Apply Design Thinking to Quality Practices


More and more organizations are using design thinking to assess business concerns, discover creative solutions, and to establish market opportunities. As this strategy gains more traction ASQ asks:

How can design thinking be integrated with, and applied to quality practices?   


Prem Ranganath: The Art of Quality

Design Thinking is an opportunity to humanize quality and continuous improvement

Background: Design Thinking is a collection of methods and mindset that evolved at Stanford University and has now entered the mainstream in almost every industry. While the design thinking stages and methods might appear to be a framework, the essence of design thinking is the focus on ‘empathy’ and ‘experimentation’ to design innovative, meaningful and people focused solutions.

Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.

-Tim Brown, CEO OF IDEO

Design Thinking for Quality Practitioners:

There is no dearth of frameworks, toolkits and methodologies for quality management and continuous improvement. For example, a methodology like DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) provides a structured set of methods for continuous improvement along with a set of problem-solving tools and techniques for each stage in the methodology. DMAIC provides an opportunity to assess the current state using quantitative methods and prioritize problems/ opportunities for which solutions have to be implemented.

Metrics to qualify the current state and for measuring effectiveness of the solutions implemented are typically tagged to business objectives which ensures that employees understand the alignment between improvement initiatives and the potential impact of outcomes on business objectives.

If we use the Visual-01 (below) from IDEO as a reference, traditionally quality and continuous improvement initiatives are largely driven by viability and feasibility considerations. Integrating design thinking with improvement initiatives brings the ‘human’ element into focus, by driving conversation on ‘desirability’ of the solutions being proposed for implementation.

Visual-01: Dimensions of Design Thinking (source: IDEO)

When desirability is considered alongside viability and feasibility on quality and continuous improvement projects, it significantly improves change management and adoption. This approach also significantly increases the odds of institutionalizing and sustaining changes and ensures the effectiveness of the changes. Use of empathy as a facet to characterize current state brings more focus on the users (internal or external customers). Applying empathy alongside prototyping to evaluate alternate solution options for the future state improves engagement from the user community and will have a positive impact on the pace and extent of adoption. An informed and engaged user is more likely to be a champion for the solutions being implemented. The combination of traditional metrics and qualitative data supporting the desirability dimension can provide a new perspective for prioritizing and driving improvements.

Visual-02: Integrating Design Thinking with DMAIC

Visual-02 shows the integration of a Design Thinking flow represented by the steps Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test with the DMAIC approach for continuous improvement. Integration of design thinking methods to adopt a humanized approach to characterizing (challenges and opportunities) current state. On similar lines, engaging internal and external customers to experiment and improve in a culture of play can lead to solutions that are desired by the user community and enable the quality practitioners ability to sustain and scale the improvements.

I have used the design thinking approach and methods on large transformation initiatives and during Kaizen events and I have seen significant impact on participants’ enthusiasm and engagement. The ability to empathize and experiment puts a human face to quality and process improvements and I would highly recommend design thinking to quality practitioners. I look forward to hearing from my peers on their experience with design thinking.


Robert Mitchell: Quality Matters 

Use Design Thinking to Innovate Your Quality Improvement Journey

Design Thinking is a strategy-making process that focuses on customer behaviors rather than opinion (aka tribal knowledge) and market research.

There is a lot of press lately about Design Thinking concepts, applications and examples in the development of new products and opening new markets. Design Thinking was popularized by David M. Kelley and Tim Brown of IDEO and Roger Martin of the Rotman School. A very good, short video on the topic was recently published by the Harvard Business Review blog . For a more detailed explanation please read the paper, “Design for Action” written by Brown and Martin.

Design Thinking process:

From a paper recently published by Creativity At Work, “Design Thinking is a methodology used by designers to solve complex problems, and find desirable solutions for clients. A design mindset is not problem-focused, it’s solution focused and action oriented towards creating a preferred future. Design Thinking draws upon logic, imagination, intuition, and systemic reasoning, to explore possibilities of what could be—and to create desired outcomes that benefit the end user (the customer)”.

So how might Design Thinking be applied to your Quality improvement frameworks and roadmaps? The three major stages of Design Thinking are:

  1. Observe customer behavior; define unarticulated needs
  2. Ideate, Prototype, experiment and test
  3. Bring the new concept to life; open new markets

What differentiates Design Thinking from traditional Voice of Customer collection approaches is the emphasis placed on observation of behaviors rather than relying on customers’ input to satisfaction surveys. Survey responses tend to validate Expected Quality and rarely reveal Exciting Quality opportunities (see “Kano Model”). In this way, Design Thinking is similar to Focus Panels and “Be the Customer” methods to better understand unarticulated customer needs. It is at this stage of Design Thinking that the Quality practitioner has the unique opportunity to innovate through the introduction and incorporation of Journey Mapping to document customer experiences throughout the value chain of the producer-customer relationship, from product awareness to purchase and after-sale touchpoints.

An example of customer journey map:

The stages in Design Thinking around Ideation and Prototyping should look very similar to your existing Product Development and Commercialization processes. Many such approaches use a stage-gate model to prototype, test, and refine product design to evaluate customer acceptance and verify production cost estimates. Quality’s role in this stage should be to coach and consult in the proper use of experimental design to minimize experimentation costs and identify potentially important interactions of inputs and process variables to optimize performance of customer needs.

Another unique opportunity in the Design Thinking process for the Quality professional is in the final stage of bringing the new concept to life. With the help of social media the properly trained Quality professional can analyze customer / consumer feedback to validate areas of satisfaction and dissatisfaction, focusing on opportunities to build loyalty and engagement.

One can debate whether Design Thinking is really all that new or novel an approach to the value creation process. Design Thinking reinforces the power of understanding customer behaviors and unarticulated needs to deliver Exciting, innovative new product and service offerings for improved customer satisfaction and engagement… and potentially opening whole new markets. Per Linda Naiman (Creativity at Work), “Design Thinking minimizes the uncertainty and risk of innovation by engaging customers or users through a series of prototypes to learn, test and refine concepts”. The Quality professional might also consider how Design Thinking and Journey Mapping can help him/her to innovate their professional services portfolio for increased customer satisfaction in teaching, coaching and consulting outcomes.

“The best way to predict the future is to create it” – Peter Drucker


Luciana Paulise: Biztorming

What is Design thinking

Design thinking is a systematic and collaborative creative problem solving approach focusing on customer needs, getting information by direct observation, and testing it in a disciplined way. Similar to the Lean startup approach, the key is to fail fast and fail often. Even Toyota production system promotes investigating as many alternatives as possible, to find the very best solution, and always urge to propose ideas and fail as fast as possible.

The three main stages

1) Invent the future: With design thinking you should imagine what could be, in the ideal world, with limitless boundaries. You need to think what your customer may want but don’t know. The way to do that is by “Camping out” with your customers, like Home depot does. They talk to customers, ask how their experience was, ask questions like “did you find what you expected, what about the price, was it easy to find?” Sometimes a customer just want something fast, meaning buying a product in your website in just three clicks. That is what you need to discover through observation, what is “unstated”. Customer know they want to Get from a to b, but don’t know how. You need to find out the best way by immersing in their lives, observing and asking questions.

Ideas for product changes may be related to new products, pricing or new store displays.

2) Test ideas. You can do Mindmapping to write down ideas after observation, and then test those ideas. Do first individually, and then test it with your team mates or even with your customers. Remember, don’t judge, simply think and write down.

Once you have your ideas mapped, you need to conduct experiments to test the ideas in the real world. You can also test new processes that maybe faster, easier or

Use cheap materials, or partial solutions or Rapid prototyping tools. It does’t have to look perfect at first. The idea is to go fast, to be able to adjust fast.

3) Bring the new product to life. Identify resources and activities to implement the new ideas. Plan how to produce, distribute and sell the product or how to change the process.

Some Case studies

Design thinking can be used in any type of industry. A health provider for example used it to re-engineer nursing-staff shift changes. Close observation of actual shift changes, combined with brainstorming and rapid prototyping, produced new procedures that radically streamlined information exchange between shifts. The result was more time for nursing, better-informed patient care, and a happier nursing staff.

The Innova School System, for example, with 23 schools thus far, is applying design thinking across its platform, from how the classrooms are built to the curriculum. and the UK’s Design Policy Unit  as described in Tim Browns’s first article on Design Thinking for HBR.

Samsung Electronics manufactured inexpensive, imitative electronics for other companies. Its engineers built products to meet prescribed price and performance requirements. In a company that emphasized efficiency and engineering rigor, the designers had little status or influence. Then, in 1996, Lee Kun-Hee, the chairman of Samsung Group, frustrated by the company’s lack of innovation decided that in order to become a top brand, Samsung needed expertise in design, and set out to create a design-focused culture that would support world-class innovation. It took a long way until getting everyone in the company on-board, but they finally made it. Now Samsung innovation process begins with research conducted by multidisciplinary teams of designers, engineers, marketers, ethnographers, musicians, and writers who search for users’ unmet needs and identify cultural, technological, and economic trends. Design thinking for them means three major things: empathy, visualization, and experimentation in the marketplace.

Tech companies are using quality tools to organize their innovation cycles, likewise automotive, manufacturing, or even consulting industries more focused on standardization should start using quality together with design thinking so as to get a disciplined empathetic approach to customer requirements.

Are you ready?


As Industry 4.0 continues to evolve, what can quality professionals do to ensure they will be an integral asset throughout this industrial revolution?

As Industry 4.0 continues to evolve, what can quality professionals do to ensure they will be an integral asset throughout this industrial revolution? 



Robert Mitchell:  Quality Matters

First, let’s begin with an operational definition of Industry 4.0.
Wikipedia defines Industry 4.0 as “the current trend of automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. It includes cyber-physical systems, the Internet of things and cloud computing. Industry 4.0 creates what has been called a “smart factory”. Within the modular structured smart factories, cyber-physical systems monitor physical processes, create a virtual copy of the physical world and make decentralized decisions. Over the Internet of Things, cyber-physical systems communicate and cooperate with each other and with humans in real time, and via the Internet of Services both internal and cross-organizational services are offered and used by participants of the value chain”.

Accenture released a report in January 2015 that concluded an industrial-scale version of Industry 4.0 could add $14.2 trillion to the world economy over the next 15 years.

Christoph Roser at AllAboutLean.com illustrates the four industrial revolutions:

So, the fourth industrial revolution is the move towards digitization including automation, robotics, artificial intelligence. The Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC) in the United States is a non-profit organization comprising manufacturers, suppliers, technology firms, government agencies, universities and laboratories that share the goal of advancing the thinking behind Industry 4.0. Its purpose is to construct an open, smart manufacturing platform for industrial-networked information applications.

In a Forbes article dated June 20, 2016, Bernard Marr states that in order for a factory or system to be considered Industry 4.0, it must include:

  • Interoperability — machines, devices, sensors and people that connect and communicate with one another.
  • Information transparency — the systems create a virtual copy of the physical world through sensor data in order to contextualize  information.
  • Technical assistance — both the ability of the systems to support humans in making decisions and solving problems and the ability to assist humans with tasks that are too difficult or unsafe for humans.
  • Decentralized decision-making — the ability of cyber-physical systems to make simple decisions on their own and become as autonomous as possible.

Having defined Industry 4.0, it is clear that assuring such inter-connectedness of software, sensors, devices and data centers requires a quality system that delivers data integrity, privacy and reliability in addition to assuring reliable, rugged, scalable, fully-integrated systems and processes that seamlessly data-share between networks while consistently meeting producer, governmental and customer needs. Opportunities exist for the Quality professional to make significant, innovative contributions in areas of software quality assurance, reliability, process validation, environmental life testing and accelerated stress testing, Real Time Process Monitoring, advanced calibration and big data analytics. Now, more than ever, product development and commercialization teams must assure reliable machine-human interface ease of use and real-time results-driven feedback loops. And, of course, discover even deeper insights to the ever-changing voice of customer (and voice of process) along with a comprehensive understanding of the customer experience throughout the value chain (e.g. journey maps), and assure that the organization is measuring the right key metrics to deliver success.

Industry 4.0 offers exciting new challenges to the Quality profession while building on our expertise of problem solving, process improvement, and managing the organizational white spaces to sustain customer focus and achieve operational excellence

Natella Isazada: www.natellaisazada.com

The top two areas that quality professionals need to master in order to succeed in Industry 4 are soft skills and innovation. My opinion is supported by the evidence below.

Modern scientific progress and rapid technological advances enable the automation of more processes and tasks more rapidly and effectively than ever before. Contemporary workplaces include many examples where machines are replacing humans. In an environment like this each of us has to distinguish our value and contributions from those of automated machines and programmed applications. One competitive advantage humans have over robots is our people skills and that is one strength quality professionals need to further develop and to capitalize on.

During the fourth industrial revolution those quality professionals who limit their capabilities and contributions strictly to data interpretation and reports, will render themselves obsolete and face extinction. Quality professionals who desire to adapt to the new dynamics, need to extend our skill sets beyond the usual statistical calculations and technical tools. Aptitude in knowledge transfer, business management and the humanities will be essential in the near future. Quality professionals are already becoming internal management consultants leading strategic planning and risk management initiatives as well as building knowledge management systems. Our ability to translate quality concepts across departments can help us further solidify our positions and sustain our importance within the organization.

The key to our profession’s survival and success throughout the new industrial revolution is to continue adding sustainable value in the ever changing environments. As Quality professionals, we have to go beyond traditional methods and use innovative strategies and tools including

  • Design Thinking,
  • Internet of Things,
  • Quality as a Service, and
  • Mastery of technological solutions like Big Data and Cloud-based capabilities.

To be an integral asset in Industry 4 we have to really tune in to customer needs and think what requirements customers will have in the future. The value of every great idea is determined by its ability to solve customer pain. Most likely the solution to the future pain lies somewhere outside of our current capabilities, requiring our full efforts to prepare for the expectations and demands of the new era.


John Hunter: Curious Cat 

Technological innovation brings great opportunity for improving results and quality of life. But transforming potential benefits into real results comes with many challenges.

One of the aspects of management that the fourth industrial revolution makes more important is the ability for organizations to rapidly adjust to drastic changes in the market and competitive landscape. Organizations need to be designed to be robust and to cope well with the increasingly rapid pace of transformative innovation.

Many organizations will hope the fourth industrial revolution allows them to avoid making the necessary improvements to their management thinking and management systems.  Adopting quality management practices requires that executives change their behavior and decision making processes but the last 50 years has shown that is a difficult task.  Most often management improvements at the executive level are very limited (even while significant improvements are made to operational level processes).

I fear the hope that the fourth industrial revolution will be possible without transforming the executive level management practices will fair as badly as GM’s investment in robotics in the 1980s fared.


Pam Schodt: Quality and Improvement in Work and Life 

Some aspects of Industry 4.0 are automation, data exchange, the internet of things, cloud computing, cybersecurity, and computer innovations.

Quality professionals need to stay relevant. By relevant, I mean they need to understand these aspects on a general level and stay updated on technical applications and systems that interconnect, exchange data, and prompt autonomous decisions in their industries.

In some cases, this understanding is no further away than a youtube video. The internet has made staying technically relevant easier. The quality professional should take advantage of all in-company resources as well as local chapter and national ASQ educational opportunities. If you want to request speakers on new technology, reach out to chapter leadership. If you have Industry 4.0 experience, offer to exchange information in the form of a talk or tour with your local chapter membership.


Chris Moustakas: www.devonway.com

There are two kinds of data scientists, the joke goes: 1) Those who can extrapolate from incomplete data.

If you got that, congratulations, you’re a natural! If not, don’t worry, it’s still early days. Although talk of big data, artificial intelligence, and internet of things dominate the tech airwaves, the truth is that we’re only just starting to scratch the surface of what we can do with all the data we’re collecting.

If you’re a quality professional and you feel overwhelmed or even threatened by the subject, you shouldn’t: in fact, you should welcome it, because it’s going to make your role that much more critical to your organization. Ultimately, the purpose of data is to derive insights regarding trends and patterns, so as to uncover bottlenecks and inefficiencies. Sound familiar? The tools and methods may be evolving, but at the end of the day a human (you) needs to translate those insights into organizationally appropriate actions.

Quality has always been about collecting and understanding data. By making it easier to gather and analyze information from sources previously prohibitive, technology has thrown open a wonderful door of opportunity. IT may know how to install the sensors and implement the software to crunch the inputs, but why they crunch and to what end needs to be done with purpose – and Quality professionals can play a central role in shaping that purpose.

Just as excitingly, this is a fantastic chance to work closely with IT, a part of the organization from which Quality has often been separated, if not completely alienated. Both teams pack significant brainpower – enabling them to work together through a common objective will be transformative to those organizations willing to take the plunge.


Luciana Paulise:  Biztorming

A report from Mc Kinsey Global Institute “Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity” said that as big data “become an increasingly valuable asset, their intelligent exploitation will be critical for enterprises to compete effectively. The use of big data will become a key basis of competition across sectors, so it is imperative that organizational leaders begin to incorporate big data into their business plans.” They defined 5 themes leaders need to start thinking about to keep their companies in the loop: manage inventory data assets, identify potential opportunities and threats, buildup internal capabilities to create a data driven organization, develop an enterprise information strategy and address data policy issues.

In God we trust, all others must bring data

As Edwards Deming once said, In God we trust, all others must bring data.  These 5 characteristics sound really like a Deming company where measuring data and following the Plan Do Study ACT cycle has to be part of the company culture. The problem is that unfortunately there are many companies in the world that are still lacking this insight. In my recent book SOS PYMES (A.k.a. Small business Help) I describe the situation of small business in developing countries where measuring data is not exactly part of their day to day activities.

Here is where quality experts can help the new generation of business leaders all across the world.  Teaching about the importance of big data and all kind of company measures to capture, communicate and analyze as part of the decision making process is key. Six Sigma or the Deming System of profound Knowledge are such great examples of starting points for training people to think about data as an asset.

Companies will need not only supporting technology personnel to implement big data, but also managers and analysts who know how to request and consume big data analyses.

All of the business leaders in an organization will have to develop a baseline understanding of analytical techniques in order to use big data effectively. As McKinsey report mentions, “Organizations can modify their recruiting criteria to take this requirement into account, but more importantly, they will need to develop training programs to increase the capabilities of their current management and analyst ranks.”


Prem Ranganath:  Medium

In recent months, I have had a chance to participate in several informal and formal forums on what does the future hold for quality practitioners in Industry 4.0. The reference to Industry 4.0 is centered in a world where transactions, interactions, product development, insights and decisions are largely driven by technologies such as AI, big data, automation/ robotics and IoT. The most common questions I have heard at these forums include,

  •  will formal improvement programs enabled by Lean and Six Sigma still matter,?
  •  would organizations still seek certifications based on ISO, CMMI etc.?
  •  does quality take on a new meaning in Industry 4.0 organizations?
  •  what would upskilling mean for quality practitioner so that they can prepare for rapid changes sweeping their organizations (or their customers)?

Although I don’t have a crystal ball to predict what Industry 4.0 holds for quality practitioners, here is what I think the changes mean for quality practitioners (including myself). I look forward to hearing the views of my peers in ASQ and in industry.

  1.  Technologies driving the evolution of Industry 4.0 still require well designed business processes. Automation of inefficient processes or attempting to draw deep insights from data pumped out by applications whose reliability and integrity are questionable only adds
    more risk to the organization
  2.  With the increased number of system integrations and potential technical complexity led by connected devices, there will be a need for quality practitioners to view platforms as the context (in place of systems and products). This evolution will also require quality practitioners to extend their skillsets to include risk management, quality management and UX. Industry 4.0 is already driving alignment across these three areas and the emergence of platforms will require quality practitioners
  3.  As mentioned earlier in this post, accelerating flow and driving efficiency cannot be lead to tradeoff in effectiveness nor should it negatively impact the risk profile of the platform. This is where the design for quality perspective will become important and I foresee quality practitioners playing an important role in enabling organizations succeed on this front
  4.  Effective quality practitioners go beyond the use of methods and number crunching to be impactful change agents. They bring the right balance of knowledge in organizational processes and technology so that they can help teams navigate through the changes led by transformation initiatives to embrace and transition to Industry 4.0.


Luigi F. Sille: Share Quality

Being a quality manager, I strive for continuous improvement; making procedures / processes more efficient and also more effective. Continuous Improvement has to do with CHANGE, and Quality Management is the KEY for making products, and/or services better for the end users (customers).That’s why quality professionals have a crucial Job.

Technological innovations (technological changes), are related to technological development, and progress. These innovations contribute to some huge changes in the way we operate as a society; RADICAL CHANGES.

Changes that will impact the way we live, work, and connect to one another.

How are companies going to do business in the future, and what part will the quality professional play throughout this industrial revolution?

  • Fast changes in the digital area means that the world is becoming smaller. Everybody can do business all over the world. So there will be NO limitations in where/who we choose to affiliate ourselves with. We experience videoconferences, mobile devices, so office work will become somewhat obsolete in certain areas.
  • Partnerships between organizations will become more widespread. This partnership will be close with one specific aspect in mind: to have a win-win situation for every partner.
  • One other thing that we will experience is that: we will see everybody (customers, organizations, and partners) working together to develop new opportunities (the win-win relationship). Continuous improvement is present, and ALIVE.

What will the role of the quality professional be throughout the industrial revolution?

I think that we quality professionals have to keep educating ourselves, come together and brainstorm about new programs that fit this new ERA. Quality will always be a very crucial aspect for every organization. So the presence of quality professionals is very important. But the way we are used to working, doing our jobs will change (it has already been changing).

The Fourth Industrial revolution will have some huge impacts, but in the end it will all come down to PEOPLE. We have to improve the future, where we can all live happily, and in peace. I look forward to a future where people are our first priority. Where we educate them properly, and after that, empower them. Technical innovations can also have a negative impact on people, but on the other hand it can push mankind to use their skills (creativity) to lift us to the next level.


Sarah Haynes: Sigma Solutions 

It’s in the news every week now – a new development in Artificial Intelligence (AI) that makes a real-life version of Terminator look ever more possible. From the trivial to the amazing, AI appears poised to become part of our lives.

History is littered with examples of people who resisted change because it was threatening, scary, or overwhelming, and then were left behind. I’m pretty sure some of my high school teachers still think the internet is “just a fad”.  As Elbert Hubbard said, “The world is moving so fast these days that anyone who says it can’t be done is generally interrupted by someone doing it”.  A better way forward is to try to learn about and understand new technology, and think about how you might use it to add value to your workplace.

I can already hear people saying “I don’t have time”.  As a consultant, blogger and mom, I don’t have a lot of time either.  So take baby steps.  My favourite:  talk to other people (especially millennials!!) about what apps or software they like, and try them out.  Some will be dumb, and some may just change your life.  I tried out Snapchat and deleted it after 2 days.  I tried Zoho books and now I don’t know how I lived without it.  Join a technology group on LinkedIn.  Read the new technology reviews in Saturday’s paper.  Browse through CNET magazine once in a while.

AI will change our world.  How will you move with it?  Joyfully, or fearfully?


Scott Moeller: My Experience with ASQ’s Emerging Quality Leaders Program


Maybe you are like I was two years ago—looking to get executive-level training to continue my career advancement. I am a life-long learner with a master’s degree and several professional certifications from ASQ and other organizations. Throughout my career, I have gained a lot of valuable, functional knowledge and experience. But, when I was thinking about my professional development plan two years ago, I determined that I didn’t really need more functional training. Instead, my career would best benefit by me getting broader perspectives on topics like quality culture, performance excellence, risk taking, innovation, and other contemporary leadership ideas.

That’s when I found ASQ’s Emerging Quality Leader Program (EQLP). Have you heard of it? It’s a fairly new, 12-month leadership development experience targeted to high-performing, mid-career individuals who are passionate about leadership, continuous improvement, and are eager to learn. It was an ideal fit for me and it might also be a great fit for you, or someone you know.

The EQLP is structured to accelerate the transfer of executive knowledge and leadership experience to the participants. Each month, for 12 consecutive months, we were exposed to a variety of the best executives from multiple industries. They shared their insights, knowledge, best practices, and lessons learned on topics selected to help us advance in our careers. These monthly training opportunities were held at high-performing companies such as BMW, Microsoft, Siemens, and FedEx, or by teleconference. The on-site training experiences were usually two full days of interactive, facilitated workshops, while the teleconferences were focused, deep dives by thought leaders. I learned an amazing amount of valuable knowledge and honed skills that I was able to immediately apply in my quality leadership role at my company.

When I first started the EQLP, I didn’t immediately recognize that I was acquiring another very valuable asset. It was not until I needed a sounding board for one of my ideas that I realized I had a new, broad network of friends I could tap into. I found that my new friends I had been making through the EQLP program, also had a deep knowledge in some areas that I did not. I now had access to some of the best subject matter experts on any imaginable topic. Although I didn’t expect to develop such a network of passionate quality leaders going into the program, it was clearly valuable to me then, and continues to be today.

There is one EQLP memory that is especially vivid for me. During the EQLP session that was held at ASQ headquarters, we walked down a hallway that housed the pictures of ASQ’s past presidents. I beamed with pride as I pointed out the picture of my grandfather, Arthur Bender, to my fellow program participants. That was a moment that I will never forget for several reasons. First, I realized as I was standing next to his picture, that I could significantly benefit by changing the way I utilized ASQ. During my 25 years of membership, I had participated in section meetings and activities, division meetings and conferences, spoken at conferences and provided leadership in several areas. I was involved in ASQ but had not really thought about becoming more deeply involved.

In subsequent EQLP sessions, I had thought-provoking conversations with several former
and current ASQ board members about what the Society was working on and how it was
striving to grow member value. It was then that I realized that I might be able to further hone
my high-impact leadership skills by serving on the board. I am extremely proud to share that
ASQ’s Nominating Committee has added me to their board of directors slate. It will be a
tremendous honor for me to serve the Society as a board member. It will also be a neat way
to continue my grandfather’s legacy.

When I reflect back on my EQLP experience, there are several valuable takeaways that
stand out for me. But the two that stand the tallest are the strategic insights and best
practices I learned from the executives in top-performing organizations, and gaining the
expanded network of business-minded, quality leaders across multiple industries.

Learn more about the Emerging Quality Leaders Program http://asq.org/emerging-quality-leaders/



Guest Post: Quality Management, Continuous Improvement, and Their Relation to the Golden Circle

Quality Management, Continuous Improvement, and Their Relation to the Golden Circle

Chris Moustakas President, Chief Executive Officer. Chris entered the enterprise software industry right after graduation. He helped design and build mission-critical applications in industries as varied as Insurance, Banking, Healthcare, and Utilities. Today, Chris is passionate about helping organizations of any size become more agile and improve their operations by adopting the Devonway platform approach to their digital needs. Visit Chris’s blog at https://www.devonway.com/blog/.

There’s an old joke in the software world that there are only two hard things about computer science: cache invalidation, naming things, and off-by-one errors. Performance-oriented organizations don’t have to worry much about cache invalidation and off-by-one errors (at least I hope not), but what we call things is fundamentally important. If you start throwing out terms like Kaizen Events and Hoshin Planning when you talk to people outside the Six Sigma team, for example, you’re guaranteed to lose them.

Similarly, how we refer to the frameworks we use to improve performance can send subtle but important signals to the rest of the organization. In his famous Ted talk, Simon Sinek argues that if you look at the world through the simple concentric layers of why-how-what (the Golden Circle), and push yourself as close as possible to the center circle, “why,” you position yourself to be more of a visionary than a doer. “What” we do to accomplish a goal is tactical, bland, and uninspiring. “How” we set ourselves up to accomplish that goal is strategic and implies direction. “Why” we do what we do is the million-dollar question, and where true inspiration originates.

Only you can answer the question of why you do what you do, of course. It’s why you get paid the big bucks, and if you don’t know the answer, stop everything you’re doing because priority number one should be figuring that little doozy out.

But when you get down to the nitty gritty of communicating specifics to stakeholders, it can be powerful to choose terminology that embodies “how” more than “what.” Quality Management is a “what” – it’s the name we give the system we use to manage a specific process. “What do we do? We manage quality.” Continuous Improvement is a “how” – it’s the cultural framework we adopt to ensure we’re set up for success. “How do we manage quality? By allowing ourselves to continuously improve.”

There’s overlap for sure. You can’t have an effective Continuous Improvement program, after all, without a set of Quality Management processes and tools. But Quality Management is by definition limited in scope, whereas Continuous Improvement is not. It’s not verbal gymnastics, it’s clarity and focus. Words do matter.


December Roundtable: What is the best way to ensure quality and customer integration grow together?

Every month, ASQ selects a quality-themed topic or question for Influential Voices bloggers to discuss as part of a round table. The December topic is:

What is the best way to ensure quality and customer integration grow together?

Prem Ranganath is a senior director and global head of IT delivery excellence and risk assurance at Quintiles Inc. He is a senior member of ASQ and enjoys working with teams to enable quality as a necessary and valuable behavior. He is very passionate about introducing a quality mindset and practices in K-12 so that quality is ingrained into interactions and decisions early on. Prem teaches at a graduate level course on software quality and product management at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis. He blogs at The Art of Quality.

Chris Moustakas President, Chief Executive Officer. Chris entered the enterprise software industry right after graduation. He helped design and build mission-critical applications in industries as varied as Insurance, Banking, Healthcare, and Utilities. Today, Chris is passionate about helping organizations of any size become more agile and improve their operations by adopting the Devonway platform approach to their digital needs. Visit Chris’s blog at https://www.devonway.com/blog/.

John Hunter has a background in online quality information management. He has developed quality improvement methods and software at the quality management office of the Secretary of Defense and the White House Military Office. He blogs at Curious Cat Management Blog.

Robert Mitchell has 30 years of quality experience in manufacturing, non-profit and civic organizations, and manages corporate quality and Lean Six Sigma operations at 3M. He is incoming chair of ASQ’s Minnesota section. He blogs at Quality Matters.

Luigi Sille is the Quality Manager at Red Cross Blood Bank Foundation in Curaçao, an island in the Caribbean. He has been a senior ASQ member since 2014, and blogs at sharequality.wordpress.com.

What is the best way to ensure quality and customer integration grow together?

Prem Ranganath
At a time when the traditional quality function is rapidly evolving into a shared commitment in IT organizations it is important for IT management to revisit the approach for enabling acceptable quality. The roles and capabilities of quality practitioners needs to move beyond process excellence and compliance.

For a start, the quality practitioners’ role has to be directly tagged to customer goals and expectations so that the practitioners’ plans and outcomes can be expressed as value statements that can be easily understood by customers.

Secondly, although the quality practitioners’ may be reporting into the IT organization there has to be an association with a customer-led function so that the outcomes from quality practitioners’ engagements are supported by stories that demonstrate impact and value delivery. Therefore, there is an immediate need to evolve technology and process focused quality practitioners into customer-driven (business-minded) practitioners.

Thirdly, moving towards a business-minded quality function will require a comprehensive evaluation of the competencies and skills that are currently used to identify new talent and develop existing talent. Quality objectives and metrics will also have to be aligned to customer goals and expected outcomes.

Lastly and most importantly, IT management has to enable an environment that consistently supports a quality function whose success is measured by their ability to solve customer problems. Being the independent informed voice between technology solutions and customers can also be a smart career move for quality practitioners.

Chris Moustakas
The best way to make sure that Quality and Customer Integration grow together is to embed elements of your Quality program into the specific instances of interaction with your customers. Too often, the tools companies use to gather critical data from clients are tacked on as afterthoughts, using follow-up surveys and similar techniques. But by neglecting customers’ voices at the time they’re most engaged — the point of integration — they miss out on a tremendous opportunity to gather insights that are relevant, timely, and honest.

However you go about integrating customers with your Quality program, don’t forget the cardinal rule – keep it simple! Don’t overburden your customers by asking them to submit lots of information; two pieces of data is usually more than enough. For example, if the interaction involves a defect resolution dispute, a simple “Where did we go wrong?” question gives them the opportunity to describe the root cause in their own words, and can often jumpstart your own causal analysis efforts.

As much as you depend on your customers, your customers depend on you. You’re solving a problem for them, so they want you to succeed. More importantly, they know better than you the value you bring to the relationship, so by involving them directly and consistently you accelerate your potential to continuously improve, not just the overall quality of your product or service, but your value proposition.

John Hunter
Effort should be directed at continually delighting customers. This requires an understanding gained at the user gemba (to truly understand what customers are trying to achieve and how your product or service facilitates them doing so successfully and how it could be improved).

Quality practices of experimentation directed at continually improving management practices and internal processes need to be completely integrated with the efforts to continual improve customer delight. Those efforts should be one process and therefore they automatically grow together.

The success of improvements should be evaluated at the system level. As Deming said: “The consumer is the most important point on the production-line“. If the organization pursues optimizing parts without considering the whole that leads to problem, including disconnection between internally focussed process improvement and what customers experience.

Read the full post: Continually Improving Using a Focus on Delighting Customers

Robert Mitchell
Sustainable quality growth begins with a customer-focused culture of performance excellence A sustainable enterprise must be agile, responsive and adaptive to ever-changing customer expectations and competitive pressures while demonstrating superior competency in anticipating future requirements and excelling at re-inventing itself to capture market share leadership.

In today’s world of inter-connected global supply chains and exponential rate of change, the sustainable organization must strategically prioritize its information systems and customer listening processes. All employees must be provided the skills, training and tools necessary to solve customers’ problems. Employees must be trusted, respected, expected and empowered to use this newly acquired information to pursue innovative solutions and take intelligent risk. Failures must be accepted as a necessary learning experience while key learnings are actively and intentionally managed and shared to promote and advance organizational knowledge growth. High performance and desired behaviors must be defined, encouraged and rewarded.

Luigi Sille
Customer integration is part of a customer relationship. It’s having direct contact with the customer, in other words, your customers must be treated as part of your organization. Quality has to do with your products, service, and of course, happy and satisfied customers. It’s all about your customers, focus on them, and it will have an immediate positive influence on your end product and/or service.

A partnership with the customer (external customer) is a must. Having direct contact with customers can benefit a company in many ways.

Benefits like:

  1. Better/Open communication (customers)
  2. Retention of your customers
  3. Customers become loyal
  4. Improve your chances to succeed: better market segmentation
  5. Running your business better
  6. It’s a competitive advantage

Customer integration has direct influence on the quality of service and/or products of your organization. Every institution has to do their utmost to get feedback, ideas, and information from their clients/partners.

To make quality and customer integration grow together the essential tools are:

Communication- Being open and honest will improve the communication between the different groups/partners. This will result in an effective communication flow, which means a flow of ideas from customers to make changes, adapt and/or improve your quality.

Trust- Trust is an important tool for a successful customer relationship. People will automatically talk freely when there’s a sense of trust. When your customers trust you as an organization, it will have huge impacts on the quality of your products and/or service.

Respect- Treat your customers/partners with respect; this is the key for a lasting customer relationship. This will let your customers feel comfortable in expressing their ideas and or opinion.


Interview With The Creator of Mr. Pareto Head

ASQ sat down with Mike Crossen, the creator of the Mr. Pareto Head comic strip to hear how he finds humor in quality and how Mr. Pareto Head came to be.

Q: What’s your background in quality?

A: I am Electronics Engineer at Rockwell Automation. First introduced to quality as a Component Engineer through failure and root cause analysis. Also starting learning about trending and Pareto analysis during this time (mid 1980s). Little did I know that Pareto would have more meaning in years to come? A deeper interest in quality took root so I became certified by ASQ in Quality Auditing, Quality Engineering, and Manager of Quality/Organizational Excellence. I Also pursued Lean Six Sigma training and certification outside ASQ through an employer.

Q: How did you start doing Pareto Head comics? What gave you the idea?

A: Before I worked in engineering function, I spent a few years in the production environment repairing electronic circuit boards. There were typically 15-20 other technicians who worked in our department. We were all about the same age, just out of school. We worked hard but had a lot of laughs. I would sketch comics of the various people in the department and humorous situations that happened all the time. Years later, I noticed that there we also similar funny situations and personalities in a more “professional” engineering environment. So I adapted one of my characters, a stick figure called P-Nut Head to something more closely related to where I was working at the time.  I tried to think of a quality term to combine with P-Nut head; Outlier Head, Defect Head, Audit Head, Pareto Head. Pareto Head sounded like potato head.  There was a charming and endearing toy from my youth called Mr. Potato Head that was pretty well-known. I re-drew the character and started making some comics.

Q: Is it challenging to find humor in quality?

A: It is not challenging to find humor in the quality field. You just have to know where to draw the line.  Defective product sent to the customer is anything but funny.   So I am very careful on how I approach that.  I created a “make-believe” company called Milky Way Industries (Deming used to say “Off to the Milky Way”   when demonstrating funnel experiment).  They are the worlds #1 manufacturer of red beads.  Well, in Deming’s red bead experiment, the red beads resemble defects. So, I can make a joke that this imaginary company is trying to produce Red Beads.

Q: What’s the role of humor in the quality field?

A: People in quality are typically dealing with problems every hour of every day. Whether we are trying to prevent issues through planning or auditing, or we are in reaction mode when problems occur, quality professionals can often be linked to unpopular things and it can wear on you a bit. Humor in this field, like any other field, will keep things loose.

Q: How do you get your ideas for comic strips?

A: Most ideas come from two sources. One is related to all the various quality terms that can be turned into humor.  For example a “Run Chart”. I made a comic where Mr. Pareto Head had a particular chart that showed bad news, so he slipped it under the boss’s door and ran away. Now he knew why they called it a Run Chart. Most ideas probably come from interactions and meetings. When I hear something funny that shows promise, I will jot it down and revisit at a later date. I have quite a list of potential ideas. Some of the funny topics do not translate into a three frame comic strip very well.  So I can’t use everything. Every month I work with Associate Editor Mark Edmund on providing a comic. A fair amount of the first drafts are pretty good as-is. Some take a bit of tweaking. Mark and I, with additional help and approval from Editor Seiche Sanders, will come up with the final product. I will add, that after 16 years of doing this each month, it can be a challenge to try and come up with something new and not repeat myself.   The staff at ASQ (current and years’ past) have been very supportive.

Q: What has been the best part of creating the Mr. Pareto Head cartoon strip ?

A: There have been several side benefits to doing the comic strip that I did not realize when I started. I get occasional request from ASQ members to use a particular comic in their training material or newsletter to make a point. Also, I have had the opportunity to speak (Meet Mr. Pareto Head) at several ASQ sections near where I live. Elyria, Toledo, Cleveland, Akron/Canton, Erie, Ashtabula, Columbus. My favorite was probably the event at Pittsburgh ASQ. It was at a Brewery/Restaurant. I’m not sure what it was, but everyone seemed to be laughing a bit more and enjoying themselves at this particular event. I must say, for someone who has no artistic skills (stick figures only) it is quite satisfying that I can be doing this for so long and still be hearing positive feedback. It makes it all worth doing for another few years.


October Roundtable

Every month, ASQ selects a quality-themed topic or question for Influential Voices bloggers to discuss as part of a round table. The October  topic is: How can employers leverage quality to invite innovation?

Some companies choose to use monetary rewards to motivate their employees. Other companies rely on using open and collaborative environments. Some focus on idea sharing between colleagues. What is the most effective technique?

If you’re interested in taking part in future roundtables, please contact social@asq.org.

David Grossman ABC, APR, Fellow PRSA, CSP, is one of America’s foremost authorities on communication and leadership, and a sought-after speaker and advisor to Fortune 500 leaders. A three-time author, David is CEO of The Grossman Group an award-winning Chicago-based strategic leadership development and internal communication consultancy. He blogs at leadercommunicator.

Jimena Calfa Argentina native Jimena Calfa is a Quality Manager and ASQ Senior member who is truly involved in raising the value of quality and focusing on continuous process improvement. She blogs at OnQuality.info.

Chris Moustakas President, Chief Executive Officer. Chris entered the enterprise software industry right after graduation. He helped design and build mission-critical applications in industries as varied as Insurance, Banking, Healthcare, and Utilities. Today, Chris is passionate about helping organizations of any size become more agile and improve their operations by adopting the Devonway platform approach to their digital needs. Visit Chris’s blog at https://www.devonway.com/blog/.

Luigi F. Sille is the Quality Manager of the Curaçao Red Cross Blood Bank Foundation. Luigi is from Curaçao, a small island in the Caribbean.He is now a senior member of the ASQ, and one of the foremost quality professionals on the island. He achieved the ASQ CMQ/OE, CQA, CQPA, and CQIA certifications. He is very passionate about quality, and promoting quality. This is done through his Blog, sharequality.wordpress.com.

Luciana Paulise is a business consultant and founder of Biztorming Training & Consulting. She holds an MBA from CEMA University in Argentina, is a Quality Engineer Certified by ASQ, and a Senior ASQ member. Luciana has also participated as an examiner for the National Quality Award in Argentina. She blogs about quality and continuous improvement for small and medium size businesses, both in English and in Spanish.Visit Luciana’s blog

David Grossman

Leaders need to lead and invite innovation through their actions. Fostering innovation starts with a corporate culture that values and recognizes diversity and inclusion in its broadest definition. These aren’t words on a vision poster but a core organizational value that’s seen and reinforced in the actions of every single leader.

It’s difficult to innovate without a wide range of perspectives that are welcomed and embraced. A myriad of viewpoints need to be sought out regularly and valued. Employees need to feel empowered. It’s important that leaders create an atmosphere that inspires employees to be creative thinkers and contribute their ideas to solving business problems and creating the future together.

This also means giving people the right resources to set them up for success and being there – as the leader – to encourage continued collaboration and productive conflict that comes from a wonderful diversity of thoughts and ideas. Only out of looking at varied choices can smart and strategic innovations be created.

Jimena Calfa

There are out there a lot of techniques and strategies that can address innovation, but the foundation to cultivate innovation is to “create and promote a collaborative and respectful environment where employees have the space and feel the freedom to innovate, in a regular basis”.

What has to be in that innovative environment?

  • Motivated top Managers to innovate and that can encourage employees to get out of their comfort zone and reaching for new ideas.
  • Time and Resources to innovate.
  • Innovation is inherently risky, so employees must have the freedom of failure and taking risk. Managers should promote that FAILURE is not a negative but a must-happen positive learning experiences from where innovative ideas can be born.
  • As much as disparate groups as possible to boost the brainstorming of ideas.
  • Time to celebrate and reward employees for being innovative, no matter the results.
  • The most important part for employees: they have to feel the sensation of ownership to the idea. People do a better job when they believe in what they do is adding value to the company and they are being recognized for that.

People have a lot of great ideas. If you give them the space to think out of the box, you will be surprise of the results. Nobel Prize Winner Dr Albert Szent-Gyorgyi said

”Innovation is seeing what everybody else has seen, and thinking what nobody else has thought.”

Chris Moustakas

Quality can invite innovation with two simple yet powerful techniques:

  • Empowering employees to participate.
  • Recognizing them when they do.

When Quality tools are accessible to the entire organization – especially the ground floor where waste is seen firsthand – it becomes a part of the culture. And when workers see that their ideas are listened to and recognized, innovation flourishes – especially when the success of their ideas are validated with real, objective measurements, which proves that Quality has value and encourages people to trust the process.

Luigi F. Sille:

Nowadays the competition is very tough, and organizations have to do a lot to stay in the game. So companies/organizations must go the extra mile. They must think and do something more, something extra: something customers have not anticipated.

Employers can benefit a lot by creating an innovation culture in their organization. Creating a culture for innovation in your organization means that the top of the organization must:

  • Listen (and be willing) to identify opportunities, ideas: Sometimes the greatest ideas don’t come from experts
  • Take the creativity step (thinking of new ideas: brainstorming)
  • Generating new ideas
  • Leaders and managers must give their visible support.

Tangible and intangible rewards motivate each employee differently, and not the same way each time. The most effective technique. There is NONE. The most effective way to motivate employees is a combination of Tangible and Intangible rewards.

My personal opinion:

  • Just the feeling of an employee being important to the organization, and have an input in the development and improvement in the quality of the product and or service will make miracles.
  • Employees want to be respected as human beings.

An empowered employee is maybe more motivated to perform better, than just rewarding him or her with money.

Luciana Paulise

The best way to get innovation to be productive for your business is to make it repeatable. The most well-known innovation is the one that a single gifted individual produces, like a Mark Zuckerberg or a Richard Branson. But what if you make it more earthly, helping everyone in the company to be innovative? You can do it by making the innovation process repeatable, available to everyone, still customer focused and profitable. Quality management can help you achieve that.

Yes, you do need quality to foster innovation. Phil Crosby also said that “all work is a process”, and innovation is not an exception.

Lean SOP’s or standard operating procedures can help innovation to be part of the culture by defining a specific process to foster innovation across the Company. Google encourages their employees, in addition to their regular projects, to spend 20% of their time working on what they think will most benefit Google,” Their founders said that “This empowers them to be more creative and innovative. Many of our significant advances (like Gmail or AdSense) have happened in this manner.” Google also included some mindfulness training sessions to help their employees be even more focused and productive.


August Roundtable: Integrating Technical Quality and Human Management Systems

Every month, ASQ selects a quality-themed topic or question for Influential Voices bloggers to discuss as part of a round table.

This month ASQ has asked the Influential Voices on quality management to look at the question of integrating technical quality and human management systems. How do different systems—technical or human—work together? How should they work together? What prevents them from working—or helps them work well?

If you’re interested in taking part in future roundtables, please contact social@asq.org.

John Hunter has a background in online quality information management. He has developed quality improvement methods and software at the quality management office of the Secretary of Defense and the White House Military Office. He blogs at Curious Cat Management Blog.

Olga Karpova is a Service Quality Coordinator at Halliburton. She has a keen eye for detail and has considerable experience developing quality processes and improvements. She works tirelessly providing internal support for products, processes and services. Olga is a Quality Expert in API standards and her specialization is in Petroleum Industry.To read more from Olga, visit her Linkedin.

How Do Different Systems Technical or Human—Work Together?

John Hunter:

My view is that the management system must integrate these facets together. A common problem that companies face is that they bring in technical tools (such as control chartsPDSA improvement cycledesign of experimentskanban, etc.) without an appreciation for the organization as a system. Part of understanding the organization as a system is understanding psychology within this context.

To try and implement quality tools without addressing the systemic barriers (due to the management system and specifically the human component of that system) is a path to very limited success.

Olga Karpova:

Russian economics in globalization is characterized complication of correlation between supply and demand, product quality growth and organization competitiveness in a constantly changing environment.

Recently the question of integrated management systems’ implantation is becoming essential for Russian companies which are facing serious competition from Western and some Russian companies what confirmed their achievements in quality, environmental and process safety management by certification.

How Should the Different Systems Work Together?

John Hunter:

It is critical to create an integrated system that focuses on letting people use their brains to continually improve the organization. This process doesn’t lend itself to easy recipes for success. It requires thoughtful application of good management improvement ideas based on the current capabilities of the organization and the short, medium and long term priorities the organization is willing to commit to.

An integrated management system with an appreciation for the importance of people centered management is the only way to get the true benefit of the technical tools available.

Olga Karpova:

Currently quality plays an important role in production of goods as well as providing service. Based on research of Russian and foreign marketing specialists for present situation there is a stable trend towards increase in non-price forms of competitiveness, especially in quality.

Now it is becoming clear that in order to overcome the global economic and financial economic crisis in Russia it is needed to provide domestic product’s growth. Today to survive in competitive market Russian producers shall improve product quality significantly and meet customer expectations. To make it done it is needed to develop a system to ensure high quality of domestic products and its competitiveness.

What Prevents These Systems From Working Together?

John Hunter:

If the organization rewards those in one silo (say purchasing) based on savings they make in cutting the cost of supplies it will be very difficult for the organization to optimize the system as a whole. If the purchasing department gets bonuses and promotions by cutting costs that is where they will focus and the total costs to the organization are not going to be their focus. Attempts to create ever more complex extrinsic incentives to make sure the incentives don’t leave to sub-optimization are rarely effective. They can avoid the most obvious sub-optimization but rarely lead to anything close to actually optimizing the overall system.

Olga Karpova:

In Russian Federation organizations implement integrated management systems achieving different results both positive and negative. A lot of managers still think that management systems are more bureaucratic work than modern marketing tool needed to achieve success in business. There are several causes for this – internal (prevalence of dictatorial style of management, inadequate considerations of the staff role, unavailability of motivation systems, etc.) and external ones.

Thus, the question of a wide dissemination of modern management principles, implementation of management systems by Russian companies acquires another facet.  It becomes a matter of business success, as management practice repeatedly proved the validity of famous statement by Bill Fromm: “Successful business cannot be aimed at obtaining profits; profits should be the result of successful business management”.


Author Interview: The ISO 9001:2015 Implementation Handbook

Milt Dentch, author of The ISO 9001:2015 Implementation Handbook, clarifies some changes from the 2008 revision, explains his take on risk-based thinking, and shares what he envisions future revisions of the standard to include.

What is your experience with ISO 9001?

I have been an RAB (Exemplar Global) lead auditor for quality and environmental management systems for over 20 years. For several years, I audited full-time for international registrars Bureau Veritas and TÜV SÜD America, completing audits for a diverse client base all over the US, Canada, South America and Eastern Europe. I have logged over 500 third party audits. The last few years I have reduced my auditing time and now provide consulting and internal auditor training for ISO 9001 and ISO 14001.

Do organizations have to do anything significantly differently in implementing ISO 9001:2015 versus ISO 9001:2008?

ISO 9001:2015 requires the organization to integrate the quality management system (QMS) requirements into the organization’s business processes and understand the context (external and internal issues) of the organization and expectations of interested parties. Additionally, the new standard requires the organization to provide a program plan to achieve its quality objectives: who is responsible, what is the schedule, and what techniques or methods will be utilized to manage the program.

A significant change for organizations upgrading to ISO 9001:2015 is the requirement to develop a process to address risks and opportunities. While many ISO consultants and practitioners refer to this requirement as risk-based thinking, I prefer to describe the requirement as risk analysis, which is more practical in my opinion than requiring the company to establish a new way of thinking. Inherent in several clauses of ISO 9001:2015 are various levels of risk and threats to the organization in satisfying their customers’ needs and preventing the organization from meeting their improvement objectives. Changes in processes or equipment, raw materials, and employee work instructions are examples where the organization should analyze and provide planning to mitigate the risks before implementing the change. Likewise, when scheduling internal audits, the organization should consider the risk level of errors presented by each process when establishing the frequency of audits.

Clause 7.1.6, Organizational Knowledge, is new to ISO 9001:2015. Organizations, depending on their operations, are now required to have some formalized program for succession planning, technology updating, and supplier contingencies.

As an Exemplar Global lead auditor (for both QMS and EMS), what will you be doing differently in auditing compliance to ISO 9001:2015 versus ISO 9001:2008?

I will look for objective evidence to support how the organization has integrated the QMS into its business, and how the organization considered internal/external issues and interested parties when establishing the QMS. I’ll expect to see some form of risk analysis, commensurate with the organization’s business model. What process does the organization use to retain organizational knowledge? (I will be sensitive to possible confidentiality related to the company’s business strategy). When reviewing quality objectives, I’ll expect to see a formal program related to how the organization will achieve its objectives. The program approach to achieving objectives has been integral to ISO 14001 for several years. It has been successful in improving environmental management systems (in my opinion)and should help the quality systems as well.

The spirit of ISO 9001:2015 is to relax the amount of documented information to allow the organizations to manage and control the processes within the QMS. While ISO 9001:2015 indicates a quality manual is not a requirement, my recommendation to organizations currently maintaining a quality manual is they should continue using the manual as a high level consolidation of the key elements–or roadmap–of their quality documentation. I also suggest that organizations with a quality manual that currently includes paraphrasing of each ISO 9001 clause requirement–going back through several ISO 9001 revisions–seriously consider streamlining the quality manual while upgrading to ISO 9001:2015. When documenting commitments to requirements of ISO 9001; organizations should define what they will do, not what they may do.

While ISO 9001:2015 may appear to present an opportunity to avoid or reduce documentation, I suggest organizations continue to “document what you do and do what you document”. The documentation of the quality management system should be suitable to the organization’s business, and provide value in managing the organization’s processes. The overarching principle in documentation should be to formalize and control what is needed to ensure users of the documentation have a source for information and instructions that is accurate and timely, providing consistency in managing the business.

I suggest individuals charged with implementing ISO 9001:2015 review Annex A, Clarification of New Structure, Terminology and Concepts, of the new standard and decide how the interpretations of the requirements described in the Annex fit their organization’s QMS and business model. Third party auditors should likewise review the Annex to become aware of the flexibility written into ISO 9001:2015 related to documentation.

Seven or so years from now when ISO 9001 is updated again, how will we know whether its 2015 version had been an improvement over the 2008 version?

I would expect the most significant change resulting from the implementation of ISO 9001:2015 would be the inclusion of a more formalized risk analysis process for organizations currently lacking such an initiative. As a collateral effect, I would hope that companies, who have maintained an ISO 9001 certification for many years, would take this opportunity to create documentation conforming to ISO 9001:2015, consistent with their business model, while eliminating nonessential verbiage and paraphrasing of ISO 9001 clauses.

In my opinion, the disciplined approach of ISO 9001 implementation and third party auditing have been very important in improving the quality of products and services provided to customers since its inception in 1987. Certainly, many other quality initiatives such as statistical process control, lean manufacturing and Six Sigma initiatives have contributed, but ISO has been a major component in establishing consistency in operations.

The current revision ISO 9001:2015 strives to make ISO 9001 a major driver in the business model of the organization. In the next several years, I would be surprised if ISO 9001 emerged as the central program used by top management to run their business. ISO 9001 will continue as an important tool for manufacturers and service companies in providing the discipline and consistency in the operation and control of their processes.

The ISO 9001:2015 Implementation Handbook is available through Quality Press.


Referral Olympics For ASQ Members

The Referral Olympics offers ASQ members worldwide the chance to earn rewards for something they are probably already doing—informing friends and colleagues about the benefits of an ASQ membership. By participating you’ll earn a chance to win a $10 Starbucks e-card for every person you refer. If your referrals join ASQ by September 9, you’ll earn even more chances to win bigger prizes including ASQ Bucks, additional $10 Starbucks e-cards, and $200 Visa gift cards. Those who join also receive a free content bundle welcome gift valued at $70.

Refer a peer today!


Author Interview: Making Change in Complex Organizations

George Strodtbeck, author of the book Making Change in Complex Organizations, is currently a Vice President with the consulting firm SBTI, where he is responsible for strategic account management and providing expert change management advice.  Below he shares his thoughts on what it takes for organizations to handle change successfully.

It has been said for decades now that “the only constant is change.” Even if this is still true, how is the change within organizations different now than it was in the past?

Two of the most important differences from the past are speed of communication and access to knowledge. In both cases, the effect of the internet has been dramatic. What used to take weeks to communicate now takes seconds. Access to knowledge required a trip to the library to do research. Today that research is available instantly already sorted. This instant access has created the perception of speed in all things. However, when it comes to change, we are still talking about what people do; how they behave. This does NOT happen instantly. Properly used, providing access to information and education can have a positive impact on the speed and accuracy of a change effort. Old fashioned leadership and management is still required and this takes time, energy and resources. I think this second aspect of change is frustrating to a lot of management teams because of the perception created that they can have it now. It just doesn’t work that way.

Do quality management concepts and tools play a role in enacting change in organizations?

Of course. Take, for example, the FMEA. The idea behind the FMEA is anticipation of things that can go wrong. This applies not just to parts and manufacturing processes, but can be used to think about things that can go wrong with a change. It requires a little modification but not much. A ImR control chart can be used to monitor key measures that a change is intended to affect. I think people get stuck applying a tool in only one way and limiting its potential utility. Remember, a screw driver can be used on a screw, it can also be used to open a paint can. When we think of the quality concepts and tools as just tools, a whole universe of applications begins to open up. We can use them for deep understanding of process behavior and what to do when things aren’t the way they should be.

What are a few of the things common to organizations that have handled change well?

Leadership engagement. Leadership is the key ingredient for change success. This is not just the CEO. Some changes happen at the plant level or in the function. Leadership is a scalable concept. Wherever the change is intended, leadership has to engage and lead it. Otherwise, the change is doomed to minimal success at best and failure at worst.

And what about the things common to those that didn’t handle change well?

Leadership delegation of responsibility and accountability for action. When somebody other than the person who wants the change to happen is seen as the leader, everybody for whom the change is intended knows it is not really THAT important and the game playing begins.

How do different ages/generations of employees affect an organization’s ability and willingness to grow and change?

I believe it is less about age and more about time in a job or an organization. Generally, people don’t like change because it’s perceived to be more work. Every day we read about a new study discussing the stress of the modern work place. So, to combat this stress, people learn their jobs and try to establish some predictability. Organizational changes disrupt the established patterns and add to the stress. Therefore, I see people of all ages and generations rebelling against changes of all kinds, even ones that make life better for them.

Making Change in Complex Organizations is available through Quality Press.


Pursuing and Preparing for an ASQ Certification

We posed the questions below to the quality community, and seasoned professionals replied with some insights into why they pursued an ASQ certification and provided helpful advice on exam preparation.

For more information on ASQ Certification, visit asq.org/cert.

How did you decide which ASQ certification(s) to pursue in light of your career goals?

I am preparing for the CQE exam this December. I was thinking between CQE and CQA, but in my current job I think CQE is more beneficial for my career growth. However, I have a goal to pass the CQE exam, then next year on June I am going to get CQA as I am an auditor as well as a quality engineer. Wish me luck! – Chananchita C.

I did CMQ/OE in 2010. This was useful for my career in projects quality. – Ashwani K.

I first went for the CQE certification as my employer would reimburse and it was tied into a promotional opportunity. I prepared by taking the prep course through the local ASQ chapter and a lot of intense studying. Later I went for the CQA as it also was sponsored by my employer and thought it to be complementary to my profession. I found both to be worthwhile, but the CQE preparation was certainly a much more intense experience as it was imperative to pass first try. Proper preparation prevents poor performance! Good luck. – Brian L.

I have two certificates with ASQ. One can decide to embark on any ASQ certificate based on the role he/she plays in the organization or where you see yourself in future. I decided to go for ASQ CMQ/OE since I report directly to QAM, and also assume his role when not around. Because I wanted to handle the position very well and make myself available for related roles, I embarked on CMQ/OE. ASQ QA will give me a wider opportunity than only being certified by my organization. – Nkwachukwu O.

Based on my experience as Statistics Division Certification Chair, the top two ASQ certifications for our members are CQE and SSBB. This is why we offer these two, among others, at the Special Certification Exam Administration we sponsor at Fall Technical Conference (this year in Minneapolis). I decided to become CQE because it had more of a statistics focus. – Brian S.

I started as an NDE technician, and while ASTM and ASNT provided a good guide for NDE, as I was assigned more QC and QA responsibilities, I wanted to find a good source of knowledge regarding best practices for creation, implementation, management and improvement of quality related functions. I found that ASQ (and PMI) are excellent sources of best practices, applicable and proven in a myriad of industries and countries.
The only downside to real knowledge is that you become much more aware of how often projects fail due to bizarre practices implemented by managers whose skill set is limited to “shout, curse, and threaten”!
– David S.

I decided the type of certification based on my experience and foundational knowledge gained through undergraduate studies. I solved lots of question banks. It’s important to understand the content thoroughly for a successful pass on an exam. Exam questions are tricky but are doable if one has full knowledge. ASQ certifications are worth having for a quality professional. – Yogesh S.

I found the ASQ’s sequence of classes to be very useful because it focuses on different career paths. – Isaac T.

I aspired to career roles in Quality Management and looked to build a diverse professional portfolio. – Daniel Z.

How did you prepare?

For preparation, it is recommended to go through the QCI primer or ASQ Handbook again and again. For comprehensive understanding, watch available materials relevant to certification on YouTube. Read and practice as much as you can, especially for statistics. Time management is key factor for ASQ exams, so during study it should be considered. – Muhammad I.

I used ASQ web training and ASQ handbook for CMQ/OE. – Ashwani K.

For several of my certifications I took the refresher course offered by our local ASQ chapter and others, and I forced myself to use the same training methods at home. Now to retain some of my certifications (CQE, CQA, CCT) there are requirements, whereas some of my certifications (CQT, CQI which was CMI then) are lifetime certifications. – David R.

I read at least two books based on searching the reviews on Amazon, and then bought training material to simulate questions–not for exam per say, but to mimic real life situations. As my field is not quality management, the questions let me face situations that quality guys face in real life. Exams are good because they force you to study and be serious about your learning goal. All self-funded… worth it though. 🙂 – Azmat S.

I took many excellent classes offered by the Akron-Canton chapter if ASQ. As a woman, it was very difficult to be hired in engineering despite my degree, but it opened doors as a quality engineer. – Renee S.

Preparations for ASQ certifications were extensive and combined self-study, research of the ASQ back issues of journals, attendance at Section refresher courses (primarily for statistics), and subscription to the pertinent ASQ divisions. I recommend the same for others, particularly joining and participating in ASQ Divisions. – Daniel Z.

What advice do you have for those thinking about pursuing an ASQ certification? Share your experience in the comments!


What Do We Expect from Senior Leaders?

This is a guest post by Scott Rutherford, who works in quality assurance at a nuclear shipyard, and specializes in performance improvement. He blogs at Square Peg Musings.

“It is most important that top management be quality-minded. In the absence of sincere manifestation of interest from the top, little will happen from below.” – Joseph Juran

This quote began Quality Progress’ September 1986 review of Dr. Juran as an honorary member of the American Society for Quality Control (as ASQ was then called). It has stuck with me like a musical earworm; seemingly to pop up again and again when I read blog posts on changing organizational culture, items pontificating on employee engagement, or people lamenting the fact that senior leadership failed again in their role of championing change.

The earworm struck last night as our local ASQ section hosted a presentation from a local manufacturer’s director of quality. He was hired to effect culture change. He called in a quality “guru” to help and got some good advice on how to proceed with limited leadership buy-in. For the first 18 months, they were highly successful in effecting change; energizing the workforce, breaking silos, and seeing some real success. The quality director was ready to implement round two of changes…until he was told by top management that, “Thanks, you have made some good change for now, but we need to get back to being a manufacturer. “

I did ask one question that still has gone unanswered, not only by this director of quality but also other quality “gurus” out there: “Did you specify the necessary outcomes, behaviors, and expectations to top management?”

I did not ask the follow-on question of, “How would you hold top management accountable to the outcomes, behaviors, and expectations that you need to be successful?” I have not seen a lot of literature on how quality practitioners need to achieve meaningful actions as answers to these questions.

As a senior leader in our organization I am also faced with not only creating the environment for change but also with clearly communicating when change needs to occur. For example, my quality manager came to me with a request to redirect a critical resource to his project in support of clarifying organizational self-assessment metrics. I told him no. The priorities of that resource are correct.

If that was the extent of my answer there could be a misperception that I was not “quality-minded.” But my quality manager came back to me requesting clarification, and after our discussion left with a better understanding why I responded the way I did. He may not have liked it but he better understood my reasoning.

There are so many improvement initiatives that are born with great fanfare and energy, especially when there is a senior leader championing the change. When the focus is shifted away from the care and feeding of that initiative, there has to be discussion with senior leadership on the change and dialog on what expectations are needed to support the change in leadership perspective. That’s not all. There must be focus on the current improvement initiatives to keep good momentum going. This is often not understood by both parties, which leads to frustration from the quality community.

Organizational priorities change. The quality practitioner needs to be proactive in specifying the expectations required to show senior leadership support and finding the magic wand that keeps senior leadership committed to change once the first successes have been achieved.


Roundtable: Employee Engagement

Every month, ASQ selects a quality-themed topic or question for Influential Voices bloggers to discuss as part of a round table. The June topic is Employee Engagement.

To what extent do organizations—whether your current employer or previous ones–engage employees about the importance of quality? How should companies approach this issue, and how can they avoid “sloganeering” and make a real difference?

If you’re interested in taking part in future roundtables, please contact social@asq.org.

Jennifer Stepniowski is the Regional Director, North America, at Pro QC International and an adjunct instructor at Hillsborough Community College. She blogs at Quality Time.

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.

To read more from Jennifer, visit her blog.

ASQ Fellow Manu Vora is chairman and president of Business Excellence, Inc. He is an expert in organizational excellence and the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program. He blogs at Thoughts on Quality.

Here are some pointers for effective employee engagement for quality culture:

  • Recruit employees with talent and train them for skills (Reference: Buckingham, M. and Coffman, C. (1999). First Break All the Rules, Gallup Press, Omaha, NE).
  • Involve employees by exposing them to effective teamwork, orientation, mentoring, and effective meeting management practices.
  • Motivate employees by establishing recognition and suggestion systems. Follow the Theory of Strengths (Reference: Clifton, D. O. and Nelson, P. (1992). Soar with Your Strengths, Dell Publishing, New York, NY).
  • Develop employees with appropriate education and training, timely performance feedback, and coaching.
  • Retain key employees with regular dialogue between supervisor and employee at least quarterly (Kaye, B. and Jordan-Evans, S. (2013). Love ‘Em or Lose ‘Em: Getting Good People to Stay , 5th Edition, Barrett-Koehler Publishers, San Francisco, CA)

To read more from Manu, visit his blog.

Argentina native Jimena Calfa is a Quality Manager and ASQ Senior member who is truly involved in raising the value of quality focusing on continuous process improvement. She blogs at OnQuality.

“Two way commitment and communication between members of a team, accompanied by setting goals that encourage massive and persistent action is the key to get team members engaged, motivated and performing at extraordinary level of quality.”

This is the answer I got from Sebastian Pereyro, CEO of Empirical and entrepreneur with more than 14 years of experience working in software development in big corporations like Motorola, Google and Disney when I asked him: what is your strategy to have members of your team being fully engaged in the quality of your business?

He highlighted that “because every person has its own needs, we have to TALK with and LISTEN to them; in other words GIVE and RECEIVE on a regular basis. I often share what the company, customer or the project is expecting from them, making sure that the goal and the expected results are clear. I share constructive feedback about performance in a positive manner. I ask the team for feedback about how we are doing; how they are feeling working the way we do and what we can do to help each other to grow professionally and advance in our roles.

One key to encourage fully engaged team members is to give them full responsibility over their roles -empowerment, promoting trust and confidence; and help them take on activities that exceed their current level of skills and capabilities; so they can grow on every project or activity they take on. That is the most motivational tool to increase productivity and well-being of the entire organization.

I like Simon Sinek phrase that says: Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.

This is the future of the world economy; this entrepreneur mindset, that comes with fresh and innovative ideas, is what will make any workforce to be fully engaged with the quality of any organization.”

To read more from Jimena, visit her blog.

Luciana Paulise is a business consultant and founder of Biztorming Training & Consulting. She holds an MBA from CEMA University in Argentina, is a Quality Engineer Certified by ASQ, and a Senior ASQ member. Luciana has also participated as an examiner for the National Quality Award in Argentina. She blogs about quality and continuous improvement for small and medium size businesses, both in English and in Spanish.

In my experience, I truly believe leadership is key to boost performance. 10% of the employees will always be demotivated, another 10% will always be motivated no matter the context, but the 80% of the personnel will perform depending on the leadership ability to engage them to do it, but there are three tools that can boost this ability no matter the leader.

To read more from Luciana, visit her blog.


Top 10 Books for Those New to Quality

Which books are most useful to those just starting out in quality?

Being new to the quality field can be overwhelming, but you can get up-to-speed by reading the essentials.

Add your essentials to the comments!

1. The Quality Toolbox, Second Edition by Nancy R. Tague
The Quality Toolbox is a comprehensive reference to a variety of methods and techniques: those most commonly used for quality improvement, many less commonly used, and some created by the author and not available elsewhere.
The book is written and organized to be as simple as possible to use so that anyone can find and learn new tools without a teacher. Above all, this is an instruction book. The reader can learn new tools or, for familiar tools, discover new variations or applications. It also is a reference book, organized so that a half-remembered tool can be found and reviewed easily, and the right tool to solve a particular problem or achieve a specific goal can be quickly identified.

2. The ASQ Quality Improvement Pocket Guide: Basic History, Concepts, Tools, and Relationships edited by Grace L. Duffy
This pocket guide is designed to be a quick, on-the-job reference for anyone interested in making their workplace more effective and efficient. It will provide a solid initial overview of what “quality” is and how it could impact you and your organization. Use it to compare how you and your organization are doing things, and to see whether what’s described in the guide might be useful.

3. The ASQ Pocket Guide to Root Cause Analysis by Bjørn Andersen and Tom Natland Fagerhaug
The purpose of this pocket guide is to provide you with easily accessible knowledge about the art of problem solving, with a specific focus on identifying and eliminating root causes of problems.

4. Process Improvement Simplified: A How-to Book for Success in any Organization by James B. King, Francis G. King , and Michael W. R. Davis
This book reveals the secrets of Process Improvement (PI). For any organization, this book defines a process as the interaction of people, methods, materials, equipment, measurement and the environment to perform a task or produce an output.

5.The Certified Quality Improvement Associate Handbook, Third Edition: Basic Quality Principles and Practices edited by Russell T. Westcott and Grace L. Duffy
ASQ’s Certified Quality Improvement Associate (CQIA) certification is designed to introduce the basics of quality to organizations and individuals not currently working within the field of quality. This book and the Body of Knowledge (BOK) it supports are intended to form a foundation for further study and application of proven quality principles and practices worldwide.

6. Performance Metrics: The Levers for Process Management by Duke Okes
This book provides a clarifying perspective for those who know that metrics need to be developed but are unsure as to the steps to follow in developing and deploying them. It focuses on making sure that the metrics selected will guide people and processes in the direction the organization wants to go, and allow continual evaluation of success.

7. The Memory Jogger 2, Second Edition: A Pocket Guide of Tools for Continuous Improvement and Effective Planning by Michael Brassard and Diane Ritter
Critical tools are explained using real-life examples from all types of organizations with problems similar to yours, making them easy for everyone to understand and apply. The Memory Jogger 2, Second Edition contains all the tools found in the first edition of the Memory Jogger 2, plus 50 pages of new charts and detailed diagram samples, a new tool, and a case study.

8. The Essential Deming: Leadership Principles from the Father of Quality by Joyce Nilsson Orsini PhD.
The book is filled with articles, papers, lectures, and notes touching on a wide range of topics, but which focus on Deming’s overriding message: quality and operations are all about systems, not individual performance; the system has to be designed so that the worker can perform well.

9. Principles of Quality Costs, Fourth Edition: Financial Measures for Strategic Implementation of Quality Management edited by Douglas C. Wood
The purpose of this book remains the same as the third edition: to provide a basic understanding of the principles of quality cost. Using this book, organizations can develop and implement a quality cost system to fit their needs. Used as an adjunct to overall financial management, these principles will help maintain vital quality improvement programs over extended timeframes.

10. Outcomes, Performance, Structure: Three Keys to Organizational Excellence by Michael E. Gallery and Stephen C. Carey
The purpose of this book is to help you put already-existing performance criteria in a context of your organizational system and assist you in using the criteria to assess problems in your organization. More importantly, this book will help you in designing systemic solutions to the systemic problems you have identified with easy-to-use samples and questions that draw out key areas where the organization needs to improve.


ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement 2016: Day 3

The closing ceremony of the 2016 World Conference on Quality and Improvement began with an exciting parade of the International Team Excellence Award finalists carrying flags and cheering. A total of 36 teams competed this year, with a total of four teams receiving awards:

Bronze-level winners:
Loading Like Tetris,Molinos Rio de la Plata
Complaint Busters, Telefonica-Argentina

Silver-level winners:
Nypro Shanghai, Jabil Circuit
Jabil Singapore, Jabil Circuit

The 2016 conference concluded with entrepreneur and venture capitalist Josh Linker, who gave an inspirational keynote speech about innovation, its connection to quality, and why encouraging creativity is important. In today’s world, creativity is beating complacency, and the word innovation ought to be redefined as an everyday action. Linkner encouraged the audience to give fresh ideas time to breathe, and to exhibit humanity as an innovative approach can drive meaningful impact.

Linkner’s closing remarks sum up this year’s conference theme of Quality Expanded: “Now is the time for innovation! Seize the opportunities waiting for us!”

What innovative ideas did you discover at the World Conference?

The day ended just down the road from the conference center at ASQ Headquarters, where visitors were given a tour of the historic building and a glimpse inside ASQ operations.


ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement 2016: Day 2

Is this your first World Conference? If so, you may have a valuable perspective on the event. At the Tuesday morning keynote, author and leadership expert Liz Wiseman spoke about valuable perspective of rookies in the workplace—those who are new to a position or field. Despite popular belief, rookies don’t bring new ideas to the table. (In fact, they don’t bring any ideas.) Rather, they bring a new way of looking at problems and solutions.

The afternoon speaker, psychology scholar and author Brian Little, focused on the difference between the traits and characteristics of introverts and extroverts.  The big takeaway is to know own’s first nature in order to perform at optimal level.  For example, introverts solve problems better when they are away from stimulation, and extroverts seek stimulation to carry out tasks effectively. He encouraged the audience to be audacious and try things outside of their personalities and comfort zones, but to find a “restorative niche” that resets them to a natural stimulation level.

Tuesday was a full day of sessions and live quality cast studies presented as part of the International Team Excellence Awards program. In the afternoon there was an exhibit hall extravaganza with games, music, and prizes, and caricature sketches. The day concluded with a networking reception at Milwaukee’s iconic Harley-Davidson Museum.

Wednesday highlights:

  • International Team Excellence Award Ceremony
  • Keynote Speaker Josh Linkner, entrepreneur and venture capitalist

ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement 2016: Day 1

When you think of quality, do you think of longevity? This year, longevity stood out as an unofficial theme at ASQ’s World Conference on Quality and Improvement as ASQ celebrated its 70th anniversary.

At the Monday morning keynote, it was announced that 38 ASQ members had been members for more than 60 years—shaping the quality field in the 20th century and into the 21st. The 70th theme is running throughout the event, from trivia games in the exhibit hall to souvenirs and gifts available for purchase at the ASQ Center. Sunday evening is the “official” conference kickoff, but Sunday morning and afternoon are abuzz with behind the scenes activities and meetings.

For example, a group of ASQ member leaders met up to do a gardening service project at Walnut Way, a Milwaukee-area organization that helps to revitalize local neighborhood. Despite a chilly start and high winds, the volunteers did some much-needed weeding and networking.

Monday morning kicked off with a standing-room only crowd at a keynote by Stephen J. Dubner, the author and journalist best known as the co-author of the book Freakonomics.

Dubner spoke about the importance of data—and particularly good data. His talk was peppered with humorous anecdotes about America’s preference for poultry and artificial insemination of turkeys, and the most effective way to increase hand-washing compliance rates in hospitals.

Dubner made a clear point of finding data that reflects reality. He noted that it is not always the nosiest person who has the best ideas, and that ideas that seem “crazy” should be voiced. The speech wrapped up with a story about a young economics professor at Yale who took on a currency experiment—using monkeys.

The afternoon speaker, James Kane, is the author of two upcoming books, The Loyalty Switch and Virtually Loyal. Kane talked about the difference between satisfaction and loyalty–satisfaction, such as customer satisfaction is simply a mood. Loyalty equals trust equals making someone’s life easier in some way.

Other Monday highlights included:

Live case studies were presented some of the most successful quality implementations from a wide variety of industries in the 2015 International Team Excellence Award Process

After 5 sessions on lighter topics such as Becoming a Chess Master with DMAIC and Applying Quality Tools to Personal Health and Wellness

The Milwaukee Night Out, with vans taking attendees to three downtown Milwaukee hotspots—The Historic Third Ward, Old World Third Street, and Water Street.

Tuesday highlights:

Keynote Speakers Liz Wiseman and Dr. Brian Little

Exhibit Hall Extravaganza with networking, raffles and giveaways.

Tuesday night wraps up with the Networking Reception at the Harley-Davidson Museum.


Facing Cultural Barriers by Leaders to Strengthen a Culture of Quality

This is a guest post by Luciana Paulise, the founder of Biztorming Training & Consulting. She is a speaker, author, and examiner for the National Quality Award and Team Excellence Award in Argentina.  She is also a columnist for Infobae, Destino Negocio, and a blogger for ASQ Influential Voices.  You can visit Luciana’s blog at: http://www.biztorming.com.ar/en/news.

Something was not going well at an organization we’ll call Company ABC, a small business within the automotive industry in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Some improvements were being made, many procedures were being followed, and employees were adopting new control processes.

Still, turnover was high, as well as frustration with certain processes that had not shown any improvements at all—while profitability was decreasing. Managers said that line employees were the problem; they were generating issues and not solving them. On the other side, employees were convinced the problem was in the communication channel to top management.

Even though it was a small business, communication from the bottom up was as difficult as in a larger corporation. The owners were asking for feedback on issues, but they were not providing ways to actually receiving the feedback. E-mails to leaders were not being replied to, approvals took longer than expected, and meetings were almost impossible to schedule.

What went wrong in this organization? How could managers and employees bring issues forward as required by a quality culture? How could they strengthen the culture of quality in this environment? What were the main barriers?

Experts says that the employees’ behavior is based on company culture, but what is organizational culture, exactly? As per Wikipedia, “Culture includes the organization’s vision, values, norms, systems, symbols, language, assumptions, beliefs, and habits.” But who determines these factors in organizations so as to define the culture?

Usually top management defines which habits or behaviors are right by rewarding or punishing them. Therefore, company culture is modeled upon top management behavior.

That was my “a-ha” moment. The main cultural barrier to making this company a better place was actually the top management. They thought the problem in the organization was their people, but they had not considered themselves as part of the problem. They were not “walking the talk.” And people were noticing it.

Then I recalled Gandhi’s quote: “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” Leaders needed to take the first step, and needed to be trained to do so. So now the question was, how best to train them?

Edwards Deming developed a leadership model that could be really useful here to train the top. The “System of profound knowledge” that he introduced in his last book, The New Economics, has four interrelated areas: appreciation for a system, knowledge of variation, theory of knowledge, and psychology. Managers were probably not going to get this theory easily, but an analogy could help.

I compared the four areas with four human types of intelligence, so that leaders could understand that they needed to manage their behavior in an integral way so as to solve all the problems at the same time:

  1. Spiritual: understanding the company in a holistic way, as a system, is appreciating the business as a network of interdependent components that work together to accomplish the same aim. These components includes planning, context, competition, processes, shareholders, customers, suppliers, employees, the community, and the environment. Like an orchestra, it’s not enough to have great players. They need to play well together. Leadership needs to focus on all the parts that affect the organization and how they work. The leaders wanted their middle managers to work together, but they didn’t have common objectives, so each of them just focused on their part of the game.
  2. Intellectual: In any business there are always variations, like defects, errors, and delays. Leaders have to focus on understanding these variations. Are they caused by the system or by the employees? Usually employees are blamed for the errors, but 95% of them are really caused by the company system. Distinguishing the difference between variations by using data and statistical methods, as well as understanding its causes, is key to management’s ability to properly remove barriers to profitability. At company ABC in this case study, leaders were focused on the people, while many delays were due to late approvals, lack of the right tools, and lack of training, which the people (i.e. employees) couldn’t handle.
  3. Physical: Leaders assert opinions as facts based on hunches, theories, or beliefs, but they don’t always test those opinions against the data before making a decision. Leadership needs to focus on contrasting their ideas with real data from the operations. The automotive shop started to use daily physical scorecards on the walls to capture and communicate real performance numbers, so that leaders and operators could act on them together.
  4. Emotional: Finally, in order to get real data from the operations, leaders need to work with their people. The problem is that people perform based on how they feel. They are primarily motivated by intrinsic needs, including respect and working with others to achieve common goals, in contrast to simply being motivated by monetary reward. So leadership has to focus on understanding and respecting people so that they can all work together to solve issues. One of the managers used to push a lot on his employees because his monthly payment was based on performance. When his salary was moved to a flat rate, he started to work much better with his team, they all were motivated and happy at work.  Turnover decreased sharply.

So my “a-ha” moment in regards to strengthening a culture of quality was that leaders need to change their behavior first if they want to change the entire company culture—and they have to do it through a systemic model considering four types of intelligence.

What about your company? How is leadership helping to develop a quality culture?