Conference Survival Guide 2014

It’s that time of the year: Preparation for ASQ’s annual World Conference for Quality and Improvement (WCQI). This year, it will be held in Dallas, May 5-7. I don’t think I’m bragging when I say that I’m a WCQI veteran. By my count, I’ve attended 28 conferences in the years I’ve been with ASQ.

So this year again, let’s talk about conferences and events.

1. Which networking events, conferences, or workshops do you typically attend? How do you decide they’re worthwhile? Is it more about the learning or the networking or both for you?

2. What are your tips and advice for making the most of the events you attend?

My advice is pretty basic: Wear comfortable shoes! You will be walking or standing much of the time at conferences.  And take the chance of introducing yourself to someone you don’t know and asking them why they’re attending the event. You’ll hear remarkable stories.  I know you have other wisdom to share. I encourage you to blog about it or leave a comment. We’ll do a summary before the conference.

And, of course, I hope to see you in Dallas.  In fact, I’ll be disappointed if I don’t.

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A Time for Change

It’s been a busy few months, and, consequently, a quiet time on View From the Q. Thank you, bloggers and readers, for your patience. Let me give you an update. As you probably know, I’m retiring from ASQ as of mid-May.

My successor, Bill Troy, will be starting on April 21 as the CEO of ASQ.  We’re very excited to welcome Bill to “the Q”! You can learn more about him and his various accomplishments here.

In sum, Bill’s experience is built on service, high-performance and integrity through the U.S. military. Bill also served as a Senior Fellow at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard in 2001 and spent much of his time working in different regions around the globe, and in a variety of settings, interacting with military, government and business leaders.

I will take part in this year’s ASQ World Conference in Dallas—and when it’s over, my wife and I will begin what we’re referring to as  “Our year of sabbatical.” We will be moving to Door County, a beautiful, nature-filled area in the northern part of Wisconsin. I’m putting a woodshop together and look forward to the days of making sawdust and considering how to put my gifts and experience back to work.

I’ve enjoyed nearly 28 years at ASQ and have learned a great deal about quality and the difference it can make in the world.  But it’s time to step back and provide myself the opportunity of distance and reflection as I, and we, consider the next phase of life.  Your commitment and dedication to quality and ASQ have been a source of immense inspiration. I know in whatever I do that I will take what you’ve so patiently taught me.  I will keep the torch for quality lit. Of that you can sure. I rely on you to do the same, and to pass the torch of quality onto others.

This is a time of change for ASQ.  A change in leadership and transformational changes in the nature of the organization.  Quality remains a great opportunity for the world as it struggles with opportunity of ever greater proportion.  I have great faith that you and ASQ will rise to the occasion.

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Engineering Survey: Engineers in Leadership Roles

In a recent survey for ASQ conducted by Kelton Global, U.S. workers identified honesty and communications as key traits they want to see in corporate leaders. A poll by ASQ of its global member engineers worldwide shows they, too, feel honesty and communications are essential to successful leadership.

However, it’s those same traits that workers surveyed by Kelton say are the most lacking, with 20% saying communicating well and 16% citing honesty as leaders’ shortcomings.

In advance of Engineers Week, we also asked workers what backgrounds best prepare CEOs. According to the Kelton Global survey, only 9% said engineers would make the best corporate leaders, falling severely behind those in the fields of Operations (23%), Finance (17%), Marketing (14%), Academia (13%), and Sales (11%).

Engineers have a different view, though, with 69 percent saying their skill set provides a solid foundation for a successful CEO, according to the ASQ member survey — citing skills like analytical thinking and problem-solving.

According to the Kelton Global survey, workers value to the following traits in company leadership:

  • Honesty—30%
  • Communication—22%
  • Critical Thinking—11%
  • Commitment—10%

Traits most lacking in company leadership

  • Communicating Well—20%
  • Honesty—16%

As we start National Engineers Week, this information is as valuable as ever. In the survey conducted of ASQ member engineers, 61% were already in a leadership position, and of the remaining, 16% indicated a high interest in attaining a leadership role. For those looking to advance, how can engineers break the stigma of lacking integrity and having poor communication skills?

About the Surveys

The ASQ leadership survey was conducted by Kelton Global between Jan. 2 and Jan. 9 among 1,027 nationally representative Americans ages 18 and older using an email invitation and an online survey. Margin of error = +/- 3.1 percent. The poll of ASQ member engineers was conducted between Jan. 2 and Jan. 16 among 444 ASQ members around the world who identify themselves as engineers using an email invitation and online poll.

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A Glimpse at Manufacturing in 2014

ASQ recently released our latest manufacturing outlook survey. As you may know, we conduct this survey every year. Results from 2013: Sixty-five percent of manufacturers experienced revenue growth in 2013, but–you knew there was a “but”–nearly half still consider the economy the biggest challenge. In both 2012 and 2013, 70 percent of manufacturers said they experienced revenue growth.

The survey was fielded to respondents in the aerospace, automotive, food, medical device, pharmaceutical and utility industries, among others. You can read the results of the entire survey here.

This year, we partnered with the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition, of which we’re members, to conduct the survey and explore smart manufacturing.

A few more facts from the survey:

  • About 46% of the respondents say the economy continues to be the biggest hurdle to operations, while 18% said the shortage of skilled workers is the biggest challenge they foresee in 2014.
  • One interesting sidebar in 2013 is the respondents’ use of smart manufacturing, which the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition defines as “the integration of network-based data and information that provides real-time understanding, reasoning, planning, management and related decision making of all aspects of a manufacturing and supply chain enterprise.”
  • Only 13% of respondents use smart manufacturing, but 82% of those who do experience more efficiency.
  • Another positive kernel from the survey: 35% to 36% of respondents expect their companies to either increase hiring or maintain current staffing (15% expect reductions).
  • And a whopping 49% expect salary or merit increases in 2014.

So—all in all, a positive outlook with a side of caution. Do these results reflect the mood in your organization, or that of your clients?

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2013 Salary Survey–And Key Hiring Practices

We’ve all been there. At one time or another, we’ve had to dust off our resumes and interview for jobs. Many of us have been on the other side of the job search, as hiring managers. It’s a task, I think, that’s no less challenging.

Enter ASQ’s annual QP Salary Survey. This year, in addition to the usual juicy data about how much quality professionals make, the survey contained questions for hiring managers on what they want to see in new hires. Qualifications and traits such as ASQ certifications, experience, education, personality, and Six Sigma training. Which trait would you rank as the most important?

Just to give you another teaser from the survey: The average salary for full-time quality professionals in the United States was $88,458 in 2013. In the 2012 survey, it was $86,743.

You can either read the full QP article or take a look at this illustrated infographic of key facts from the survey. Do these facts align with your experience in the quality field?

(I’d be amiss to mention that there’s also a quick video that will give you a nice preview of the survey. Watch it here.)

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October Roundup: Quality in New Endeavors

Quality can and should be used outside the traditional manufacturing sector. That’s not news to anyone who works in quality and has seen how the field has expanded beyond its industrial quality control roots. Yet the expansion of quality is not without its challenges or some disagreement as to how quality techniques can be incorporated “outside quality”–as made evident by ASQ’s Influential Voices bloggers last month. Take a look.

Quality is innovation. It requires creativity, invention, perseverance, and the endless pursuit of perfection.  These types of values are universal across all industries and organizations,” writes John Priebe.

“The biggest challenges in adopting the quality (and Lean) approach in nonindustrial environments are to know which of its tools or principles to use and how to apply them effectively,” says Tim McMahon.

“Many of the quality control and quality management tools used in the manufacturing sector are equally applicable in non-manufacturing sector,” writes Manu Vora, listing a variety of sectors.

Don Brecken wonders why quality has been slow to be accepted in the government, service, and healthcare fields.

Anshuman Tiwari, who is based in India, says quality can be used for the betterment of the developing world: “For the larger good of the developing world, quality principles should be applied to Healthcare, Education, Legal Justice, Not for Profit organizations, and the Quality Profession itself.”

Scott Rutherford encourages us to apply quality techniques in education settings: “For our future, learning is the new frontier where quality professionals can best impact society.”  Bob Mitchell writes of the wonders quality can do for office transactions: “It is my experience and opinion that two areas ripe for continuous improvement are back office transactions and front office customer service.”

Babette Ten Haken writes about the connection between quality and sales. Guy Bigwood writes about quality and sustainability.

Jimena Calfa encourages us to look at a very simple application of quality—quality tools in our personal and everyday lives. Dr. Lotto Lai finds quality techniques in a Japanese TV drama. Sounds a bit outlandish? Not to Jennifer Stepniowski, who champions quality in pop culture settings, with a bit of “fluff” so our world is more comprehensible to non-quality professionals.

Both Chad Walters and Edwin Garro write about quality in sports—Chad discusses how poor quality affects fans’ experiences with sports organizations while Edwin writes about quality and football (known to North Americans as soccer).

Cesar Diaz Guevara takes a universal view, encouraging “Using quality to improve Universal accessibility, which aims to remove the barriers that might limit people to conduct their daily activities.” Similarly, Guy Wallace says quality can be used to improve human performance in all fields. Nicole Radziwill writes about creating value as a quality professional. Rajan Thiyagarajan reflects on how consumers perceive quality.

And Dan Zrymiak encourages us not to overlook quality’s traditional roots. “While the Quality profession embarks on new pursuits, it must also reinforce and fortify its areas of competency.”

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Share “Quality Moments” for World Quality Month

As many of you know, November is World Quality Month. Last month, I wrote about upcoming events and celebrations in honor of this event. As expected, there’s even more going on this month. See for all the details.

So in November, I ask the Influential Voices and other readers to share a “quality moment.” It can be an experience at work where you improved something or solved a problem. Or maybe your quality moment occurred outside of work. Did you share your quality moment with your colleagues? Was it part of a bigger solution? Did it give you a sense professional satisfaction? Either way, I’d like to hear about it.

And by the way, if you like ASQ’s popular Quality Quote, you can create your own via the Quote Generator. I know, I know, Deming was no fan of slogans. Yet we all have words—hopefully not exhortations—to live by. Share yours.

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Building Socially Responsible Organizations

Maybe you’ve seen the news over the past week: ASQ’s social responsibility (SR) initiative, TheSRO, has a new website. If you haven’t checked it out yet, I strongly encourage you to do so. Here’s the link:

At ASQ, our members have been working for a few years to delineate how quality can be leveraged as a methodology that helps organizations become more socially responsible. This work has included conferences and think tanks, administering the U.S. Technical Advisory Group for ISO 26000: Guidance on Social Responsibility, and publishing research, books, journal articles, and white papers on the connection between quality and SR.

Beyond developing strategies and theories, ASQ members and member units have been leading the way in showing how quality results in more socially responsible organizations, communities, and citizens.

But why invest time and energy to further expand the reach of quality? We can turn to ASQ’s mission for guidance: “To increase the use and impact of quality in response to the diverse needs of the world.” As businesses and consumers become more aware and interested in SR, ASQ’s mission drives us to help individuals, organizations, and communities maximize the impact of these efforts.

So how does the new site help?

  • First, the site centralizes ASQ’s SR body of knowledge to help everyone more easily navigate through this robust (and previously dispersed) collection of information.
  • Second, the site functions as a gateway through which non-quality professionals can be introduced to the principles of quality and how quality can meet their personal and professional needs. And for the quality professional, the site shows how they can use their skills to address a significant and growing global need.
  • And finally, the new site has increased functionality to help grow ASQ’s SR body of knowledge through new and exciting platforms: a case study library, online events (podcasts, panels, interviews, webchats, etc.), and the opportunity for users to submit content for publication.

The strength of this site and TheSRO initiative comes from the continuous infusion of new ideas and contributions. So please visit the site, build the body of knowledge, and join the movement!

This entry would be amiss without a huge thank-you to the the SRO design team and ASQ’s SR Peer Group. The individuals chairing those two groups are Holly Duckworth and Dick Gould, respectively. ASQ Past Chair, ASQ Roberto Saco, was the impetus for putting SR on the ASQ leadership radar.

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Ideas for World Quality Month 2013

November is the fourth annual World Quality Month, a celebration of quality, its impact on the world, and quality practitioners whose knowledge, experience, and passion make improved quality available for anyone who asks.

You can learn more about the event on The site houses quality-themed events, success stories, knowledge resources, and a toolkit available in English, Chinese, Arabic, and Spanish with posters, etags, and web banners that you are encouraged to download and use.

Those who work in quality sometimes struggle to explain its value to “outsiders”—or even “insiders”–at their organization. There’s no better time to remedy this than November. I encourage you to take a proactive role in World Quality Month this year!

If your organization  hasn’t made any plans yet, it’s not too late. Forward a link to the site. Download posters and display them in your office. Host a quality “open house” for your department and invite colleagues from other areas (be sure to offer snacks). Put an etag in your email signature. Submit your quality stories, case studies, and events—the site welcomes visitor content.

Oh, and don’t forget to have some fun. That’s right. New in 2013 are contests and social media events highlighting the lighter side of quality:

  • Submit a photo of an item that has lasted for a long time (like a car or appliance) as part of the #qualitylasts contest on Twitter.  You could win a Canon digital camera. Use hashtags #qualitylasts and #wqm13. You can find more details here.
  • A lot of quality folks like the Quality Quotes from ASQ’s Knowledge Center. In November, look for a “quality quote” generator in QP, ASQ’s flagship magazine.
  • Any time you make something better—that’s a quality moment. Submit your #qualitymoments on ASQ’s Facebook or Twitter now through November. We will compile for
  • LinkedIn users can add “World Quality Month” as a skill on LinkedIn and encourage endorsements.
  • Finally, share your World Quality Month celebration ideas in the comments.
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Roundup: The Challenges of Sustaining Excellence

Among the more challenging topics covered on this blog is our September theme: Making excellence last. I was inspired by the story of glass manufacturer Corning, whose decades-long excellence–including an impressive comeback–is detailed in this case study.

The Influential Voices reflected on this topic at length, as all quality professionals should.  After all, as Influential Voices blogger Guy Wallace notes—the only constant nowadays is change. Take a look:

Tim McMahon warns us of the dangers of organizational complacency and lists 10 factors that help organizations avoid passivity.

Manu Vora writes about the foundations of sustainable change management, listing necessary organizational traits such as leadership and project management. John Hunter also compiles success strategies for companies, including viewing the organization as a system. Adds Edwin Garro:”An excellent company starts with leaders who actually want to be excellent.”

Dr. Lai points us to Kaizen, BPR and TRIZ as tools to use for continued excellence. Guy Wallace likes the term “continuous alignment”—that is, broadly sharing vision, metrics, and responsibilities, also noting that “the only constant nowadays is change.”

Speaking of which, Rajan Thiyagarajan notes that today it is increasingly hard to predict which companies will thrive and which will disappear. For organizational survival, pursue change when the times are good, advises John Priebe.

Nicole Radziwill writes about established companies that partner with young start ups and entrepreneurs for a jolt of innovation.

Jennifer Stepniowski makes a connection to another company known for excellence, Apple. Daniel Zrymiak writes about the continued excellence of Honda. And Robert Mitchell writes about the long-lasting success of his employer, 3M.

Anshuman Tiwari makes the case that quality must make money for companies, rather than being just “the right thing to do.”

Babette Ten Haken asks if quality is part of your organization’s product development and customer discovery from day one.

On the lighter side, James Lawther explains change management through the parable of the old fairy tale, “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.”

Finally, Scott Rutherford wraps up the bloggers’ comments nicely when he says:

Each organization has a unique culture with periods of great success as well as turbulent times. Ultimately, it is the alignment of culture, strategy, and execution that defines organizational sustainment during change of organizational leadership.”

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