Day 2 of ASQ World Conference: Back to Basics

[This is a guest post by Julia McIntosh of ASQ's communications department.]

Another busy day at ASQ’s World Conference on Quality and Improvement 2014! The many workshops, sessions and events were sandwiched between two keynotes that addressed quality and leadership basics. The first, by Mike Abrashoff, former Commander, USS Benfold, was a great refresher in what makes a great leader. Abrashoff, after all, turned an under performing Naval war ship into a highly successful one.

Key takeaways: Practice humility as a leader. Empower staff and give them tools to accomplish what they need. Have high expectations–your staff want to succeed. Basic principles–but ones that are so often forgotten. Abrashoff’s keynote was a great reminder and refresher.

The afternoon keynote was by Alicia Boler-Davis, GM’s senior vice president of global quality and global customer experience. Boler-Davis spoke about the challenges and opportunities faced by the company in recent years.

Much of her address focused on customer experience–the key takeaway is that GM is not just in the business of making cars and trucks anymore. It’s in the business of delighting the customer. For example, GM is now developing “infotainment” features for its vehicles and has a social media command center that monitors online conversations about its products.

And on the lighter side, the day concluded with an extravaganza in the exhibit hall (yes, with Jenga games) and the annual networking reception with music and dancing–all held in the very chic Hilton Anatole hotel.

Wednesday highlights: A closing session featuring the International Team Excellence Award ceremony and keynote speaker Michelle Rhee, founder and CEO, StudentsFirst. And remember, you can stream a keynote by Simon Bailey, leadership expert and former leader of the Disney Institute (recorded Saturday for ASQ member leaders).

Read a summary of Day 1 of the conference-something old, something new.

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Day 1 of ASQ World Conference: The Tried, True, Innovative and New

[This is a guest post by Julia McIntosh of ASQ’s communications department.]

Welcome to Day 1 of ASQ’s World Conference of Quality and Improvement in Dallas, Texas! Today’s theme seemed to be: something old and something new. Something old, as in classic and time-tested. And something new, as in innovative and edgy.

New: Morning keynote speaker Erik Wahl, who drew in a full house with standing room only. Wahl, a graffiti artist, author and entrepreneur, spoke about the power of risk-taking and innovation. The key takeaway was: If you risk nothing, you get nothing. The quality connection? It’s good to know your trade, the quality profession, but it’s not enough anymore. You must innovate and step outside your comfort zone to succeed.

The afternoon keynote speaker, Bob Pence, CEO of Freese and Nichols Inc., a multiservice engineering, architecture, and environmental science firm, spoke about the success of tried-and-tried quality tools and methodologies. He also touched on ethics (do what’s right when nobody’s watching), innovation (it’s not enough “just” to solve the problem anymore), and organizational sacred cows (let them go). Remember, you can watch Bob Pence’s entire keynote here.

Other events on Monday included quality impact sessions (live team case studies as part of the International Team Excellence Awards process), lighthearted “After 5” sessions on topics like the quality-baseball connection, and many workshops and sessions. Networking was in full swing, with many meetings, receptions, and connections in the exhibit hall.

Highlights for Tuesday:

  • Morning keynote by Mike Abrashoff, former commander, USS Benfold, andauthor.
  • Afternoon keynote by GM’s global quality and global customer experience VP, Alicia Boler-Davis. You can watch a live stream of this keynote.
  • The exhibit hall extravaganza, 2:15 p.m.-3:45 p.m.
  • And the evening networking reception.

Read a summary of the conference kickoff on Sunday.

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ASQ World Conference 2014 Kickoff

[This is a guest post by Julia McIntosh of ASQ's communications department.]

And we’re off! ASQ’s World Conference on Quality Improvement 2014 kicked off today in Dallas, Texas.

If there’s one trend that’s obvious so far, it’s making connections. Connections between ideas; connections between people. This year’s conference has a strong focus on networking, and what’s a more fun way to network than to literally “build connections”through Legos and Jenga in the exhibit hall?

This was just one of the fun icebreakers at the opening reception–and the games will be available throughout the conference. In addition, conference goers are encouraged to start a “meetup” in the ASQ Center on any topic of interest (look for the sign up boards in the Center).

Here are some highlights for tomorrow:

-Welcome and opening keynote by Erik Wahl, a graffiti artist, among many other things.

-Afternoon keynote by Robert Pence, president and CEO, Freese and Nichols, Inc.

-Quality impact sessions and live team case studies.

-”After 5″ sessions, featuring the lighter side of quality.

-A photo booth offering professional portraits, ASQ Center, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

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5 Tips On Making the Most of ASQ’s World Conference

[This is a guest post by Julia McIntosh of ASQ's communications department.]

Just as last year, we’ve received some great tips and advice from ASQ’s Influential Voices bloggers on “surviving”–and making the most of–conferences and events. This may come in handy if you’re attending ASQ’s upcoming World Conference on Quality and Improvement in Dallas May 5-7, or any other professional events.  If you are going to the World Conference, be sure to follow the events on Twitter with hashtag #WCQI14. And if you are not attending, you can stream the keynotes live this year, which is a great e-learning opportunity.

Now, on to the advice!

1. Prepare and follow up. Do research on relevant sessions and speakers before the conference and follow up with new contacts afterward, says ASQ blogger Tim McMahon.

2. Take photos! ASQ blogger Lotto Lai suggests taking lots of photos so you have a souvenir and a reminder of what you’ve learned and who you’ve met.

3. Talk PDCA and root cause. ASQ blogger Jennifer Stepniowski notes that you can “talk shop” with conference-goers. Where else can you chat about quality with the person in the Starbucks line? Take advantage of this opportunity!

4. Follow the conference on social media. That’s the advice of Influential Voices blogger Bob Mitchell. This year again, there will be a live Twitter feed at the World Conference in the exhibit hall. And, we’ll be live tweeting keynote speeches and live blogging about daily events (as mentioned above, you can live stream the keynotes and follow the conversation on Twitter. Hashtag is #WCQI14).

5.  Keep your schedule full. You should always have something going on at the conference, says ASQ blogger Dan Zrymiak. Attend the “must see” events but make time for sessions and speakers outside your industry. You’ll learn a lot.

Do you want to share your conference advice? Leave a comment on this blog or email We’ll compile feedback in a future blog post.

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Conference Survival Guide 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Time for Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Engineering Survey: Engineers in Leadership Roles

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

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

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

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

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

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

Traits most lacking in company leadership

  • Communicating Well—20%
  • Honesty—16%

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

About the Surveys

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

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A Glimpse at Manufacturing in 2014

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

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

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

A few more facts from the survey:

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

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

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2013 Salary Survey–And Key Hiring Practices

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

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

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

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

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

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October Roundup: Quality in New Endeavors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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