Applying Organizational Excellence at Lean Six Sigma Conference

Six Sigma Escape Room winners
Six Sigma Escape Room winners

Building off the success of the 2019 event, over 500 quality professionals came together in Phoenix at the Lean and Six Sigma Conference where they focused on applying lean and Six Sigma for organizational excellence.

Quality professionals are uniquely positioned to lead their organizations through today’s ever-changing landscape of disruption and transformation, and this year’s conference featured sessions, workshops, and speakers aimed to help attendees optimize excellence and growth though change management, data analytics, strategic alignment, and more.

I have been able to meet people from all over the globe and from a variety of industries all focused on the same thing–continuous improvement.

Lindsay Lapatinsky
Keynote Speakers

Monday morning kicked off with Dr. Gregory Watson’s keynote address on the art of leading change in the age of Quality 4.0. As an ASQ Fellow and past chair, Watson brought his breadth of knowledge on Six Sigma to the presentation where he walked the audience through the development and popularization of Six Sigma. Organizational excellence in Quality 4.0 cannot be created and sustained by statistics alone, Watson explained. It must also be nurtured and fostered through strategic decisions and executive team buy-in. Watson discussed Deming’s profound knowledge and the quality imperative to rethink the profession and its methods to adapt to the age of Quality 4.0. For those interested in continuing to learn about the role of quality in executive leadership, Watson is currently working with the Quality Management Division on a free 12-part webinar series on managing for quality. Register for this webinar at https://my.asq.org/communities/events/28.

Award-winning illusionist Stuart MacDonald provided a completely unique look at quality at his Monday evening keynote address. MacDonald began his presentation by performing his signature magic act, much to the crowd’s delight. His performance, which fooled famous magicians Penn and Teller, was improved by lean processes. He led the audience through his professional introduction to lean and process improvement and his strategies to implement a 30-day continuous improvement plan that allowed him to improve his act by 100%. The audience left with practical tools for applying continual improvement—and a few magic tricks up their sleeves.

conference presenter
Stuart MacDonald’s keynote session

Founder of The Kaplan Mobray Leadership Institute and award-winning author of The 10Ks of Personal Branding Kaplan Mobray welcomed attendees to the second day of the conference with his address on the role of passion and creativity in organizational excellence. After energizing the audience with his saxophone skills, Mobray got specific on how quality professionals can use personal performance improvement to achieve operational excellence. By using interactive and creative exercises, Mobray engaged the audience to explore new ways to solve problems and create problems to solve. “Improve the experience,” Mobray said, “and you elevate the result.”

Closing out the 2020 Lean and Six Sigma Conference was speaker and coach Gregory Offner. Offner focused his presentation on the benefits of proactive change management. Beginning his presentation by playing the piano, Offner guided attendees through his experience with damaging his vocal cords and nearly permanently losing his voice. Offner provided insight on how to disrupt effectively while maintaining daily business operations. He used his personal story of disruption and transformation, along with 16 years of sales and consulting experience, to discuss the value of micro-disruption and continuous self-improvement.

Between concurrent sessions, workshops, and Gemba walks, there were plenty of opportunities for attendees to learn about a variety of topics. A few of the standout sessions focused on artificial intelligence, escape rooms, and process observation.

One of the most buzzed about sessions was the Lean and Six Sigma Escape room. Hosted by ASQ Six Sigma Forum members Jessica Colon and Bob Kollm, this interactive session put participants’ lean and Six Sigma skills to the test through a series of clues and puzzles. Participants were split into teams and rooms where they used quality tools, strategies, and even a chi square to unlock the answers to the puzzle first.

Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt Grace Duffy led the concurrent session “The Importance of PLAN in PDC/SA or DMAIC”. Highlighting the importance of effective planning, Duffy explained how a Modular Kaizen approach uses concepts of lean and Agile to fit process improvement into manageable daily work activities. Attendees particularly enjoyed the former NASA Quality Manager’s example of the importance of pre-team initiation preparation.

This year’s Gemba Walks, hosted by Master Black Belt Chad Smith and Management Consultant Bob Kollm, focused on the Ohno-Inspired Way of Truly Understanding the Current State. In this interactive session participants learned about process observation and put their learning into action. Other conference participants may have noticed the gemba walk happening, as the group traveled around the resort and conference to observe hotel staff cleaning guest rooms and “flipping” hotel space.  

Attendees in hotel room
Gemba Walk participants observe a hotel room cleaning.
ASQ Divisions

This year’s conference would not have been successful without the support and sponsorship from the Lean Enterprise Division and the Six Sigma Forum.

The Lean Enterprise Division is a global network of professionals helping individuals and organizations apply proven and leading edge lean principles and practices to achieve personal and organizational success.

“Not only are the sessions and keynotes fantastic year after year, the Lean and Six Sigma conference is one of my favorite networking events. The conference is the one opportunity a year I have to network with LSS professionals face to face. I have had the pleasure of meeting mentors, coaches, teachers, colleagues, and friends at this conference that have helped me grow professionally and personally throughout the years.”

                -Lindsay Lapatinsky, ASQ Lean Enterprise Division Chair

The Six Sigma Forum increases the use and impact of Six Sigma globally by building relationships, learning collectively, and advancing knowledge.

Sponsors and Exhibitors

Nova Southeastern University

Park Avenue Solutions

ASQ Six Sigma Forum

ASQ Lean Enterprise Division


Creato Performance Solutions

EngineRoom/MoreSteam

MoreSteam/EngineRoom

TRACtion Service

Minitab LLC

Gemba Academy

University of Tennessee

QI Macros for Excel

OpusWorks

ASQ Pheonix Section

Networking at WCQI 2016

WCQI 2016

Looking to expand your professional network? ASQ’s World Conference on Quality and Improvement, held May 16-18 in Milwaukee, offers many chances to network with other quality professionals. Be sure to take advantage of the below sessions and events to expand your network and connect with other conference attendees. Don’t miss this great opportunity–registration for this event is still open!

Conference Kick-off
Following the opening session and keynote on Monday morning, this is an opportunity for attendees to meet in the exhibit hall with other conference participants, connect with old acquaintances, and visit with our exhibitors and sponsors.WCQI 2016 Networking

After 5 Sessions 
Held early Monday evening, these sessions are less formal than our other technical sessions and include a social component which adds to the level of interaction between the facilitator and the participants, as well as the participants and their peers. A sampling of this year’s sessions: Becoming a Chess Master with DMAIC, In Search of Quixote: Inner Dawns and Looming Knights, and ASQ Young Quality Professionals: Your Career is a Start-Up.

Milwaukee Night Out
On Monday evening, attendees will have the opportunity to experience Milwaukee’s night life. Busses will run continuously in a loop that goes from the Convention Center to the Third Ward, Old World 3rd Street, and Water street, and will have complimentary fare for conference attendees.

Engagement with Local Establishments
A number of local restaurants and establishments will be offering discounts to conference attendees. You will only need show a conference badge to receive the discount at more than 40 local establishments. Stop by the Visit Milwaukee area in the Convention Center with any questions.

Satellite Sessions
Six additional sessions will be held in offsite locations, in addition to 100+ breakout sessions at the convention center throughout the run of the conference. These locations include The Water Council and UWM’s School of Freshwater Sciences. Each remote venue will hold one session a day for the three days of the event. Simply sign up for the session and the transportation and logistics will be taken care of.

WCQi 2016 Networking 3

Tuesday’s Networking Reception

This year’s spotlight networking event will take place at the Harley-Davidson Museum, where conference attendees can connect with each other in the midst of one of Milwaukee’s most iconic brands.

And don’t forget to network through social media! Use #WCQI16 to connect with other conference attendees and post about your experience.

What events and opportunities have you discovered for successful networking at WCQI and other conferences?

April Roundup: The Case For Conferences

When was the last time you traveled to a conference? Was the experience worth it? Conference attendance was the topic for discussion in April for ASQ’s Influential Voices blogging group. Somewhat surprisingly, perhaps, this topic elicited very passionate responses from the bloggers.

Many shared their criteria for attending conferences, some wrote about memorable experiences at conferences they have attending, while others reflected on the concept of the conference itself. Take a look at the responses below.

Why Attend Conferences? Jennifer Stepniowski writes about factors she considers when attending events, including attendee demographics and cost.  Aimee Siegler shares some advantages of conferences, such as extensive opportunities to network.  Rajan Thiyagarajan lists his five reasons to attend conferences, which range from learning to hearing the keynote speakers. Luciana Paulise encourages small-business owners to attend conferences.

Pam Schodt says the pros of conferences, such as networking, outweigh the cons. Michael Noble shares seven tips on making meetings work for you, such as choosing events to which you can easily travel.  Longtime ASQ World Conference attendee Scott Rutherford writes about “growing” into a conference on offers some tips on enjoying events for those who’re experienced conference-goers (for example, connect with people you’ve already met).

Finally, Chad Walters reflect on his reasons for attending ASQ’s World Conference this year.

Attending  a Conference? Tim McMahon suggests preparing before the conference and following up after.Cesar Diaz Guevara offers his tips on networking and having fun at meetings and events, while Jimena Calfa offers her guide to networking. David Levy says that in his experience, conferences are an intro to tools, not the end all be all of learning. Finally, don’t forget the little things! Lotto Lai reminds us to be sure to take photos.

Other Thoughts: From an ASQ conference perspective, Dan Zrymiak writes that engaged ASQ members can get the most from ASQ events (as is true for most associations). John Hunter reflects on why conferences can seem outdated and offers some suggestions for a fresher approach. Longtime conference organizer and attendee Manu Vora offers his thoughts on planning and attending conferences and meetings.

Finally, Edwin Garro wrote a post in his native Spanish reflecting on the international aspects of ASQ’s World Conference.

Do You Have a Clear Vision?


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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