Partnering Pays Off

More than 10 years ago I helped create a new-product development process for my employer. We had learned many of our products were not getting to market in a timely manner. We had cost overruns, early start-up problems, and--most important--we were missing our customers' needs.

We created a new-product development process that started with understanding customers' present needs and estimated future needs and ended with an evaluation of our efforts. We then started the process all over again.

At ASQ the problems are no different from those of commercial organizations. If anything, the expectations for world-class quality are even higher. About five years ago, ASQ formed a new-business development unit and charged it with meeting the diverse customer needs of individuals and organizations in a dynamic and very competitive marketplace.

ASQ's strategy is based on four key points: a proactive business culture, integrated business intelligence, venture partnering, and process agility. Each of these points deserves a full column on its own, but I would like to offer a few observations about one of them: venture partnering.

The challenge in today's marketplace is to best all other competitive programs in innovation, quality, price, service, sales, marketing, and responsiveness. But few companies have the expertise to address all of these areas with world-class results. Strategic partnering can close the gap and provide mutual benefit.

Through our partnership with Arthur Andersen for the American Customer Service Index, ASQ is helping to make customer service focus a reality for an increasing number of corporate and government customers.

The Accelerating Change Collaborative Series is another ASQ partnership. The concept is to take existing knowledge on a particular topic and spread it to multiple sites with a goal of achieving measurable results in six to nine months. It was tested in an alliance with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and is entering a new phase, which targets human resources, knowledge management, and the creation of learning organizations.

Our joint venture with Six Sigma Academy is particularly noteworthy. It has been ASQ's fastest and most successful new-product introduction ever. The product itself, Black Belt training, is an extremely powerful quality tool. Each training class of 25 Black Belts generates an expected annual return of $15 million for the companies that sponsor their employees for this training.

Through partnering ASQ is making quality innovations more widely  available, and in this way helping to raise the quality of innovation to a new level.

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Ronald G. Kingen
ASQ President

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