Blogger Roundup: The Quality/Education Connection

Many people don’t think of quality tools and philosophies being used in education, but the link between quality and education proved to be a hot topic at ASQ’s 2014 World Conference on Quality and Improvement.
Specifically, does poor education lead to a poor quality of the workforce (and, thus, of quality itself)?
World Conference speaker Michelle Rhee made this point in her very popular keynote. ASQ’s Influential Voices bloggers provided nuanced feedback on this theme.
See the summary:
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The Organizational Excellence Journey–and ASQ

I want to let you know about the terrific news we recently received.  ASQ has been awarded the Excellence level of achievement for the 2014 Wisconsin Forward Award. The Wisconsin Forward Award is essentially the state-level equivalent of the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in the U.S.

The Excellence level of achievement is exceptionally challenging and represents an organization that is performing at a very high level across its entire breadth.

This award is not just a reflection on ASQ headquarters in Milwaukee.  The Baldrige criteria require a much broader look. The examiners talked to ASQ member leaders and board members to really gauge what kind of organization this is.  I think the results demonstrate unequivocally that ASQ practices what it preaches.

We believe in rigorous self-examination and continuous improvement— in fact, we believe in it strongly enough to put ourselves through it, too.  This extraordinary recognition reflects the untiring efforts of our staff and ASQ member leaders who make us what we are.

Have you been part of an organization that has embarked on an excellence program?  In the end, such a program is really not about the award, but about improvement. What has been your experience with this exercise in organizational self-examination?

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Meet New ASQ CEO Bill Troy

My name is Bill Troy and I assumed the duties of ASQ CEO on April 21. While I have had the opportunity to meet many from the ASQ community, I know there are many others who I have not yet had the privilege of meeting.  Therefore, in this, my first blog post on View from the Q, please allow me to introduce myself and tell you a little about my professional career.

I spent my entire career in the U.S. military and it was a life and mission I loved.  When I retired I was hoping to find something that would allow me to put into practice some of the leadership and management lessons I learned at the feet of wonderful leaders; and if I could do it in service to a cause I believed in, I would be doubly blessed.

When this opportunity at ASQ presented itself, I felt it would be a good fit, both in terms of what I could offer, and what I could learn.  The U.S. military, like any good military, runs on standards, qualifications, and certifications.  We do dangerous things in training and on operations, and they cannot be done safely and effectively if the standards are not well-defined, properly communicated, and rigorously adhered to.

ASQ feels like a good fit to me because I believe in what we are doing in the quality community.  I follow a CEO, Paul Borawski, whose strong but compassionate leadership and bold vision have made an indispensable contribution to ASQ.  We are making workplaces more effective, efficient, safer, and more in touch with the needs of the people who work there.  I like that mission.

When I started this job  I also knew I could learn a lot and I am learning every day.  I am a big believer in lifelong learning. Not only do I have an opportunity to lead a great organization and passionate community, but I’ve also been introduced to the incredible world of tools, techniques, and insights you possess.  I am proud to join you and lend whatever abilities I have to making ASQ bigger and better in every way I can.

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Educating a Quality Workforce

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

Just as last year, ASQ’s World Conference on Quality and Improvement provided some great topics for discussion on View From the Q. One especially “hot” topic emerged during the last keynote of the conference, and this was the link between quality and education.

As summarized here, education reformer Michelle Rhee spoke about the poor quality of education in many U.S. public schools. Low-quality education results in a low-quality workforce, she said. Another challenge, according to Rhee, is that students in the U.S. are praised for poor performance or for “just showing up.” As a result, they expect to be celebrated for mediocrity, rather than for quality.

This message resonated with the audience more than any other idea expressed at a keynote–or maybe even the entire conference.

What do you think? Do you see a correlation between the quality of education in your country and the young people entering the workforce? Does your culture celebrate success or is any attempt considered “good enough”? And finally, what is the role of quality in improving public education in any nation?

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Day 3 of ASQ World Conference: Celebrate Quality

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

Michelle Rhee at ASQ's World Conference 2014. Photo by Elias Monreal

Perhaps one of the strongest pro-quality messages at the entire 2014 ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement  came during the final keynote of the event. Education reformer Michelle Rhee spoke of turning around a failing school district. Although Rhee doesn’t work in “quality” per se, her speech energized the audience to stand up and clap in agreement. Her conclusion was saluted with a standing ovation.

Rhee’s key points? Education is a priority because it determines the quality of the workplace we will get. And, in the U.S., we overpraise our children and give out too many unearned trophies and awards during the course of their education. We celebrate mediocrity, rather than quality.

Rhee’s closing keynote was preceded by the International Team Excellence Awards

Parade of teams at the International Team Excellence Awards ceremony. Photo by Elias Monreal.

process ceremony–an  antidote to mediocrity if there ever was one. Team Excellence recognizes the best quality improvement teams worldwide, and is the only international team recognition process of its kind in the world. This year’s winners are:

Bronze level:

  • Volkswagen Argentina Cordoba Plant, Contact Zone team
  • JCYM Continuous Improvement Team, Johnson Controls, Shanghai
  • Genpact, Transforming Order to Cash Process team
  • Max Life Insurance Co., Proactive Retention team

Silver level:

  • Team Blitz, Khazanah Nasional Berhad

Gold level:

  • Dubai Aluminum, DUBAL Stub Repair Reduction Team
  • Matter of Time team, Tgestiona

Matter of Time team, Tgestiona. Photo by Elias Monreal.

And this concludes our coverage of the 2014 ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement. Conversations are ongoing on Twitter with the hashtag #WCQI14. Thank you for a fantastic, energetic event! We hope you can join us next year in Nashville, May 4-6.

What did you think of the conference? Leave a comment or email us at

World Conference Kickoff roundup

World Conference Day 1 roundup

World Conference Day 2 roundup

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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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