The Gift of Knowledge Transfer Through Technology

This is a guest post by ASQ Influential Voices blogger Manu Vora, chairman and president of Business Excellence, Inc USA. He is an expert in organizational excellence and the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, and blogs at Thoughts on Quality.

Most quality professionals are very proficient in technical knowledge. However, they generally focus only on the technical aspects of their work and overlook “soft” or support skills, which are also crucial for organizational success. In a global economy, professionals need to be more proficient in communication practices and principles to be successful.

One way to approach the development of communication skills and creativity is by experimenting with simple technology such as Google Hangout on Air to share knowledge with a wider audience. As an example, I will describe how this platform was used for a 12-topic leadership excellence series and presented to large audiences in organizations as diverse as Indian universities, large corporations, and ASQ member units, with more presentations planned for the future.

For working quality professionals, Google Hangouts on Air can be used for meeting with offsite colleagues, professional training, or nearly any other professional collaboration.

In regards to ASQ members in particular, with 240 ASQ Sections, 26 Divisions/Interest Groups, and 47 Local Member Communities (LMCs) outside the U.S., there are a large number of technical meetings and conferences being held almost year-round. The Google Hangout platform can easily be used to engage well-qualified speakers from around the world to deliver their topics of expertise. This platform opens up many new opportunities for member units to invite outstanding speakers with minimal time commitment and no expense for travel.

Advantages

There are several advantages to using Google Hangouts on Air.

  • It’s a free, live video conference call (note that Hangouts on Air are different from Hangouts. The Hangouts are not recorded or publicly broadcast and are intended for private conversations).
  • Note that you can certainly record a webinar through a traditional platform like WebEx, but the advantage of the Google Hangout on Air is that it’s free and also immediately shareable through YouTube and, consequently, through other social media and blogs.
  • Up to 10 different participants can take part in the Google Hangout on Air call and there’s no limit to the number or people who can watch the call.
  • Hangouts on Air are automatically recorded and posted on YouTube post-call for easy sharing and viewing (no log-ins, subscriptions, or payment). This is similar to the massive open online courses (MOOCs) distance learning effort that has been gaining popularity in the last five years.

The technology requirements for hosting a Hangout on Air are fairly simple:

  • Stable Internet connection
  • Laptop with microphone and camera
  • Gmail account for the moderator or originator of Google Hangout On Air and the active participants (but not viewers, who only need Internet access).

If using in a conference setting:

  • LCD projector
  • Screen
  • Microphone for Q&A
  • Conference room

Wide reach, low cost:

Here are a few examples of how a Google Hangout on Air can have enormous reach through fairly little organizational effort (unlike, for example, a conference or a physical meeting).

  • The aforementioned leadership excellence series has been shared with more than 6,500 students at the Indian Institute of Technology (ITT-BHU), in Varanasi, India. This series will benefit students during their school years, in their job search, and at work. The leadership excellence series topics (LES), by the way, were: leadership excellence, effective teamwork, effective time management, effective meeting management, effective decision making, effective project management, effective risk management, effective talent management, voice of the customer management, effective operational excellence, sustainable change management, and effective supply chain management.
  • With the success of this program at the IIT BHU, in collaboration with ASQ India, a consortium of engineering and management schools was set up with eight or nine institutions to be on Google Hangout at the same time:
    –At ASQ Mumbai LMC, eight Commerce, Science, Arts, Engineering and Management colleges started the LES program using Google Hangout On Air (live audience of 1,000 or more).
    –ASQ India has collaborated with eight to nine engineering and management schools to initiate similar LES program using Google Hangout On Air (live audience of 1,000 or more).
  • For international students at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, a leadership excellence series will be offered using Google Hangout platform starting in August 2015. The resultant YouTube videos will be shared with the entire campus community (7,900 people).
  • The series was also presented via Google Hangout to eight to nine regional locations of Vinmar India starting in July 2015. This will benefit the entire company in India with new knowledge.

Caveats and Conclusions

As with any software or meeting program, Hangouts on Air are occasionally prone to glitches and setup difficulties. Below, I’m sharing links to several tutorials to help make your Hangout a smooth experience, as well as a video with more information on using Hangouts in Indian universities.

In the 21st century, knowledge can be transferred globally leveraging technology. Hangouts, as well as other technology platforms, provide tremendous benefits to manage scarce budget resources for learning, development, and training.

For Discussion

What kind of resources are you using in your organization or your personal life to share information? Do you experiment with new platforms or do you prefer traditional means of transferring knowledge?

Helpful Resources

Is Every Quality Professional a Leader?

Here at ASQ we’ve introduced a powerful idea that I think can and should help shape our future.

The idea is this: Every quality professional, a leader.

Like a lot of fundamentally important concepts, this sounds simple and straightforward but needs to be thought out a bit.  In short, we want, need, and expect every one of our members—and indeed,  every person in the quality community—to grow and develop as leaders.

We at ASQ understand and endorse this idea and accept the implicit responsibility to help our members do just that.  You may hear much about leadership, but some—or even many—quality professionals don’t get opportunities to participate in leadership training. For a lot of ASQ members, I am convinced that whatever we provide may be the only leadership training they get.

So what is this connection between leadership and quality, and why is it so important?  Simply put, the quality professional, wherever he or she may be and at whatever level of management, must be a leader to be effective.  The quality professional at work somewhere in the quality field is not an artist alone at the canvas. That professional is bringing insight, tools, principles, and personal example to someone—to some crew, team, or section; to a business unit; or to something even bigger, such as a hospital, a federal agency, or a school system.

This task is going to be bigger than the sole person, perhaps much bigger.  It will involve other people, with all of their complexities, strengths, weaknesses, hopes, and fears.  So whatever our quality professional is working on, it is going to take leadership to get the job done.

Some have made the case recently that quality professionals lack the business skills needed to connect with the C-suite. Others note that quality professionals sometimes lack the “soft skills” needed to make the case for quality outside the quality department. Leadership encompasses all of the above. Business savvy, people skills, and decisive action all are required to get results in the world.

Now I want to hear from you. Do you think you are a quality leader? What kind of leadership training did you receive and was it enough?

Charting A Strategy For Quality–And Beyond

Before joining ASQ, I spent my entire career in the U.S. Army. As you may guess, strategy was an essential part of my education.  I was fortunate to attend the British Army Staff College and the Naval War College, the Army having given up educating me at an early age. I had the chance to help develop and implement strategy at several stages in my career.

In recent months I have had the opportunity to work with the ASQ Strategic Planning Committee and see how the board and the staff work together to develop ASQ’s strategy.  I have been impressed by the passion, openness, and collaboration that characterized our process.

I am someone who loves the study of strategy and I firmly believe that the underlying principles of strategy apply to almost any field of endeavor, whether you’re working in a corporation, a nonprofit, a small business, an NGO, an educational institution, healthcare–you name it.

The purpose of strategy, after all, is to answer this question: How do you get from where you are to where you want to be?  What is your path?  How are you going to get there, what steps do you need to take, and in what order?

This month, I’d like to offer five key questions about strategy that you may find useful as you work on your own strategic planning. These principles served me well when I was in uniform, and I think they will serve ASQ well now.

One caveat: Determine how much time you have to spend on strategy and act accordingly. We all must get things done, so we must not fall to “paralysis by analysis.” We can only admire the problem for so long. A good rule of thumb many of us learned in the military is the one-third, two-thirds rule.  Each level of command (or management) takes one-third of the allotted planning time and leaves two-thirds to their subordinates.  If each level of command disciplines itself to that standard, there will be a fair allocation of planning time for everyone.

1.  What are your key facts and assumptions? All strategies are based on certain essential facts and assumptions. My suggestion: Write down your facts and assumptions.  Having them in your head isn’t enough. Expose them to the scrutiny of your boss and your colleagues.  If one of your key assumptions is the availability of a certain material, is it safe to assume it will be available to you at the price and in the quantity you need?  Finally, be especially aware of hidden assumptions—these are dangerous.   It’s an assumption you may take as a given, but, in fact, it may not be.

2.  What is your theory of victory? That is a way of saying,  okay, let’s say you can accomplish all the components of your strategy- will it get you to where you want to go?  There are many examples of both nations and corporations successfully accomplishing the vital aspects of their strategy only to find their theory about where it would get them was fundamentally flawed.

3. Can you actually accomplish each aspect of your strategy? I call this the feasibility test. Something in your strategy may sound good, “be first to market,” or “cut our price by 50%,” but can you actually do it?  If the honest answer is no, it cannot be part of your strategy.

4. Is your organization doing things that sit outside your strategy? These things may be good to do, but if they seem to be outside your strategy you should question them.  They are consuming resources – time, people, and money–, but you are not balancing their cost and benefit compared to the rest of your strategy.  I am very suspicious of activities that seem to be outside my strategic framework.

5. Have you left enough planning time to test your strategy? You must test your strategy before you deploy it.  The testing might be as sophisticated as thousands of computer-run simulations or it may be as simple as a bunch of your best staff people sitting around a table trying to poke holes in your strategy.  Ask others, especially other leaders, for feedback on your strategy before it’s finalized and presented.  I have learned that an 80% solution that has been tested can often be quickly improved and you will be far better off than a more polished product that is deployed with little or no testing.

That’s my approach to strategy. What’s your approach–in your organization, your business, your professional association, or even in your personal life?