the future—and the past—in their responses about how quality professionals will need to prepare.

Adaptability has to become a core skill set for the modern manager and quality professional, writes John Priebe. Agile leadership is future of small business, adds Luciana Paulise, while Lotto Lai believes the future of quality should be mirroring tech megatrends.

Sunil Kaushik developed another list of key forces that will alter quality, including agriculture, electronics, a shared economy, and a changing meaning of work-life balance. Cesar Diaz Guevara also selects several alternative future forces, including the Deming productivity chain. Aimee Siegler wonders what the customer experience will look like in the future.

From a medical perspective, Michael Noble addresses a healthcare essay by Devi Shetty, writing that improvements and accessibility in healthcare through wider training are laudable, but may not be sustainable unless broader challenging issues be addressed. Manu Vora addresses the same essay, writing, “I would say the health care sector is a giant supply chain which is broken and need major overhaul.”

Rajan Thiyagarajan spotlights that digital quality will be a key issue in the coming decades.
Pam Schodt, too, writes that managing the quality of Internet-linked products will be an important challenge.

Finally, some authors looked back or offered advice for quality professionals today.
The future of quality is to actually do what people such as Deming advised decades ago, writes John Hunter. The future of quality leadership is always getting back to the basics, to the fundamental timeless skills, says Jimena Calfa. Anshuman Tiwari shares three future of quality scenarios: an optimistic, pessimistic, and realistic one.

Now that the last of the original quality gurus is gone, we are all somehow required to become a huge network of gurus ourselves, says Edwin Garro. Jennifer Stepniowski reflects on how quality professionals should change and develop in response to the coming revolution in quality. And Bob Mitchell reflects on what makes the modern indispensable quality professional.

Scott Rutherford believes that the future of quality isn’t coming from quality field.
Finally, the next challenge for quality will be to demonstrate quality in a convincing way, says Dan Zrymiak.

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How Lean Helped Me Travel To Egypt With Just $500

This is a guest post by Sunil Kaushik, an ASQ Influential Voices blogger who is planning a round-the-world bicycle tour with a mission to train schools and universities on quality, all while exploring high-quality street food across the globe.

Sunil is a certified ASQ-SSBB, PMP, and SPSM with more than a decade of experience in project and quality management with Fortune 100 companies. He provides training on quality management at schools, universities, and corporations using innovative methods such as origami and food tasting. Read about his travels on his blog, Train and Trot.

All photos provided by Sunil Kaushik.

My wife and I have backpacked close to 40 countries and we are still in the nascent stages of traveling cheap. It is a process that will just keep going—this November, we plan to embark on a round-the-world cycling trip. In this blog I will be sharing one of our travel episodes-backpacking to Egypt with just $500 in my pocket and how Lean principles helped me do so.

As you read this, think about how you’ve incorporated quality tools into your daily life. Remember, you might be doing so without even thinking of your actions as “quality”!

Being a quality professional, one of the things I’m good at is keeping track of data of all my past trips. On this trip, 40 percent of my spending went on transport, 30 percent on accommodation, and remaining part was left over for food, drink, and sightseeing. Even before I planned a trip to Egypt I designed a value stream map shown below. Every backpacker will more or less follow these processes irrespective of the style, luxury or budget.

The next and the last thing I had to do was to just identify and eliminate the seven types of waste at every opportunity.

5S: As a backpacker, too many things are stuffed into my bag, yet few are very critical, like my passport, visa documents, credit cards, etc. Every item has a planned, allotted space in my backpack. Every time I take one out I have to put it back in the same place so that I do not waste time searching or at times panicking when I do not find it.

5S is the key. Before my trip I make sure I set all the things I need in order with the help of a checklist and then sort them. For example, all important documents and passport are deep inside, my camera and iPod are in a separate carry bag. Standardization is another important element, as I carry items that can be used for multiple purposes.  For example, a scarf can be used as a head scarf, towel, or a bag to carry items.  A Swiss army knife also has many uses.  Creativity is the limit and helps in utilizing the space inside the backpack efficiently. I have been able to get the weight of my backpack down by at least a pound from my previous trip by applying the 5S principle and it weighed just 4 kilos on this trip.

Plan Destination – Wait For the Pull Signal: I stopped waiting for an airline to throw an offer to a particular destination I intended to visit. Instead I made a list of destinations and just kept looking for any offer to come up. One day, I saw a two-way ticket from Mumbai to Egypt for $280. I had no reason to think twice. In short, I started looking for a pull signal.

Develop Schedule – Wait Time Is the Key: I planned for a 14-day trip to cover the entire length of Egypt, see all the wonders of the world (six in total), and at the same time I made sure I did not push myself too hard and got to spend enough time at each place. The key is to reduce the wait time, be it in the train station, bus station, ticket counter, etc. I  booked overnight trains , took care of my accommodation, etc., in advance.

Getting In: Though the visa fee for Indian citizens is $25, the embassy was in a different province and I outsourced this part to a travel agent for additional $10. This way I saved lot of time, transportation cost, and stresses (Muri).

Getting Around: I planned in such a way that I stayed in localities which had easy access to public transportation, the market, and reduced unnecessary motion to go around. I downloaded a nice map to my smart phone and borrowed a bicycle from my host for shorter distances (less than 8 kilometers) and used subway, buses, and trains for longer distances.

Surprisingly, many are unaware that all it takes to get from downtown Cairo to the pyramids of Giza is a 20-minute ride on the subway followed by a short ride in a shared minivan, and it costs hardly $5 to get there. It just costs a dollar from the airport to downtown by bus and I get to see the real country this way and that is what backpacking and the lean principle Gemba (the real place) talk about.

Eat/Drink: This is where visual management comes into play. I avoided restaurants with multilingual menus in tourist areas. I preferred those that have a sign board and menu in the local language, are filled with locals, and which serve better local food for less money. If I have a problem in communicating I go with today’s menu or chef’s recommendations. Family-run restaurants have hardly let me down as they care more about their reputation and customer.

Sleep: My first preference is Couchsurfing, which is a large online community of travelers who share their spare rooms or couches with strangers for free. I feel the cultural authenticity when I stay with the locals more than in a hotel. It is fun and it is safe, too. But it is a bit tricky; not every request on Couchsurfing will get a very welcoming response and one important factor is the way we write a request to our host. I made sure all my requests were SMART ( i.e. I tell about myself, where am I coming from, when I will arrive, how long I intend to stay, and why I chose to stay with that particular host–could be that we share common interests).  Out of 14 days I couch-surfed for nine, which was a direct saving of at least $450 (extra processing) and I have new friends in Egypt now.

The second option was Airbnb–very similar to couch surfing though we need to pay our host, but it’s still cheaper than hotels.

See And Do: As an International Youth Travel Card holder, I got a flat 50 percent discount to enter Giza Pyramids, Egyptian Museum at Cairo, Karnak Temple, Valley of the Kings, Abu Simbel, and Luxor Temple. The negotiation skills came into play at the Nile River cruise in a felucca. I started at 30 percent of the initially quoted price and we were able to settle at 50 percent of the price. Hence I avoided a huge, unnecessary fee (over-processing).

This is just my experience and there is no limit to come up with creative ideas to travel economically without compromising on quality.

Note: Many countries have warned against traveling in Egypt due to terrorist threats. I advise you to research the political situation and conflict zones before planning the trip. Of course, the techniques described in this post can apply to planning a trip in any country. You can read more about my travel on my blog, Train and Trot.

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ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement: Day 3

As always, the third and final day of ASQ’s World Conference began with morning sessions and concluded with a closing keynote and the International Team Excellence Awards Process ceremony, where the winners were announced.

Before the long-awaited announcement, jubilant teams paraded to the stage signing songs and waving their country flags.

Prior to the announcement of the winners, the audience was reminded that due to the narrowing scoring window between gold and bronze participants in recent years, winners are chosen at the gold, silver, or bronze level—meaning there can be multiple winners at each level.

And so!

Bronze-level winners:

  • Wipro, Wipro PEX
  • Movistar – Telefonica de Argentina, You Can Do It!
  • BNY Mellon International Operations (India) Private Limited GAMO, Pune, India.
  • Alcoa, Power and Propulsion APP Process Management Team

Gold-level winners:

  • Movistar – Telefonica de Argentina, Weaving Quality Network

The closing keynote was by Analjit Singh, Founder Chairman, Max India Limited. Singh delivered a philosophical keynote touching on topic as diverse as mindfulness, the close relationship between India and the United States and the success of India’s immigrants in America, and the important of quality.

The theme of mindfulness ran throughout the keynote, as Singh reminded the audience that both living in the past and living with an intense expectation of the future are forms of suffering. Our current time is peaceful and prosperous, yet it is so important to badger the idea of quality and champion it in our organizations. “The most important driver of quality is humility,” said Singh.

And remember, said Singh, copying best practices is okay. All in all, there was no shortage of best practices to copy at ASQ’s World Conference. Which ones are you taking back to your organization or business?

(By the way, next year the ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement will be held May 16-18 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, home to ASQ headquarters.)

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What’s the Future of Quality?

[This is a guest post by Laurel Nelson-Rowe, ASQ managing director.]

ASQ’s 2015 Future of Quality report is, as ASQ CEO Bill Troy phrased it, a “bit of a departure” from past editions. ASQ first put the Future of Quality on its radar screen, and yours, nearly 20 years ago, in 1996.

From my vantage, the method and form of this most recent report are departures, but the impact could be even greater than in the past.

The 2015 Future of Quality report is entitled “Quality Throughout.” The solid 88-page report is a compilation of essays from experts in their fields, from around the globe.

The topics are approachable—city planning, global aerospace and defense, customer experience, education, energy, healthcare, the Internet, and manufacturing, among others. You can choose to read specific essays based on interest or the entire report. It’s free for everyone.

There are some common yet provocative themes you will notice throughout the essays.  A few themes that resonated with us in particular are:

  • The need for high-quality information to be quickly shared with multiple groups. Are silos on their way out?
  • A new era of customer understanding—we think we know the customer, but we don’t.
  • The implications of limitless connectivity—in education, healthcare, manufacturing, city management, and so on.
  • The role of quality pros will evolve to leader, not only technical specialists.
  • The broadening of quality knowledge throughout the organization.

The hand-selected group of contributors, their prose and positions, and the report packaging are designed to appeal to and beyond the quality community—from consumer to senior executives. Quality Throughout is meant to stir discussion, debate, learning and engagement.

We hope and trust that the report —like ASQ’s past Future reports—prompts, and, more importantly, sustains the attention, urgency and prominence given quality and continuous improvement,  and the professionals and practitioners who plan, do, study and act quality every day, everywhere. For without these change agents, problem solvers, and leaders, our businesses, institutions and communities would surely be without quality throughout.

I look forward to learning your views, once you’ve seen “The Future.”

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April Roundup: The Case For Conferences

When was the last time you traveled to a conference? Was the experience worth it? Conference attendance was the topic for discussion in April for ASQ’s Influential Voices blogging group. Somewhat surprisingly, perhaps, this topic elicited very passionate responses from the bloggers.

Many shared their criteria for attending conferences, some wrote about memorable experiences at conferences they have attending, while others reflected on the concept of the conference itself. Take a look at the responses below.

Why Attend Conferences? Jennifer Stepniowski writes about factors she considers when attending events, including attendee demographics and cost.  Aimee Siegler shares some advantages of conferences, such as extensive opportunities to network.  Rajan Thiyagarajan lists his five reasons to attend conferences, which range from learning to hearing the keynote speakers. Luciana Paulise encourages small-business owners to attend conferences.

Pam Schodt says the pros of conferences, such as networking, outweigh the cons. Michael Noble shares seven tips on making meetings work for you, such as choosing events to which you can easily travel.  Longtime ASQ World Conference attendee Scott Rutherford writes about “growing” into a conference on offers some tips on enjoying events for those who’re experienced conference-goers (for example, connect with people you’ve already met).

Finally, Chad Walters reflect on his reasons for attending ASQ’s World Conference this year.

Attending  a Conference? Tim McMahon suggests preparing before the conference and following up after.Cesar Diaz Guevara offers his tips on networking and having fun at meetings and events, while Jimena Calfa offers her guide to networking. David Levy says that in his experience, conferences are an intro to tools, not the end all be all of learning. Finally, don’t forget the little things! Lotto Lai reminds us to be sure to take photos.

Other Thoughts: From an ASQ conference perspective, Dan Zrymiak writes that engaged ASQ members can get the most from ASQ events (as is true for most associations). John Hunter reflects on why conferences can seem outdated and offers some suggestions for a fresher approach. Longtime conference organizer and attendee Manu Vora offers his thoughts on planning and attending conferences and meetings.

Finally, Edwin Garro wrote a post in his native Spanish reflecting on the international aspects of ASQ’s World Conference.

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ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement: Day 2

The second day of ASQ’s World Conference on Quality and Improvement started with a keynote by Margaret Haffernan, an author and entrepreneur, who spoke about confirmation bias. We are drawn to the ideas and people that are familiar to us and that reflect our views–“We would rather be wrong than alone.”

In the workplace, that’s why we may be hesitant to question mistakes or authority.

“Investing time with people not like you makes conflict easier,” said Heffernan. “We have to reframe conflict as thinking and decision-making as hypothesis.”  Great questions are the heart and soul of great collective thinking—what is the dis-confirming data, what are the alternatives? The key takeaway is that willful blindness is part of being human, but we can work to overcome some of that bias.

This is a good lesson to impart at an international conference with thousands in attendance—and probably just as many learning opportunities.

A  not-unrelated takeway ran through the keynote of the afternoon speaker, Charles Best, founder of DonorsChoose.org. The organization Best founded helps raise money for schools and teachers in innovative ways–such as funding field trips or school activities for teachers whose students do well on certain assessments (a system preferable for many to tying salary to student performance).

In the afternoon, there was another opportunity for expanding one’s horizons and networking with people from all walks of life. The exhibit hall extravaganza kicked off at 2:15 p.m. and featured live music, many giveaways and prizes, and afternoon treats.

The day concluded with yet another great networking opportunity—the networking reception, which most guests attended—or so it seemed.

Wednesday highlights:

-The closing session by keynote speaker, Analjit Singh, Founder Chairman of Max India Limited, and the International Team Excellence Awards Ceremony, 10:30-noon, in Delta Ballroom A.

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ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement 2015: Day 1

Every ASQ World Conference gives guests a taste of the local flavor, and, so far, ASQ’s 2015 World Conference on Quality and Improvement in Nashville, Tennessee, has been no different. At the opening reception on Sunday, May 3, a Dolly Parton impersonator and a country band welcomed visitors to the conference and to “music city.”  Naturally, the conference isn’t all fun and games, although a bit of fun is always welcome.

The theme of the 2015 conference is a lofty one: Transforming the world through innovation, inspiration, and leadership. These themes, especially inspiration and innovation, ran through the opening keynote by Shawn Achor, a best-selling author and researcher on positive psychology.

Achor said research shows that happiness is a choice for the human brain, and it’s where we decide to devote our resources that determines our level of happiness.  Happiness is the joy you feel growing toward your potential (not mere pleasure).

In relation to quality and improvement, happiness means striving toward being better and improving our companies and products. It is the opposite of complacency. Happiness isn’t pure optimism, but it’s deciding how to tackle problems and issues. Finally, positivity spreads positivity, even if it’s through very simple, no-cost gestures, such as smiling or making eye contact. A positive culture can be a better culture of quality and improvement.

These themes were also apparent in keynote speaker Dr. Joann’s Sternke’s address. Sternke, the superintendent of the award-winning Pewaukee School District, brought many program improvement and innovations to the school system. From a Baldrige perspective, she touched on themes like innovation and leadership by building a mission-driven culture.

Other notable conference events included:

  • Creative “After 5” sessions on the lighter side of quality, such as juggling and statistics and using music  for quality-based innovation.
  • The exhibit hall, home to the popular ASQ Center which has many icebreaker and networking games and opportunities: a giant Jenga game, a photo booth with goofy accessories, a photo opportunity with life-size quality guru portraits, and a live twitter feed (hashtag #WCQI15).
  • Quality impact sessions/live team case studies by finalists in ASQ’s International Team Excellence Awards process. Of course, that’s not even touching on the dozens of information-packed concurrent sessions.

Events on the lineup for Tuesday, May 5:

  • A keynote by entrepreneur and author Margaret Heffernan, 8 a.m.-9 .m.
  • A keynote by Charles Best, founder and CEO of donorschoose.com, 1:15 p.m.-2:15 p.m.
  • The exhibit hall extravaganza, 2:15-3:45, with many giveaways, prizes, and entertainment.
  • And, of course, the networking reception (ticket required), 7 p.m. – 9 p.m., in the Delta Island.
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