Q&A With World Conference Keynote Speakers

Donna Shalala, Jim Carroll and Adam Kahane will be the keynote speakers for this year’s World Conference on Quality and Improvement, April 30-May 2, in Orlando, FL. Quality Progress recently spoke with them about their thoughts on quality, where it’s heading and where it should go.

Donna Shalala, president of the University of Miami, served as Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary for eight years under President Clinton. In March, she was named co-chair of the President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors, a commission formed after negative reports surfaced of outpatient care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

How familiar were you with ASQ before being asked to speak at the World Conference?

Well, I was (familiar). I’ve been following the quality movement for a long time through the Institute of Medicine. We did a commission on patients’ bill of rights, which I chaired. So, I’ve been involved in the movement for a long time.

What quality related advances in healthcare are you most proud of from your time as HHS Secretary?

I think all the things we did on patient safety and satisfaction and organizational efficiency are useful. For the first time, there’s a whole quality movement in healthcare. I learned a lot from the airline industry and from a whole body of research.

What have you witnessed in healthcare since your term ended?

Almost every healthcare organization I know now has some kind of internal capacity to worry about patient safety issues. Fundamentally, it’s the quality movement that is the context for all of that. Quality of care and patient safety are central now to healthcare, and the focus is on reducing medical errors. As you put systems in place and eliminate waste, you increase your ability to improve the patient experience and the flow in your organization.

How important are electronic health records in improving healthcare?

I think they’re very important, and I think they’re going to be central to what happens in the future.

How discouraging is it to hear about what’s allegedly going on at Walter Reed Army Medical Center?

It’s a complicated issue, because we’d just gone through a reform of the veterans’ hospital system … to refocus it on prevention and the aging population that it will have to deal with. And then suddenly we get into a war. We’re very effective at saving lives, though not limbs, and we have a very large number of disabled soldiers coming over for their rehab. I think the veterans’ hospital system just didn’t have the capacity to absorb it. So, it tells us a lot about our inability to scale up. It doesn’t tell us as much about quality as it does the systems you have to have in place to scale up when you’re in an emergency situation.

Another sector quality professionals are trying to get involved in is education. As president of the University of Miami, what do you see as the role of quality tools in improving education?

I’ve been a long-time leader in higher education and the integration of quality, including TQM (total quality management) and the later versions of it, in smoothing out the processes in higher education. I often use quality techniques in my large lecture classes to just make sure the students understand material. So, I’ve applied and used data to improve my own classes.

Adam Kahane is a founding partner of Generon Consulting in Cambridge, MA, and author of Solving Tough Problems: An Open Way of Talking, Listening and Creating New Realities (Berrett-Koehler, 2004). He has held strategic problem solving positions for organizations in London, San Francisco, Paris, Vienna and Tokyo.

You’ve worked all over the world solving problems for a variety of organizations. Why did you decide to start a consulting firm?

Before I settled in Massachusetts, I had spent my career in the corporate sector. I decided to go into consulting rather than just stay at Shell (in London) because I became fascinated by a class of problems that cannot be solved by a single sector or single organization. It’s not that I particularly wanted to be a consultant, but the work I wanted to do required me to have a base outside of a distinct organization.

The quality profession is already heavily focused on processes and systematic problem solving. What is the next step?

For simple problems, a process expert or engineer can figure out how to do things better. But, the kind of problems I’ve been working on—judicial reform in Argentina, the future of Israel, healthcare in the United States—are problems where, even if there was somebody who knew the right thing to do, it doesn’t work like that. These are problems that require the people with the stake in the problem—who have widely different perspectives and mental models and interests—to figure it out together.

People (who don’t understand problem solving) say, “We just want this problem solved,” but usually the problems are caused by lousy solutions of the past. I’m offering a different framework for thinking about problem solving; in particular, that highly complex problems can only be solved if you directly involve the actors in the problem, both in defining the problem and in defining the solution. In a way, that level of involvement is a redefinition of what it means to be a quality process professional. With certain problems, you can’t be a problem solver; it won’t work. You have to be a facilitator of the actors solving the problem themselves.

How does the average quality professional promote systematic problem solving in a company full of people who might not see its value?

Start small, and prove that it works. Start as local as you have to. Ultimately, we’re talking about a different way of doing things, and you want to create living examples of how this way of doing things works.

Jim Carroll has been working as a futurist and innovation expert for 18 years.

A lot of people probably don’t know what a futurist is. Explain what you do.

Essentially, I spend a lot of time examining what is happening with different industries, with different professions, with different skills, and put that into perspective for people so they can think about what might be coming next in their industry.

What is coming next in quality?

I think it’s going to be managing quality in a period of high velocity change. We are in a very high velocity economy. Business models are changing at a furious pace. Products are coming to market faster than ever before. We are seeing faster rates of innovation. We have to ask ourselves, “What will the impact of that be on the concept of quality? And how do we rethink what we’ve been doing in an era of ever more rapid change?”

It doesn’t matter if we’re thinking of that from a product perspective or professional skills perspective or process perspective. The fact is things are happening faster, and that has implications on quality. One of the words I like to use is “agility.” How do we develop agility so that we can respond quickly to changes?

How can one ASQ member who is trying to bring innovation to an organization make a difference?

The quality guy or lady is probably a lonely individual because he or she can be perceived as getting in the way of the rush to market. But the risk of screwing up that comes with a high velocity market is magnified. We’re in the YouTube era, where somebody can take a video of your product screwing up and post it online. Then you’re in trouble.

Quality people probably aren’t getting as much respect or attention as they used to, so I think it’s important that they heighten the importance of quality and get the word out there, because the consequences of things going wrong are potentially so much worse. They have to get across to their bosses that all a company needs is one video clip of something bad happening, and it will do millions of dollars in brand damage. That’s the reality.


ACSI Report: Satisfaction Hits All-Time High

Customer satisfaction with the U.S. retail and service sectors reached an all-time high in the fourth quarter of 2006, according to a report released by the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).

Customer satisfaction climbed to 74.9 on ACSI’s 100-point scale, up 0.7% from the previous quarter, and up almost 2% from the previous year. This is the highest score the ACSI has recorded since 1994 (74.8), the year the index began.

Every fourth quarter, the ACSI measures customer satisfaction for the retail and financial services sectors and e-commerce. Improvements in customer satisfaction occurred across the board, with nine of the 13 industries measured in the fourth quarter showing improvements.

Customer satisfaction with the retail sector, which includes department and discount stores, specialty retail stores, supermarkets, gas stations, and health and personal care stores, jumped 2.8% to a rating of 74.4.

Every industry but one in the finance and insurance category saw improvements in customer satisfaction. In the aggregate, the finance and insurance sector jumped 2.7% to 76, its highest score since 1994 (78.5). The finance and insurance sector includes commercial banks and property, life and health insurance.

E-commerce improved for the second year in a row, and at 80 is less than a point off its all-time high (80.8 in 2003). The e-commerce sector includes e-retail, online auctions, online brokerages and online travel.

To view the full report, go to www.theacsi.org.

ASQ News

REGIONAL DIRECTORS ELECTED The results are in for the 2007-09 regional director elections. Only directors for odd-numbered regions were elelcted this year. The winners are: Roger J. Keller (region one), David B. Levy (region three), Richard A. Litts (region five), Holly A. Duckworth (region seven), Richard F. McKeever (region nine), Diane M. Byrd (region 11), Cheryl L. Persinger (region 13) and Joni Judd (region 15).

WORLD CONFERENCE TO INCLUDE CAREER FAIR On May 1, from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., at the World Conference on Quality and Improvement, ASQ will hold a career fair. HR representatives from several companies will be present to conduct interviews. Go to ASQ’s online career center at http://careers.asq.org to create your personal profile or schedule an interview.

QUARTERLY QUALITY REPORT OFFERS TAX PREPARATION TIPS ASQ’s latest Quarterly Quality Report focuses on how basic quality tools such as the plan-do-check-act cycle and benchmarking can help people file taxes. To view the report, go to www.asq.org/quality-report/reports/200703.html.


Former Astronaut to Speak at Healthcare Conference

F. Andrew Gaffney, senior vice chair for clinical services at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, TN, will be a keynote speaker at the Quality Institute for Healthcare (QIHC), April 30-May 2, in Orlando, FL. Gaffney will speak Monday evening.

A cardiologist and former space shuttle astronaut, Gaffney is a partner in LifeWings, an organization that specializes in bringing the safety culture and practices of aviation and the space industry to healthcare organizations.

On May 1 at the QIHC, Sister Mary Jean Ryan will hold a signing for her new book, On Becoming Exceptional: SSM Health Care’s Journey to Baldrige and Beyond. Ryan is president and CEO of SSM Health Care in St. Louis, the first healthcare organization to win a Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.

The QIHC will be held concurrently with the ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement. Attendees who register for QIHC will have access to all World Conference events. Those who register for the World Conference will have access to select QIHC case presentations.

For more information and to register, go to http://qihc.asq.org.


California Law Will Let Officials Name Retailers in Food Recalls

A new law in California will authorize health officials to name retailers that sold meat and poultry included in food recalls. The law goes into effect July 1.

Store names are typically not mentioned in recalls because the business ties between food manufacturers and their retail customers have been considered confidential business information. The exception to this is when a recall involves a store brand, such as Wal-Mart’s Great Value peanut butter, which was recalled in February.

The California law is based on a national proposal by the U.S. Depart-ment of Agriculture (USDA), which wants to post retailer names and store locations on its website for all meat and poultry recalls. The agency expects to finalize its plans by year’s end.

If it follows through, it will break ranks with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which oversees other food recalls. The FDA has no plans to release retailer names, as it considers them confidential business information, spokesman Michael Herndon told USA Today.

Supporters say the California and USDA measures are intended to help consumers avoid tainted meat, not to embarrass retailers, who typically are blameless for the meat’s condition.

“Many consumers don’t know what brand they buy, but they know where they shop,” Nancy Donley, president of the not-for-profit health organization STOP, or Safe Tables Our Priority, told USA Today.

Donley said disclosing retailer names is especially important for recalls of items such as ground beef, which is repackaged by supermarkets and might not include a manufacturer’s name.

The American Meat Institute, which represents beef, pork, lamb and turkey packers and processors, and the Food Marketing Institute, which represents food retailers and wholesalers, oppose the plans.

They say recalls will be less effective if retailers are named. Instead of checking their refrigerators and freezers for recalled products, consumers will check the USDA website for retailer names, they say. Because a completed list of retailer names can take several days to be compiled, consumers might check the USDA website, not see their retailer and therefore not check their households, the associations argue.

These consumers will miss their retailer if it is later added to the list—or forget where they bought a product—and end up eating recalled food, they say.

The “current system encourages [consumers] to do the single most important thing ... to protect themselves: check their refrigerators and freezers,” the Food Marketing Institute said in its written opposition to the measure.

Short Runs

THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY (NIST) has issued a report on U.S. measurement systems, assessing the capacity of the nation’s measurement infrastructure to sustain innovation. More than 1,000 people from industry, academia and government contributed to “An Assessment of the United States Measurement System: Addressing Measurement Barriers to Accelerate Innovation,” which is available at http://usms.nist.gov.

ISO/TS 22003:2007, a new technical specification, has been published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The document provides information, criteria and guidance for auditing and certification to ISO 22000, a standard covering food safety management systems. To order ISO/TS 22003, e-mail sales@iso.org or contact ISO national member institutes—the American National Standards Institute, www.ansi.org, in the United States.

JOINT COMMISSION IS SEEKING comprehensive, innovative and cost effective hand hygiene measurement methods that address adherence to hand hygiene guidelines to share with healthcare organizations. It is part of the Joint Commission’s 18-month Consensus Measurement in Hand Hygiene project. The strategies identified through the project will be included in a free publication due for release in early 2008. For more information or to submit methods, go to www.jointcommission.org/accreditationprograms/ hand_hygiene.htm.

ISO REPORTS THAT the future ISO 26000 standard on social responsibility has reached a “turning point” in terms of consensus among participating stakeholders. This was the opinion of leadership of the ISO working group developing the standard at the end of a Jan. 29-Feb. 2 meeting in Sydney, Australia. The working group’s next meeting will be Nov. 5-9 in Vienna, Austria.

THE NATIONAL COMMITTEE FOR QUALITY ASSURANCE (NCQA) has announced that all health plans seeking NCQA accreditation will be required to report on the quality of care delivered to patients. Under the new program, NCQA will evaluate preferred provider organizations (PPOs) on the same set of standards, clinical measures and patient experience ratings on which it evaluates health maintenance organizations and point-of-service plans. Nearly two-thirds of privately insured Americans—or more than 150 million people—are enrolled in PPOs. For more information, go to www.ncqa.org.

THE NATIONAL HIGHWAY TRAFFIC SAFETY ADMINISTRATION has released its model year 2007 crash and rollover safety ratings. Receiving five stars, the highest rating, in front and side crash tests were 24 passenger vehicles including seven four-door passenger vehicles and 17 four-door SUVs. The complete results can be found at www.safercar.gov.

THE SUPPLY CHAIN COUNCIL recently launched its first interactive Supply Chain Operations Reference (SCOR) model implementation training course. The course gives participants a hands-on, interactive experience to develop workflow and project specific templates. Find additional information and a course calendar for the SCOR 8.0 model at www.supply-chain.org.


Toyota, Honda Again Top Consumer Reports List

Toyota and Honda dominated this year’s Consumer Reports auto rankings, as Japanese models once again finished first in all 10 of the magazine’s vehicle categories.

Toyota’s RAV4, Highlander hybrid, Sienna and Prius took top honors in their categories—small sport utility vehicle (SUV), mid-size SUV, minivan and “green” car, respectively. Honda’s Fit, Accord and Civic came out on top in the subcompact, family sedan and small sedan categories, respectively.

Cars from Mazda and Infiniti, Nissan Motor Co.’s luxury division, rounded out the top 10.

It was the fifth straight year Toyota and Honda—and their Lexus and Acura luxury brands—have taken at least seven of the 10 categories, and the second year in a row Japanese vehicles finished first in every class.

“This reflects the fact that these automakers tend to build well-rounded, balanced vehicles that do well in a number of our tests, and thoses type of vehicles tend to rise to the top of our ratings,” Consumer Reports’ automotive editor Rik Paul told the Los Angeles Times.

German luxury nameplate Mercedes-Benz, which is owned by DaimlerChrysler, finished last in the magazine’s reliability ratings, which are based on subscriber surveys and for the first time included responses dating back 10 years. Donna Boland, a spokeswoman for the Mercedes, contested the findings.

“It’s inconsistent with what we’re seeing,” she told the Times. “We had some issues a couple of years back, but today’s models are some of the best we’ve ever built. If their survey doesn’t reflect that, then there’s something wrong with the survey.”

Consumer Reports did, however, find that Mercedes vehicles are leaders in safety and tend to perform well in road tests.

While Toyota and Honda were tops in reliability, not all Japanese automakers scored well in that area. Although several of Nissan’s vehicles drew high reliability ratings, the Armada and Infiniti QX SUVs and Titan pickup were among the models with the most problems. All are made at the same plant in Mississippi.

Ford and General Motors brands, such as Chevrolet, Buick and Pontiac, finished in the middle of the pack in terms of reliability. Ford’s Mercury brand was the only domestic nameplate to make the top 10. Other bright spots for U.S. automakers included the Ford Fusion, Mercury Milan, Chevrolet Tahoe and Buick Lucerne, which all scored above average in first-year reliability.

The last time Consumer Reports rated a U.S. vehicle first in any of its categories was in 2005, when the Ford Focus was named best small sedan. The magazine later reversed that decision after the Focus performed poorly in side impact crash tests.

Each year, Consumer Reports rates new cars and light trucks based on federal and insurance industry crash tests, reader reliability surveys and results of more than 50 road and lab tests that it performs. This year’s rankings are posted at www.consumerreports.org and included in the magazine’s April issue.


2007 Shingo Prize Winners Named

The Shingo Prize for Excellence in Manufacturing was recently presented to 12 organizations.

Recipients are Autoliv CMX facility, Querétado, Mexico; Baxter Healthcare Corp., North Cove plant, Marion, NC; Baxter S.A. de C.V., Cuernavaca plant, Morelos, Mexico; Cordis de Mexico, Juarez; Delphi Packard Electrical/Electronic Architecture’s Chihuahua 1 and Fresnillo 1 plants, Mexico.

Also, Denso Manufacturing Tennessee Inc., Instrument Cluster Division, Maryville, TN; Hearth & Home Technologies, Mount Pleasant, IA; Hon Co., Los Angeles South Gate plant, South Gate, CA; Raytheon Missile Systems, Louisville, KY; Solectron Manufactura de Mexico, Guadalajara; and Takata Seat Weight Sensor, Equipo Automotriz Americana, Monterrey, Mexico.

Nonrecipient finalists were BAE Systems, Ground Systems Division, York, PA; Boeing Co. Support Systems, San Antonio; and ZF Lemforder Corp. Tusca-loosa Plant, AL.

Recipients were required to show effective use of lean enterprise management, also known as the Toyota production system, as their business approach.


Member Dues Increase

The ASQ Board of Directors recently voted to increase member dues slightly for the 2007-2008 renewal season. According to a study done by the board, the cost of delivering member benefits and services increased 6.4% in the past year.

Membership applications began reflecting the dues increase in March. Following is a list of individual membership categories and benefits, with the new dues amounts:

  • Regular: Includes membership in a local section; membership in one industry specific forum or division; a subscription to Quality Progress; discounts on books published by ASQ’s Quality Press; discounts on ASQ courses, conferences and certifications; voting rights on ASQ issues and in ASQ elections; and electronic access to all members only areas of ASQ’s website, including Quality News Today. Old dues: $119. New dues: $125.
  • Senior: This level is available to anyone who has been a regular member for one year, has 10 years of professional experience and meets one of four criteria outlined on the senior membership application (www.asq.org/pdf/membership-applications/senior-member-application.pdf). The benefits are the same as regular membership but with a choice of one extra benefit option. The options are: a subscription to one ASQ journal, membership in two additional forums or divisions, or membership in one additional section. Old dues: $119. New dues: $125.
  • Fellow: This is the same as senior member but with advanced qualifications. Fellows must have 15 years of quality related experience, meet minimum score requirements across six professional categories, be sponsored by peers and endorsed by their section or division, and have been a senior member for five years or longer. Old dues: $119. New dues: $125.
  • Associate: Includes electronic access to all members only sections of ASQ’s website, including Quality Progress and Quality News Today; discounts on Quality Press books; and discounts on ASQ courses, conferences and certifications. Does not include membership in a local section, but does include membership in a special “e-section.” Includes an online only subscription to Quality Progress. Old dues: $69. New dues: $72.
  • Forum/division: Includes membership in one ASQ forum or division. Does not include any other regular member benefits. Old dues: $29. New dues: $31.
  • Student: Includes membership in a local section and electronic access to all members only sections of ASQ’s website. Available to college students. The dues remain $25.

For more information on individual ASQ membership, go to www.asq.org/membership/individuals/overview.html.

There are also three membership options for organizations: sustaining, organizational and educational institution. To see the benefits of sustaining membership, go to www.asq.org/membership/organizations/sustaining-benefits.html. Old dues: $750. New dues: $800.

Organizational membership and educational institution membership, which are in pilot phases, are customizable options for organizations. For more information, go to www.asq.org/membership/organizations/organizations.html.

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