2011 in Quality: Successes and Disappointments

It’s hard for me to consider that it’s the middle of December already. There’s been something incredibly fast about this year. Don’t know whether it’s the advancement of my years, or if, as the ASQ Future of Quality Study suggests, it’s the “increasing rate of change.” I’d rather it be the latter, except for the trepidation of what lies ahead as the rate of change continues to accelerate.

I want to thank all the Influential Voices bloggers for reading View From the Q and using their good voices to get the word out. And thanks to the many blog readers and commenters for the gift of their interest and views. The quality community has much work to do if quality is to find its rightful place in society. Whether improvements are large or small, personal or social, it seems “modern” quality is not well-understood.

While ASQ has a voice, the community is making a mistake if it assumes our voice is enough. That’s why World Quality Month in November was exciting. It gave us a glimpse of what could be possible if more voices, those of the world’s quality organizations and their members, joined in harmony to bring attention to what we all know is true – quality works!

I’m frustrated by the gap between where we are and where we could be. I suspect that frustration helps stoke my fire. I’m frustrated by how poorly understood quality is, and frustrated more by how difficult it is to change the status quo. Now, I only need to look around me, turn on the news, pick up a paper, or scan the Internet to realize the quality community isn’t alone in its challenge to change the status quo. So perhaps I should look back to realize how far we’ve come. There are so many stories of success – those are the stories I tell – but there could be so many more.

A year ago I asked about your New Year quality resolutions, and many offered thoughtful actions. If that was the “do,” I’m curious now about the “check.” How did the year unfold? What successes were recorded? What disappointments? Or, maybe, what was the most significant quality event of the year for you, and why?

I’ll offer two disappointments. Both are close to home for me. The U.S. Congress deemed it necessary to discontinue funding of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award Program and President Obama agreed by signing an omnibus bill. It was disappointing that all our efforts to inform Congress about the value of the program and its proven return on investment were, it felt, ignored. Soon you will see an economic study that measures the social benefit-to-cost ratio of 207-to-1, but it didn’t seem to matter.

On the bright side, we have a 23-year legacy to take into the future. We have a Baldrige Foundation, the Alliance for Performance Excellence, and nearly 40 state and regional programs. We also have the passion and dedication of an incredible team of people on the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, and together we will transition the program into the private sector. While necessity may be the mother of invention, this necessity seems so short-sighted.

The day after President Obama signed the bill that ended federal funding of Baldrige, I received a notice from the U.S .Department of Health and Human Services announcing a new billion dollar grant program to stimulate innovation in healthcare. What if, instead of spending this money, we learned from the 2011 Baldrige recipients in healthcare (not to mention the other 15 healthcare recipients since 2002)! How much we could learn!

And while I’m on the topic of healthcare, my second disappointment is that Dr. Don Berwick left his position as administrator of the U.S. Centers of Medicare and Medicaid. Don’s lifetime of leadership in healthcare quality won’t end with his all too-short tenure at CMS, and I look forward to where his intellect will next take him.

Ending on a high note, the most significant experience I had this year was while attending the 8th China Shanghai International Symposium on Quality, hosted by the Shanghai Association for Quality. I had an opportunity to hear Shihong Tian, the Director General of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), describe what reads like a national quality plan. I know there’s a big difference between plans and results. But results seldom follow in the absence of plans. So, I will watch with interest and enthusiasm as the world’s most populous country and second-largest economy works to carry out its plans. The world may well benefit. Leadership is welcomed and needed.

Here’s to 2012! To you. To your families. And to quality!

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8 Responses to 2011 in Quality: Successes and Disappointments

  1. Michael Simister says:

    I wonder…. I have tried to get my superiors to adopt a new philosophy and begin training the supervisors. However, with the economy the way it is, companies are holding on tight to the money they have, (which is tragically ironic since quality is where you make your money, really.) and combined with their inexperience and lack of education, they don’t “get it”. It looks like gibberish to them, so it’s just that much easier to dismiss it and say no.

    I wonder if it is time to unleash a wave of philanthropic quality training. Do it for free? Start a frenzy that will have them coming back for more.

    Although I am just beginning my career, I can see the potential for huge earnings, there has to be a few people out there with the resources to offer up.

    Maybe, we could find a few small business, straining on the edge of competition and success, but not quite able to make the leap, and we could get them from good to great?

    • Trisha says:

      Elaine Huggins – Hi Jim I met you several years ago when you came out to help us at Vandenberg AFB with an AFSO21 orejpct that turned out to be more of a cut drill than a real process improvement but my co-worker, Dave Marston and I learned quite a bit from that experience. (We were in-training for our AFSO21 black belts; we also had Brent Braun-now deceased-, Dave Fewster, and I think Tom Peppard, from Air Force Space Command, co-facilitating). Anyway, Dave and I have always remembered your tool-box and the facil way you were able to use what ever was necessary to get the group going and keep them on track. I have since retired from the Air Force (one reason being that I was so impressed with your tool box that I too, wanted to develop some expertise in other methods, like six sigma but I ran into a road block in trying to do that-the organization was not supportive of learning six sigma!). Anyway, I am working for the Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco) in their medical service organiziation in Dhahran, doing process improvement for them. I am keenly looking forward to your book, because during the process of my hiring, which was about six months from interview to setting foot in Dhahran, there has been a change in leadership, and the opportunity to do improvement events and employ lean techniques seems to have passed. I am going to be limited to more of a orejpct management approach, using weekly meetings to move us along in these orejpcts that the leadership gives me too do. So, I’ve been sensitised to the need for leadership and how personalities interact that either make or break the opportunites for improvement. I am thrilled to see how you’ve moved along I’ll bet your kids are growing up fast! I have two in college already another reason to retire and move into something that pays better! Take care, Jim, and all of the best too you! Elaine Huggins RN, MSN, CPHQ, AFSO21 Black BeltJune 17, 2011 6:42 am

  2. Hi Craig,

    It is incredible to me that at this critical time in the downturn in our economy that the U.S. government has decided to stop funding the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program. It shows a clear disconnect between our elected officials and the important role quality approaches play in maintaining the competitiveness of U.S. companies. Now, more than ever, we need to demonstrate the relevance of Baldrige to our economy’s recovery.

    We have just launched the Breakthrough Project, a new grassroots initiative to promote Baldrige best practices to small businesses. Please visit our website: http://www.smallbusienss-breakthrough.org. The Breakthrough Project includes educational, research and community outreach elements.

    We invite you and your readers to help us with the project.

    Mike Kramer, CPA
    mike @ smallbusiness-breakthrough.com

  3. Pamela Young says:

    I am NOT saddened by the departure of Dr. Berwick. He was very much in favor of the government take over of the healthcare system and a big fan of a broken UK healthcare system. We do not need his influence. He had to resign because his views made it not possible that he would be confirmed by the Senate. If this is the face of ASQ for healthcare, we need to find a better face.

  4. Great year and solid leadership by ASQ. Thanks Paul for moving ASQ in a productive direction. I stand in appreciation of all ASQ staff and member leaders.

  5. Alex Saegert says:

    I’d think that there are other ways for the Federal Government to keep the light of quality burning, in the absence of direct funding. Encouraging the use of proven Quality principles in Government operations would cost relatively little, but result in substantial benefits and cost savings. This has the potential to be a “win – win”: the profile of Quality is raised, while governments (and let’s hope, taxpayers) reap the benefits.

    Nobody like to have their funding cut, but I can think of few initiatives better suited than Quality to standing on its own in the absence of direct Federal funding.

  6. Michael Clayton says:

    A college history prof once taught me to look at each year (or each decade in history) in terms or the word PERSIA. List the Political, Economic, Religious, Social, Intellectual, and Aesthetic sectors of the culture (at the city, state, country, profession, industry, or regional level) to get full perspective. 2011 generated change in all sectors at all levels as the idea of debt vs austerity was raised just as the world was coming slowly out of the newly “modernized” banking system crash and bailout of 2008. And US is still dealing with the housing crisis (also Europe, and perhaps next in China as their bubble bursts or is massively “adjusted” by government).

    Since privatization of everything is promoted as the answer, the Baldridge subsidies are now gone. High cost of Healthcare in US is due mainly in my opinion to private insurers setting prices by state, city, industry negotiating by divide and conquer. Perhaps that problem will be addressed over next decade.

    Lean Six Sigma teams in Healthcare are fixing the hospitals as we speak, and just starting into the Parma industry with the Design for Quality initiatives, but they are totally ignoring the private insurance mess that pays for procedures instead of results. Perhaps the continuing Political and Economic turmoil will genereate some Intellectual change in 2012 in the Social sector of Healthcare cost-benefit improvment?

    Aesthetic and Relious sectors are changing faster as well, as technology pushes entertainment to help us deal with the depressive too-frequent bad news, and religions increase help for their own locals at the expense of the foreign missionary support. And of course PERSIA is also a word still used to discuss the turmoil in Middle East in historial perspective as religious feuds vie with tribal feuds in creating instability.

    I predict that 2010-2020 decade will provide historians with massive data analyzed badly until it becomes clear that correlation does not prove causation. Perhaps eventually the exobytes of data will be used more for enlighenment than advertising. That makes me an optimist, I am told. Happy Holidays to all.

  7. Pingback: December Roundup: Looking to 2012 | A View from the Q

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