Data From Forbes Insights and ASQ Points to Culture of Quality

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

We didn’t bring up the topic—he did.

The “he” was Jorge Gerdau Johannpeter, Brazilian business leader, chairman of Gerdau S.A., and ASQ Juran Medalist, among his many roles and honors.

The “we” was the ASQ contingent: ASQ board chair Stephen Hacker, ASQ board member Joal Teitelbaum, and myself.

And the topic? Culture of quality. It was clear that culture of quality was far more than an abstract idea for seasoned executive Gerdau, as he noted at the PGQP annual conference in Porto Alegre, Brazil, a few weeks ago.

Why has culture of quality been a top searched topic on asq.org, the subject of a recent Harvard Business Review article, and a theme of ASQ’s 2013 Global State of Quality report?

Well, for Gerdau, it is top-of-mind because a culture of quality, with a strong, shared values base; with a strong executive leadership vision, voice and behavior; and with purposeful ties to business and to life objectives, is essential.

And, he went even further. A corporate quality culture connects to innovation and to sustainability outcomes and opportunities in the 21st century. It helps businesses to work with academic and government institutions and achieve through collaboration.

I found myself wondering if Gerdau has already read the Forbes Insights-ASQ Culture of Quality: Accelerating Growth and Performance in the Enterprise white paper? He couldn’t have—the report was just released.

So, now, it’s your turn. Read the white paper, produced in collaboration with Forbes Insights and ASQ.  You may have participated in the Forbes Insights research, which had led to this first report.

Take a look—gauge your responses on behalf of your organization against 2,300 other voices. Point to important data points, question questions, critique your culture, and accelerate your enterprise through quality.

And let us know your top-of-mind.

Posted in Forbes Insights Culture of Quality, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Future of Quality: Evolutionary or Revolutionary?

In 1835, Alexis De Tocqueville, a French political writer, wrote his classic work, Democracy in America.  His observations about America were a fascinating window into the times and issues of the day.  Part of the power of his observations was his detached perspective.  He could stay above the intense political currents, prejudices, and passions of the times and report on what he saw and heard.  His writings still resonate today and tell us about the American character and culture.

I am a little bit like Mr. De Tocqueville, abroad in a foreign land, albeit not as articulate, learned, or astute.  In this case, the land is the quality community. As a newcomer to the quality field, I don’t have an insider’s grasp of the culture, language, or heritage, but I have a great admiration for your passion for quality.

While being a visitor can be frustrating and confusing, I hope you will see it also gives me the advantage of a certain amount of objectivity.  The quality community has many different constituencies, each with its own perspective.  There is broad agreement on some things and sharp disagreements about others.

One of the things I bring to this post is my respect for what you know and what you do.  I came from a military background where you quickly learn that standards and certifications are serious business.  Being in a field such as yours, where we also value learning, standards and certifications, feels noble and right to me, and I bring the advantage of a certain detachment from one particular quality perspective, which I hope will serve the community and ASQ well.

One of my early observations is that I believe there are two very distinct views about the future of quality we need to at least acknowledge, if not actually reconcile.

Evolutionary change: I would describe one view as the ascribing to evolutionary change.  The quality movement has been immensely important and successful in many fields and will continue to grow and evolve, but will do so in recognizable and well-defined ways.  We will move down traditional paths but reach new destinations and make new inroads into fields that are underserved today. We will keep doing what we do well and find ways to do it even better.

Revolutionary change: I would call the second view as seeing revolutionary change in the future of quality.  Some of the ways we brought value to our businesses, industries, and communities will have to fundamentally change.  We will have to bring value to the C-suite as much as to the production line. We must have tools that will facilitate a meaningful contribution at ever more senior levels to make the impact our customers and colleagues want.  Knowledge, which we value so highly and have worked so hard to gather, organize, and refine, must be shared much more freely in the age of new media.  Even what we describe as quality may be subsumed by different umbrella terms such as “organizational excellence or “risk management.”

I predict a lively debate in the days ahead and I look forward to reporting what I see and hear among you who hold the keys to our future in your hands.

In the meantime, what do you think? How will the future of quality unfold?

Posted in ASQ, Current Events, case for quality, culture | Tagged , , | 21 Comments

July Roundup: What’s the Purpose of Vision?

Everyone agrees that a clear organizational focus is important, but how is it best achieved? In July, ASQ’s Influential Voices bloggers responded to a prompt about the clarity of focus at Volvo and Ikea, and offered their thoughts on how to achieve and articulate an organizational purpose.

What is vision and why is it important? Tim McMahon writes about the role of PDCA in finding organizational True North. Manu Vora says vision is an organization’s dream of the future. Jimena Calfa defines the differences between vision and mission. Babette Ten Haken writes about developing foresight as a leader. And John Priebe writes about the importance figuring out your direction before putting together the road map.

Is a vision really important? John Hunter writes that vision can be meaningful, but is often just pretty words. Guy Wallace is also wary of a formal vision statement—define one, but stay quiet about it, he says.

Which organizations have a clear vision? Dr. Lotto Lai writes about the vision and mission of two organizations in Hong Kong. Nicole Radziwill unexpectedly discovered a quality ethic during a trip to Japan. Bob Mitchell writes about 3M’s vision. Rajan Thiyagarajan writes about vision and clarity at Apple.

Jennifer Stepniowski writes about the success of Subaru’s vision. Dan Zrymiak ponders whether there is such a thing as a Scandinavian model of quality. Anshuman Tiwari gives three examples of companies in which he has worked that have a clear vision and what it accomplished.

On that note, both Scott Rutherford and Edwin Garro examine ASQ’s own mission and vision.

And finally, James Lawther suggests that vision is simply something you’re good at and that also helps people.

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Learning About Social Media With ASQ Bloggers

Maybe you’ve heard that blogging or using social media can help further your career and business. This month, ASQ Influential Voices bloggers are sharing their thoughts on the benefits of blogging and social media use–and where to start if you’re interested in doing the same.

Google+ Hangout July 23: On Wednesday, July 23, ASQ is hosting a Google+ Hangout about the value of social media to quality professionals. The Hangout will be held at noon Central Time (U.S.) and also recorded for post-event viewing. We’ll be speaking with some of the ASQ Influential Voices bloggers, including Dan Zrymiak, Jennifer Stepniowski, Edwin Garro, and Babette Ten HakenWatch the Hangout or get more details.

Updated July 28: Watch a recording of the Hangout!

Blog Boom: And you want a deeper dive into the hows and whys of blogging, readthe article “Blog Boom” in July Quality Progress. It’s an in-depth conversation with ASQ Influential Voices bloggers Dan Zrymiak, Jennifer Stepniowski, Mark Graban, Jimena Calfa, and John Hunter.

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Establishing a Culture of Excellence: A Conversation With Arun Hariharan

Arun Hariharan is a quality, knowledge management, and performance management practitioner. He has worked with several large companies and is the founder and CEO of The CPi Coach.

Written for both quality practitioners and business leaders, his latest book, Continuous Permanent Improvement (Quality Press, 2014), is a strategic distillation of experiences, anecdotes, stories, case studies, and lessons learned from successes and mistakes in nearly three decades of experience.

Hariharan has worked with business processes, systematic thinking, customer focus, quality, and performance measurements in a variety of companies and industries as diverse as financial services, telecom, manufacturing, conglomerate, and management consulting.

He spoke with ASQ about key lessons in establishing a culture of continuous permanent improvement.

Q. You talk often in your book about the need to establish a culture of excellence at an organization as a way to ensure success. Others would use profitability or market-share as a way to gauge success. How do excellence and profitability work together to define success in an organization?

Arun Hariharan: In a business, clearly, profitability and market-share are key measures of success. A culture of excellence is an important enabler to achieve financial results – in any event – to achieve them in a sustained way. A culture of excellence will ensure that the organization is proactive and does not miss any improvement opportunity. It can be said that financial results are the end and a culture of excellence is an important means of achieving this end – that’s how they work together.

I would like to use the example of Toyota and another automobile manufacturer (that shall remain unnamed out of respect for the dead!). Both started their automobile manufacturing operations around the same time some decades ago. Toyota decided to follow the path of excellence.

The other company, because it enjoyed a monopoly for many years in its market, made good money for several years despite palming off a shoddy quality product. The party lasted as long as customers had no choice. In the 1980s competition set in, but this company still refused to pay attention to quality or excellence. It believed that it would always have a bunch of “loyal” customers despite its poor quality and despite competitors offering better value.

The reality turned out to be very different. From the very first year that competition set in, the company that did not believe in excellence started losing market-share, eventually going bankrupt. An announcement of its shutting down appeared recently. On the other hand, Toyota, a company that believes in a culture of excellence, is a world-leader in profitability and market share.

Q. How big of a role should upper management play in establishing a culture of excellence versus regular employees?

AH: Upper management is the biggest make or break factor in establishing a culture of excellence. More than merely telling people that excellence is important, it is important to demonstrate to employees that upper management means this. The best way to convince employees is for senior people to actually get involved and spend time in excellence.

For example, I know CEOs who have spent time month after month for years in reviewing quality and customer related performance measures – with the same seriousness with which they review revenue and profits. Another important thing that upper management must do is to ensure that employees’ performance appraisals, starting with the CEO, include measures related to excellence – and that people’s bonuses and growth in the company are actually linked to this.

Perhaps the most important element in establishing the culture of excellence is for upper management to create an atmosphere where employees genuinely feel encouraged, not afraid, to make quality problems, defects and customer-complaints visible, so that they can be solved and prevented.

Q. Is there one particular tool or tools that you recommend are used every day in an organization that wants to commit to establishing a culture of excellence?

AH: We found that if strategic COPIS, root cause analysis, value stream mapping and simply listening to customers can become the organization’s habits rather than merely seen as tools to be used by a few, they will go a long way in establishing a culture of excellence.

Q. How should leaders capture, retain and apply organizational knowledge gathered in the pursuit of excellence?

AH: I look at customer-voice (which could include complaints or data obtained by surveys) as the most important part of organizational knowledge gathered in the pursuit of excellence. Once this knowledge is captured, some of the methods described in my recent book (such as root cause analysis to get to the root of the problem, identify the solution, and make the solution permanent by embedding it into the process) could be applied.

Another important part of organizational knowledge that we found worth retaining and replicating is completed excellence initiatives, including formal quality improvement projects. For example, an improvement project done in one part of the organization could be easily replicated in other locations if the organization has a structured way of capturing, storing, retrieving and applying relevant organizational knowledge.

Posted in Automotive, Management, Quality, Uncategorized, case for quality, culture | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

June Roundup: What’s the Value of Organizational Excellence Programs?

In June, ASQ CEO Bill Troy asked the Influential Voices bloggers about the value of organizational excellence programs such as the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in the U.S . What can a company learn after undergoing this exercise—even if an organization is not in the running for an award or external recognition?

ASQ’s bloggers assessed the value of excellence awards—from going through the exercise as part of continuous improvement to following through after winning (or losing). See their blog posts below.

Tim McMahon lists five practical ways to make the most of organizational awards—such as “use the feedback.”

Jennifer Stepniowski suggests a thought exercise: Apply award criteria to your organization even if you’re not applying for the award. In fact, Nicole Radziwill adds that you don’t need to use or implement all sections of the Baldrige criteria for it to yield immediate tangible value for your organization.

Dan Zrymiak assesses organizational awards in terms of a public relations exercise versus a genuine improvement tool. Anshuman Tiwari compares an organizational excellence journey to training for and running a marathon.

Scott Rutherford suggests SIPOC as a tool for organizational excellence. And Manu Vora writes about his extensive career experience with organizational excellence.

Some excellence programs are based on the Malcolm Baldrige model, but there are a number of other business excellence awards. Lotto Lai outlines the Hong Kong Quality Award. Rajan Thiyagarajan writes about the India-based Tata’s business excellence model.

And Jimena Calfa reflects on the next steps after winning (or not winning) an award. The journey doesn’t stop when you submit the application. It has only begun.

Posted in Baldrige, Management | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Do You Have a Clear Vision?


European Organization for Quality Annual Congress: As I returned on Lufthansa Flight 436 from Gothenburg, Sweden, I found myself reflecting on some of the big ideas I was exposed to while attending the European Organization for Quality’s 58th Annual Congress this past June.  The Conference was organized by EOQ, the International Academy for Quality (IAQ) and several Swedish quality organizations.  Our Swedish hosts showed us the most gracious hospitality.  Sweden, as you well know, is an incredibly beautiful country and Gothenburg is a city that is both modern and historic.  With English spoken so commonly, it was a breeze to get around, and everyone we encountered was courteous and friendly.  I would like to briefly tell you about three presentations I attended and the one big idea I got out of each one.

Solving Current Problems vs. Preventing Occurrence: The first was Professor Noriaki Kano, an elected fellow of ASQ and the recipient of two ASQ Medals of Distinction: the E. Jack Lancaster Medal for 2002, and the E. L. Grant Medal for 2007.  He is one of the most respected voices on quality in the world.  He traced for us the history of the quality movement, and how Dr. Deming’s concepts were largely ignored here in the U.S. but found a receptive audience in Japan.  He posed a question for us at once simple and telling.  What’s more important, he asked: to solve the current problems you are facing or to prevent their future reoccurrence?

Well, when you ask a group of accomplished quality professionals that question, they naturally tend to start thinking about root cause analysis and finding metrics to help them see where you are going wrong, etc.  About two-thirds of the audience answered that prevention of future reoccurrence of the problem was key.  With a bit of a twinkle in his eye, Dr. Kano emphatically said “NO!  Your house is burning down; you have to put out the fire first.  Only then can you think about preventing a fire in the future.”  The idea I took away from this is that quality tools and principles are not just theoretical knowledge that may help solve some as yet unknown problems in the future.  They are every bit as much for today’s urgent issues and challenges: in our businesses, our communities, and our respective countries.  Quality is not magic, but quality tools can help right now with our toughest problems and it is a good thing for us to remember.

The Success of Ikea: The second presentation was from a gentleman from Ikea, Mr. Ulf Gustavsson.  Ikea has thrived for many reasons, but one reason, according to Mr. Gustavsson, is that Ikea stays in touch with its customers. By that, I mean they give customers what they want–stylish, practical products that are “cost-conscious.” (He explained that the word “cheap” is considered a curse word at Ikea and is never used!) They constantly think about the customer’s experience from the time customers get out of their cars, to finding what they need, to getting Swedish meatballs in the café.  Part of the process of staying in touch with the customer is that every executive at Ikea spends one week a year working in a job that puts him or her in direct contact with customers.  My take-away on this ethic of customer focus was summarized in a key question that Ikea continually asks, “Where and when is customer satisfaction created for your offer?”  That’s a really powerful question.  It forces you to think through what the customer is experiencing and where and when he or she will find satisfaction.

The Vision of Volvo: Finally, we went to the Volvo factory.  I have never been to an automobile factory before, so it was cool to see the big stamping machines and welding robots do their thing.  My takeaway, however, did not come from the factory.  It came from a visit to the Volvo Visitors Center, and the Volvo representative telling us about the evolution of safety features in Volvos, demonstrating their latest safety developments, and explaining the priority safety holds for Volvo.

My big take-away from this visit was discovering the clearest organizational vision statement I have ever come across, which Volvo calls Vision 2020.  It states simply, “by 2020, nobody shall be seriously injured or killed in a new Volvo.”  Think about that for a minute. They are saying that by the year 2020 (not that long away) you cannot be killed or seriously injured if you are in a new Volvo, no matter the circumstances of the collision.

The Key Takeaway: I came away moved by the power and clarity the vision can bring.  This focus on safety gives Volvo purpose and direction. It helps Volvo prioritize everything they do.  That’s what I found so enlightening.  We all understand focus isn’t going to solve all your problems for you.  If Volvo makes cars that are too expensive for their market, or lack the features people want, it won’t succeed as a business.  But there is only so much organizational energy, and if it is evenly distributed, you’ll never have a breakthrough.  There has to be focus–and a real vision brings real focus.

Here at ASQ I have been talking a lot about focus as we go through our strategic planning process.  Do we have the right focus and does everyone know it?  How about your organization?   Do you have a clear vision—and is it giving you the focus you need to succeed?

Posted in case for quality, conferences, culture | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

10 Ways To Get the Most From Your ASQ Membership

Dan Zrymiak

Daniel Zrymiak is an Influential Voices blogger and longtime ASQ member. He has worked in quality for two decades, and is active in ASQ as a Quality Press author and reviewer, member leader, Technical Committee chair, and Fellow, the highest level of membership. He lives in Canada and blogs at A QualitEvolution.

In this guest post, I hope to advise ASQ members and the wider quality community on how to optimize an ASQ membership.  By actively participating in ASQ programs and benefits and by keeping current personal records, ASQ can be experienced as a professional loyalty program.

Just as an airline or hotel loyalty program would require you to be a passenger or hotel guest, any association or society places certain expectations. With progressive levels of achievement and advancement, more privileges and opportunities are available within ASQ (and within most associations that you may wish to join).

For a professional association like ASQ, some effective ways to build loyalty are summarized below:

1. Attend and present at ASQ meetings. From the most humble local section

Connecting at ASQ's World Conference on Quality and Improvement

gathering to the grandest palatial ballroom of the ASQ World Conference, the opportunity to interact and be a visible presence reinforces that ASQ extends beyond your local location, region, or industry specialization. The breadth and scope of ASQ can be most appreciated through direct interactions with other quality professionals.

2. Pursue certification and professional experience.  Certification allows the time spent within ASQ to be effectively leveraged to the benefit of your career. As a personal example, I applied an ASQ Certified Software Quality Engineer certification and professional experience to teach software QA at local universities and colleges.

3. Volunteer to serve as a member leader. Whether in an elected office or appointed position with a section or division, joining the growing community of member leaders within ASQ extends the involvement and creates the satisfaction that comes from addressing and fulfilling challenges.

4. Contribute your knowledge. Those ASQ members who devote their time as reviewers, authors, presenters, moderators, curriculum developers, or intellectual property contributors may be eligible for additional rewards which can include gifts, discounts on ASQ merchandise, honoraria, subsidized or complimentary conference registration, and recognition events.

5. Track your achievements and remain in good standing. By paying and renewing membership fees in a timely manner, interruptions are avoided.  A disrupted or intermittent record may create restrictions or lost opportunities for certain benefits. Also be sure to keep your personal records with accuracy and thoroughness.  Delaying the tracking may result in having your work not properly credited toward future member benefits.

6 .Complete your recertification. The steps to recertification permit you to retain your professional standing by submitting your validated records of professional involvement, in a most convenient and accessible manner.

7. Access an unlimited knowledge base. This benefit includes intellectual property retained through collections of publications, as well as the exposure to global expertise from experienced and successful practitioners, academics, and authors.  In addition, you can take advantage of multiple opportunities to conveniently acquire mentors and to mentor others within the profession, providing a cost-effective advantage over the expensive alternative of career consultants or executive coaches.

8. Upgrade to senior membership. This member level is available after ASQ members have attained or achieved levels of experience and fulfillment in particular areas (i.e. certification, career level, duration of membership).  The immediate financial benefit can be realized from the free journal, the benefit of which exceeds the incremental membership cost.  ASQ Senior Members also may take on additional levels of responsibility and influence within ASQ.

9. Pursue senior leadership and governance. ASQ provides members with opportunities for election into roles of authority and influence, such as section, division, or board leadership. This enables exceptional opportunities to demonstrate leadership and interact with corporate and government leaders.

10. Position for higher honors. Outstanding ASQ members and quality practitioners can be recognized by ASQ (i.e. Fellow memberships, ASQ awards).  For the competitive awards process, a personal portfolio of professional and personal accomplishments must be submitted for evaluation and selection.  However, falling short does not mean rejection or failure, only the added inspiration to improve and attain greater achievements.

To get the most from the loyalty capital you have cultivated over time, it is imperative that you strive for the promise of your full potential, all that awaits you within ASQ, and wherever your passionate pursuits may lead.

To learn more about ASQ membership, please see the ASQ membership page, call the ASQ Customer Care group, or email help@asq.org. If you’re an ASQ member seeking more information on leadership and volunteering opportunities or awards, please contact communitydevelopment@asq.org or your ASQ Community Development administrator.

Posted in ASQ, Uncategorized, career | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Blogger Roundup: The Quality/Education Connection

Many people don’t think of quality tools and philosophies being used in education, but the link between quality and education proved to be a hot topic at ASQ’s 2014 World Conference on Quality and Improvement.
Specifically, does poor education lead to a poor quality of the workforce (and, thus, of quality itself)?
World Conference speaker Michelle Rhee made this point in her very popular keynote. ASQ’s Influential Voices bloggers provided nuanced feedback on this theme.
See the summary:
Posted in Deming, Education, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 1 Comment

The Organizational Excellence Journey–and ASQ

I want to let you know about the terrific news we recently received.  ASQ has been awarded the Excellence level of achievement for the 2014 Wisconsin Forward Award. The Wisconsin Forward Award is essentially the state-level equivalent of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in the U.S.

The Excellence level of achievement is exceptionally challenging and represents an organization that is performing at a very high level across its entire breadth.

This award is not just a reflection on ASQ headquarters in Milwaukee.  The Baldrige criteria require a much broader look. The examiners talked to ASQ member leaders and board members to really gauge what kind of organization this is.  I think the results demonstrate unequivocally that ASQ practices what it preaches.

We believe in rigorous self-examination and continuous improvement— in fact, we believe in it strongly enough to put ourselves through it, too.  This extraordinary recognition reflects the untiring efforts of our staff and ASQ member leaders who make us what we are.

Have you been part of an organization that has embarked on an excellence program?  In the end, such a program is really not about the award, but about improvement. What has been your experience with this exercise in organizational self-examination?

Posted in ASQ, Baldrige | Tagged , , | 1 Comment