Guest Post: How to Choose Continuous Improvement Software

A Brief Buyer’s Guide to Choosing Continuous Improvement Software

By Chris Moustakas, President & CEO of DevonWay

Enterprise software companies never met an acronym they didn’t like. GAAP, ISO, ITIL, you name it: if it’s a string of letters representing a standard, that can only mean one thing: “Super, I don’t have to change it for a decade!” After all, it’s hard to modify software. And expensive. And risky. And who wants that kind of headache?

The problem is that process-heavy businesses don’t have the luxury of staying static. They’re constantly dealing with a barrage of regulatory hurdles, performance gaps, and inefficiencies, and have to move quickly to stay competitive. The best-performing organizations choose Continuous Improvement (CI) as the framework for achieving that agility. CI is proven, additive, and flexible, and has been used from making automotive manufacturers leaner to making nuclear reactors safer, and everything in between.

But when it comes time to buy or extend software to support a CI initiative, the decision becomes a lot less clear (if you think Excel is acceptable, be careful – you’re playing with fire). Three major categories seem like they might fit the bill, but each has its challenges (disclaimer – my company specializes in CI software, but we’re not the only ones, and these guidelines hold true for all of us):

  • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems are operations-focused, as they should be, but they’re too rigid to cost-effectively include CI principles, whose foundation is rapid, incremental change. ERP is great for processes that need little to no improvement, like GAAP compliance or payroll functions. You don’t need to make sure the number of correct paychecks improves over time; you need to make sure they’re 100% correct 100% of the time, and ERP systems help you achieve that.
  • Quality Management Systems (QMS) are great for ISO compliance, but they were designed by and for Quality teams, with only a passing thought to operations. You can use CI software for QMS functions, but you can’t go the other way.
  • Business Process Management (BPM) tools help you optimize your processes, but in the end you still need to find and buy a separate system to execute your improvements. BPM is the professor who spends his time theorizing; CI is the engineer who spends her time doing.

Good CI software incorporates elements from all three systems, because Continuous Improvement happens when you apply Quality principles to Operational needs. Once you accept that principle, you realize that CI software is like an ERP with flexibility, a QMS with scale, and a BPM with focus. It lets you define, execute, measure, and refine both a process and the data it produces.

Ultimately, CI is about collecting and understanding operational data. With that in mind, when you’re looking for software to support your continuous improvement initiatives, ask the following simple questions. Score each answer 0 for no support, 1 for okay support, and 2 for excellent support.

  1. Can I collect the data that matters to my operations, or am I limited to what’s predefined in the software?
  2. Can I easily report on and analyze that data, even my custom fields?
  3. Can I route the data through my own workflow, using my own rules and assignments?
  4. Is the software a closed loop system that lets me know if my operational goals are trending in the right direction, and where I have gaps?
  5. Can I easily adjust the software as my needs change?

Add up the total. The closer you get to 10, the more likely it is the software will meet your needs.

Finally, look at the pricing model. You want a solution that scales to every user in your organization without a large license or subscription cost, because CI should be embedded in your operations, not an afterthought. So avoid per-seat pricing: it quickly spirals out of control. Whatever the cost basis, it should parallel the value you get out of the system.

It’s a great time to be incorporating continuous improvement in your organization. The right tool is out there to help you succeed. Find it and get to work!

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

Scott Moeller

 

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/

March Round Table

ASQ selects a quality-themed topic or question for Influential Voices bloggers to discuss as part of a round table. This post,s topic is:

How can we prevent quality professionals from being perceived as a “thing of the past”? What adaptations need to occur in the quality industry as a whole and on the individual level to revitalize the industry and attract the next generation of quality professionals? 

 


Daniel John Zrymiak is from Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. He has worked in quality for two decades, mostly recently at Accenture as a Mobilization Lead. Daniel is active in ASQ as a Quality Press author and reviewer, member leader, and Technical Committee chair (Finance and Governance – Quality Management Division). He blogs at AQualitEvolution.

Guy Bigwood Is based in Spain, Guy Bigwood is the sustainability director of MCI, an association management company. He is responsible implementing corporate social responsibility throughout MCI’s 48 global offices, and manages a global consulting practice that provides strategic guidance to businesses, associations, governments, and the United Nations. His blog is Less Conversation More Action.

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.

Sara Haynes is a chemical engineer but hasn’t let that stop her from developing a personality.   Sara is a certified Six Sigma Black Belt and Quality Engineer, a Lean project manager, holds a Mastery of Re-Engineering and a green belt in QFD.  Prior to consulting, Sara was the Director of Operational Excellence at SMART Technologies, one of the top 20 high-tech firms in Canada.  She has over 15 years experience in developing and implementing continuous improvement programs and executing business process transformations in a wide range of industries she blogs at Six Sigma Solutions. 

Pam Schodt is an ASQ Certified Quality Engineer and a member of the Raleigh, North Carolina, section of ASQ, where she volunteers on the Communication Committee. Her blog, Quality Improvements in Work and Life, includes posts about certification testing, book reviews, and lifestyle issues. She also blogs about technology issues and gardening on two other blogs. Currently, she is active as an iStock photo contributor and social media advisor.

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.

How can we prevent quality professionals from being perceived as a “thing of the past”? What adaptations need to occur in the quality industry as a whole and on the individual level to revitalize the industry and attract the next generation of quality professionals? 

Daniel John Zyrmiak

Ikigai of a Quality Professional The Ikigai framework intersects our mission, passion, profession, and vocation.  Using this framework, we can define an ideal Quality Professional, encapsulating four distinct characteristics:

  • Altruist emphasizing improvement, sustainability, and innovation;
  • Practitioner of quality control or assurance activities;
  • Intellect proficient in STEM subjects, communications, and humanities;
  • Steward with professional diligence and accountability.

Also, by containing the following Distractors, we can avoid situations that besmirch the impressions of Quality professionals.

  • Silver Bullets: Quality practices (i.e. automated testing, Kaizen blitz), which can be effective within a structured quality framework, are promoted as instant solutions.  When lofty expectations don’t materialize, all future Quality initiatives are received with disdain and cynicism.
  • Generational Buzzwords: This pertains to schemes which are overused, transcending original context, leading to misinterpretation and mockery.  Past examples include Total Quality Management, Business Process Engineering, Balanced Scorecard, and now current practices like Six Sigma and Lean are equally disparaged.
  • Instant “Expertise”: Unilateral claims of expertise, without having a proven track record or a history of valid, peer reviewed publications or credentials, reminds me of a movie character.

Without professional barriers to entry of education, duration of service, and technical proficiency, many individuals unilaterally declare their own expertise and penetrate the marketplace, diluting the image and stature of Quality practitioners.  This is supplemented by questionable providers who offer ad hoc credentials without prerequisite qualifications or examinations.

As Quality Professionals, we must distinguish ourselves from our Distractors by adopting the traits of diligent Practitioners, accountable Stewards, versatile Intellects, and innovative Altrusits.  Like the Pioneers of Quality (i.e. Deming, Shewhart, Juran), we must demonstrate our example in work and life with conviction and authenticity.

Guy Bigwood

I have never considered myself as part of the quality industry. Yet my career has been focused on driving quality and improving results. I use the same tools and processes as quality professionals but my viewpoint is different from many of the “gurus” I have worked with. Perhaps this is something quality professionals around the world should consider. It’s the results that matter and not the language or tools you use to get there.

Luigi Sille

How can we prevent quality professionals from being perceived as a “thing of the past”?

Quality is a process. It’s a process that can help any organization in their journey for continual improvement. Continuous improvement of their products and/or services, this is one of the most important aspects of a quality management system. Continuous improvement has an influence on customers. Customer satisfaction is another important aspect of a quality management system. Customer satisfaction is the key to staying in business.

We, as quality professionals, must keep doing our job and keep showing senior management where they can eliminate waste, improve the quality of the products and/or service. Better quality results in happy clients, so we can talk about customer retention, and getting new customers. We need to show them that our actions will have a positive impact on the organization. Senior management has to become an active part of the whole quality management system. In the past people thought that quality professionals were like COPS of an organization. We, as quality professionals, we are not cops; we are here to guide the process, to coach and educate others. Quality Professionals are a part of the team, and are not above the team. We are very valuable for any organization trying to move on, trying to deliver better quality of products and/or service. Quality professionals need to put more emphasis on prevention rather than inspection, more emphasis on coaching, educating and inspiring others to deliver quality. We need to work as a team, to keep improving the process.

What adaptations need to occur in the quality industry as a whole and on the individual level to revitalize the industry and attract the next generation of quality professionals? 

If you ask around, a lot of people don’t even know what quality professionals do. While attending school, quality was never brought up, it never even occurred to me that a career in quality was possible. Why is that? When I started attending the ASQ WCQI, I realized that quality professionals were becoming more and more active. But when you leave after the conference, what then? What do you as a quality professional do to motivate, educate and inspire others around you?

We as quality professionals must do more. Start educating people close to us, like family and friends. Talk about quality, the importance of quality, continual improvement, customer satisfaction, and what we as quality professionals do. It’s up to us quality professionals to educate the community, so progressively more young adults get interested/inspired to start their journey as a quality professional.

It’s up to us as quality professionals to spread the word!

Sara Haynes 

The “Sweet Spot” for Quality when I was first put in charge of quality for a manufacturing organization, my boss cautioned me against over-rotating on quality.  “Over-rotate???” I thought, “How could we have too much quality?”  But unless your quality department is staffed by volunteers, there is a cost to inspections and audits, as well as quality techniques like FMEA and Six Sigma.

Juran and Feigenbaum describe this balance in the Total Cost of Quality.

Basically, you want the costs of quality (like inspections, FMEA’s, etc.) to balance out the costs of poor quality (like recalls, high warranty costs, damage to brand reputation, etc.)  It’s a constant balancing act – the magic is in finding that “sweet spot”

where customers are satisfied and costs are minimized.  That sweet spot is going to be different for each company – depending on whether you are manufacturing a Lexus or a Kia.  And the sweet spot can shift can change dramatically and unpredictably with the introduction of new competitors that suddenly raise customer expectations.

As quality professionals, one of our roles is to search out that “sweet spot” of quality for our organizations and clients.  One way is to shift prevention and appraisal costs ever lower through innovation, in the form of new technology, new concepts and new skills. Some of the best technological innovations I’ve seen in quality include on-line surveillance and monitoring of off-shore manufacturers. This reduces the cost of travelling to manufacturing locations or hiring local staff to oversee production quality control, as well detecting and correcting quality problems before you have a warehouse full of defective products. Other innovations in the field of quality include new concepts like poka-yoke or rapid-deployment QFD.

What new innovations are you excited about in the field of Quality?

Pam Schodt

Young people may be less aware of the quality profession because it is not a stand-alone industry. Those who take pride in their work in any organization, however, would support excellence in quality.

From airbags to pharmaceuticals, digital communications publicize quality issues to the general population. The next step then is to promote solutions with management of quality systems by quality professionals.

Quality professionals should employ marketing to promote the field. Participate in company tours to shine a light on quality positions in your organization.

Publicize your quality systems as opportunities arise with marketing documents and local media coverage. Rather than wait for the subject to be brought up in Q&A, seize the opportunity to talk about quality systems. This can lead to questions about educational requirements, certifications, and careers in quality. Actively represent the quality system in your organization.

The Raleigh chapter of ASQ promotes quality as a profession with support of a student chapter at North Carolina State University. Students are encouraged to attend meetings and conferences at discount rates. A scholarship award contest is offered to “encourage students to seek quality concepts, technology, and tools to improve the workplace, products, and themselves.”

Robert Mitchell 

My years of experience in manufacturing as a quality professional, coupled with my experience as a Baldrige Examiner where I have evaluated organizations across the economic spectrum of healthcare, education, government, small business and non-profits leads me to conclude that the Quality profession is not dying, rather transforming and expanding into traditionally non-Quality departments or operations of the organization. For example, a key tenant of Lean is that everyone – at all levels of the organization – becomes a problem solver. Six Sigma belts are sometimes the Quality professional but more often the subject matter expert in a given discipline or function, and is positioned as a career development opportunity perhaps leading to future management or leadership positions. Many non-manufacturing organizations have replaced the traditional “Quality Dept.” with employees staffed in departments responsible for “Customer/Patient Satisfaction” or “Operational Excellence” or the like. Many service industries have developed their own quality certifications specific to its own needs, mission, vision and culture.

Which begs the question, is there a fulfilling career opportunity for someone pursuing a role – or perhaps currently feeling trapped (i.e. career plateaued) in a current role – in the Quality function?
A real concern of mine is that many organizations seem satisfied by equating quality to standards conformance. Their quality professionals are primarily engaged in documenting procedures and requirements, auditing for compliance, and issuing reports. Though a required set of activities in certain compliance-based industries, this in itself is not a particularly engaging nor growth activity for the quality professional. A primary role of Quality is Business Process Management to improve the organizational white spaces – the communication and handoffs – between departments to assure operational excellence. By first focusing on and optimizing these internal customer-supplier relationships within the organization the Quality professional builds organizational capability to better serve the needs of its external customers. A Customer-first culture must be nurtured by leadership to enable organizational performance excellence. A genuine focus on the customer/patient always results in a more engaged workforce leading to process improvements, innovation and performance excellence.

So … “What adaptations need to occur in the quality industry to revitalize the industry and attract the next generation of quality professionals?” Some of my thoughts:

  1. More ASQ focus and training on quality’s role in driving and achieving innovation
  2. More ASQ focus and training to aid the technical Quality professional in making the successful transition to management and leadership.
  3. More ASQ involvement in K-12 education curriculum to increase certain quality concepts teaching in STEM courses (e.g. statistical thinking)
  4. More ASQ involvement with community colleges, universities and business schools to increase the awareness and discussion of quality principles and the Baldrige Criteria.

The successful Quality professional has adopted a philosophy of life-long learning beyond the areas of technical Quality and data analysis to broaden and strengthen his/her individual capabilities, in both “hard” and “soft” skills.

  1. Interpersonal Communication
  2. Social Media (for customer engagement)
  3. Change Management
  4. Leadership Behaviors
  5. Strategic Planning and Execution
  6. Community Involvement
  7. Coaching and Mentoring

The future of Quality is us. We cannot afford to sit idly by, or risk irrelevance; seek new opportunities and experiences. (e.g. What is the role of Quality in automation and robots?) “The best way to predict the future is to create the future” [Peter Drucker].

 

 

Changes to ASQ.org

Man

ASQ.org has gone through some recent updates in order to better serve our members!

Did you know? Under My Account, you can:

•Update your profile image
•Update user name and password
•View entire purchases as well as print and email invoices/receipts online
•Pay open orders online instead of contacting ASQ to pay for open invoices
•Save multiple credit cards and use for online order checkout. Customers can modify saved credit cards or delete cards no longer being used.
•Tailor and opt in/opt out of ASQ communications
•Print membership cards and certificates online
•Access and purchase digital content (Ebooks and Estandards) in one convenient place

Having trouble logging on?

If you have not logged in to asq.org since March 14, 2016, you will need to update your account.

•If you know your member number, enter this in the User Name field (previously this probably would have been your email address). Enter the same password as before; passwords have not changed.
•If you do not know your member number, click on the Forgot User Name? link. This will prompt you to enter the e-mail address for your account and you will receive username reset instructions via e-mail.

Once you have successfully logged into your account, you will have the option to make changes to your User Name and password.

Still have questions or issues with logging on? ASQ Customer Care is glad to further assist.