ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement: Day 2

The second day of ASQ’s World Conference on Quality and Improvement started with a keynote by Margaret Haffernan, an author and entrepreneur, who spoke about confirmation bias. We are drawn to the ideas and people that are familiar to us and that reflect our views–“We would rather be wrong than alone.”

In the workplace, that’s why we may be hesitant to question mistakes or authority.

“Investing time with people not like you makes conflict easier,” said Heffernan. “We have to reframe conflict as thinking and decision-making as hypothesis.”  Great questions are the heart and soul of great collective thinking—what is the dis-confirming data, what are the alternatives? The key takeaway is that willful blindness is part of being human, but we can work to overcome some of that bias.

This is a good lesson to impart at an international conference with thousands in attendance—and probably just as many learning opportunities.

A  not-unrelated takeway ran through the keynote of the afternoon speaker, Charles Best, founder of DonorsChoose.org. The organization Best founded helps raise money for schools and teachers in innovative ways–such as funding field trips or school activities for teachers whose students do well on certain assessments (a system preferable for many to tying salary to student performance).

In the afternoon, there was another opportunity for expanding one’s horizons and networking with people from all walks of life. The exhibit hall extravaganza kicked off at 2:15 p.m. and featured live music, many giveaways and prizes, and afternoon treats.

The day concluded with yet another great networking opportunity—the networking reception, which most guests attended—or so it seemed.

Wednesday highlights:

-The closing session by keynote speaker, Analjit Singh, Founder Chairman of Max India Limited, and the International Team Excellence Awards Ceremony, 10:30-noon, in Delta Ballroom A.

ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement 2015: Day 1

Every ASQ World Conference gives guests a taste of the local flavor, and, so far, ASQ’s 2015 World Conference on Quality and Improvement in Nashville, Tennessee, has been no different. At the opening reception on Sunday, May 3, a Dolly Parton impersonator and a country band welcomed visitors to the conference and to “music city.”  Naturally, the conference isn’t all fun and games, although a bit of fun is always welcome.

The theme of the 2015 conference is a lofty one: Transforming the world through innovation, inspiration, and leadership. These themes, especially inspiration and innovation, ran through the opening keynote by Shawn Achor, a best-selling author and researcher on positive psychology.

Achor said research shows that happiness is a choice for the human brain, and it’s where we decide to devote our resources that determines our level of happiness.  Happiness is the joy you feel growing toward your potential (not mere pleasure).

In relation to quality and improvement, happiness means striving toward being better and improving our companies and products. It is the opposite of complacency. Happiness isn’t pure optimism, but it’s deciding how to tackle problems and issues. Finally, positivity spreads positivity, even if it’s through very simple, no-cost gestures, such as smiling or making eye contact. A positive culture can be a better culture of quality and improvement.

These themes were also apparent in keynote speaker Dr. Joann’s Sternke’s address. Sternke, the superintendent of the award-winning Pewaukee School District, brought many program improvement and innovations to the school system. From a Baldrige perspective, she touched on themes like innovation and leadership by building a mission-driven culture.

Other notable conference events included:

  • Creative “After 5” sessions on the lighter side of quality, such as juggling and statistics and using music  for quality-based innovation.
  • The exhibit hall, home to the popular ASQ Center which has many icebreaker and networking games and opportunities: a giant Jenga game, a photo booth with goofy accessories, a photo opportunity with life-size quality guru portraits, and a live twitter feed (hashtag #WCQI15).
  • Quality impact sessions/live team case studies by finalists in ASQ’s International Team Excellence Awards process. Of course, that’s not even touching on the dozens of information-packed concurrent sessions.

Events on the lineup for Tuesday, May 5:

  • A keynote by entrepreneur and author Margaret Heffernan, 8 a.m.-9 .m.
  • A keynote by Charles Best, founder and CEO of donorschoose.com, 1:15 p.m.-2:15 p.m.
  • The exhibit hall extravaganza, 2:15-3:45, with many giveaways, prizes, and entertainment.
  • And, of course, the networking reception (ticket required), 7 p.m. – 9 p.m., in the Delta Island.

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 social@asq.org.

World Conference Kickoff roundup

World Conference Day 1 roundup

World Conference Day 2 roundup

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.