Averting Disaster

How quality could prevent the next big oil spill

While politicians, oil executives and environmentalists continue to delve into what caused the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion April 20 and then hampered the efforts to contain and clean up the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, there’s at least one quality professional focused on how companies can prevent catastrophes such as this one from ever happening again.

For Ben Marguglio, chair of the ASQ Energy and Environmental Division, it’s clear that quality and risk management systems could have been used to prevent—or at least mitigate—the accident and the ensuing consequences.

"Any enterprise that’s engaged in activities with the potential for public and employee harm should be required to implement quality and risk management systems," Marguglio recently told ASQ Weekly. "And these systems should be for the prevention of intolerable effects, and these management systems should have a focus on various types of analyses for the quality of hardware design and quality of process design." These analytical systems include failure mode and effects analysis, hazard barrier effects analysis and probabilistic risk analysis, he explained.

Marguglio, who authored the book and seminar Human Error Prevention, is an expert on risk management systems and root cause analysis (RCA). He said an RCA investigation will identify human error in the design and implementation of the processes used in the BP accident and answer questions about the prevention of future accidents and the consequences of these disasters.

In addition, Marguglio said there are actions organizations must focus on to prevent the type of accident that occurred in the Gulf:

  1. Identify hazards with appropriate analytical techniques and eliminate the hazards if possible. If that’s not possible, establish administrative and technical techniques, tools and methods to prevent errors that activate the hazards, and establish techniques to detect the errors and the hazards.
  2. Learn how to recognize the error-inducing conditions, and then learn how to eliminate them. "When we can’t eliminate them, learn how to behave so as to counteract them," Marguglio said. "By employing these dozens of counteractive behaviors, we’ll be reducing the potential for initiating errors."
  3. Counter rash decisions with thought processes and behaviors to result in more conservative, thought-out decisions. Conservative decisions traditionally take more time to realize and are more deliberate. "We have to learn the thought processes and behaviors that lead to conservative decisions, practice them and apply them consistently," he said.
  4. Prevent recurrence of error through coaching, problem reporting, and using RCA, corrective action and key performance indicators.

Darrell Harris, a member of ASQ’s Mississippi Gulf Coast Section, agrees with Marguglio’s assessment that quality systems are essential for organizations that operate in potentially hazardous environments. Harris works as a technical director and quality assurance officer at Micro-Methods Laboratory Inc., located in Ocean Springs, MS, about 115 miles north of the Deepwater Horizon location. The company has been involved with the cleanup analysis efforts since the beginning of the Gulf disaster.

Had there been a functioning quality system in place, the accident could have been avoided or the severity of the ensuing spill greatly diminished, Harris said. "A quality system should have checks and balances in decision processes," he added. "Analysis of limits of performance should be in place to dictate decisions, not the bottom-line dollar amount."

Cleanup efforts

In addition to looking to the future, Harris and other ASQ members are getting their hands dirty by assisting in the oil spill cleanup—and using quality tools to do so.

Harris and Micro-Methods provide environmental analytical testing services to environmental engineering firms, state agencies, local municipalities and citizens.

Since the spill occurred, Micro-Methods has been busy analyzing oil samples. The process is heavily influenced by quality tools and methods.

"Each step in this process is done by following standard operating procedures, noting quality control anomalies, noting sample anomalies and reviewing internally," Harris said. "All procedures and ethical standards are defined in our quality manual. All personnel are trained and annually qualified to perform their tasks, and those records are maintained as a part of our quality system."

Harris said he’s learned, as a quality person, that quality is a mind-set. "The definition of quality processes causes an organization to investigate internal procedures on a step-by-step basis," he said. "Through this investigation, quality improvements, productivity improvements and safety improvements can be made."

—Nicole Adrian, contributing editor

Former ASQ Board Member Chosen to Replace Berwick

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s (IHI) Board of Directors has chosen Maureen Bisognano to succeed Don Berwick as president and CEO of the advocacy group.

Bisognano, who is also an instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, is an ASQ member and a former treasurer of the society. She had worked as IHI’s executive vice president and chief operating officer for 15 years.

Last month, Berwick began serving as the new administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

"Maureen Bisognano is the ideal successor to Don Berwick, who has led IHI with such extraordinary insight, vision, and drive since its founding in 1991," said A. Blanton Godfrey, IHI’s board chairman.

"Maureen has been Don’s chief partner in IHI’s management and evolution since she joined IHI in 1995. She is a prominent authority on improving healthcare systems and is well known and widely respected throughout the global healthcare improvement community," he said.

Before her arrival at IHI, Bisognano was senior vice president of the Juran Institute. There, she consulted with senior management on the implementation of total quality management in healthcare settings.

Bisognano said she looks forward to the challenges ahead.

"I am honored to serve as IHI’s next president and CEO and look forward to working to close the gaps that still exist in health and healthcare quality," she said. "We are ready to take on the challenges ahead."

Visit www.ihi.org/ihi for more on Bisognano’s IHI appointment.



The number of ASQ members who have received the ASQ Testimonial Award since May 2009.

ASQ’s board of directors and awards board recognized these individuals for their contributions to the field of quality or the allied sciences through service to ASQ.

Those who have been recognized are: Chris Anderson, Guiomar "Gil" Andrade, Ronald D. Atkinson, Søren Bisgaard, Frank Bykaylo, Elizabeth Burns, Hank Campbell, Kenneth Case, Belinda Chavez, Rosemarie Christopher, William M. Ferguson, Joy A. Flynn, Stephen K. Hacker, Robert Herhold Jr., Jose Benito Flores Juárez, Rajesh Jugulum, Ronald G. Kingen, Chen L. Low, Martin J. Millea, Michael D. Nichols, Roberto M. Saco, Aimee H. Siegler, Jim Spichiger, Willy Vandenbrande, John E. West and Daniel S. Whelan Jr.


Quick Poll Results

Each month at www.qualityprogress.com, visitors can take an informal survey, and we post the results.

Here are the numbers from a recent Quick Poll:

"What is the most important characteristic a leader must have?"

  • Trust and respect. 47.7%
  • Vision. 26.1%
  • Motivation and innovation. 13.8%
  • Confidence. 7.2%
  • Enthusiasm. 5%

Visit www.qualityprogress.com for the most recent poll question:

"Which company was hurt most by quality issues this year?"

  • Apple.
  • BP.
  • Johnson & Johnson.
  • Toyota.


Banding Together

Groups partner in surgical care initiative to improve quality of care

To address surgical complications and look at ways to lower healthcare costs, two organizations in Florida are partnering on ways to improve the quality of care.

The Florida Hospital Association (FHA), the American College of Surgeons (ACS) and the ACS Florida chapter have teamed up in the Florida Surgical Care Initiative (FSCI). The unique collaboration will focus on reducing surgical complications and improving the quality of care in participating hospitals. The initiative aims to get ahead of another important healthcare topic: addressing regional variations in the quality and cost of care.

Hospitals are choosing to focus on surgical quality because it presents an opportunity to address significant complications while making a noteworthy impact on costs and hospital readmission rates. The FSCI will focus on four key areas: surgical site infections, urinary tract infections, colorectal surgery outcomes and elderly surgery outcomes.

The ACS developed these four measures in partnership with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Florida hospitals will be the first in the nation to participate in this outcomes-based program.

This initiative is different from other quality programs that have been implemented because the FSCI uses data collected from medical charts, not claims data. "We capture key medical points with the idea of critical care in mind," said Bruce Rueben, FHA president. "When we want to improve care, we need accurate data from the patient."

The initiative is based on the ACS National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (NSQIP), which uses risk-adjusted, clinical, 30-day outcomes data to review and assess outcomes and complications related to surgical care.

 "FSCI will give a true picture of quality and cost, showing where we excel and where we can make improvements," Reuben said.

Using ACS NSQIP has been shown to significantly reduce complications and deaths in participating hospitals and helps hospitals save money by preventing costly complications.

If the FSCI has similar results, the initiative could save millions of dollars a year, Reuben said. "Measuring and improving quality are becoming critical to improving healthcare. These measures will help us lead, rather than follow." 

"Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida believes this program provides the best tools and resources for improving surgical care," said Brian Kiss, M.D., senior medical director of healthcare programs for the insurer. The FSCI is supported in part by a grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida. "Our relationships with doctors and hospitals have never been more important."

The FHA and ACS hope to get at least 100 hospitals involved in the initiative. At some point, the organizations would like to involve every hospital in Florida. Currently, about 70 hospitals have committed to participating in the FSCI, but nothing has been put in writing.

"By improving surgical care and reducing healthcare costs, Florida can become a national example of what’s right in healthcare—and most important, what’s right for our patients," Reuben said.

—Nicole Adrian, contributing editor

ASQ News

MEDAL NAMED FOR MEMBER A new award established by the Society of Automotive Engineers International has been named for an ASQ member. The Subir Chowdhury Medal of Quality Leadership will be given to those in the mobility industry who are innovative and broaden the impact of quality in mobility engineering, design and manufacturing. Chowdhury is chairman and CEO of ASI Consulting Group LLC in Bingham Farms, MI. Deadline for nominations is Dec. 1. For more details, visit www.sae.org/news/awards/list/chowdhury.

ASQ PRESENCE AT EUROPEAN EVENT Peter Andres, chair of ASQ’s board of directors, and Paul Borawski, ASQ executive director and chief strategic officer, are scheduled to present at the Congress of European Quality Organization, Oct. 26-27, in Izmir, Turkey. For more details about the event, visit www.tse.org.tr/eoq2010.

ASQ’s NORTH JERSEY Section 304 has issued a call for papers for its annual spring conference in 2011. The conference theme is living quality. Deadline to submit papers is Aug. 31. For more details, visit www.asqnorthjersey.org/asqSQC_Call_for_Papers_2011.doc.

ISO 26000 FDIS AVAILABLE The final draft international standard (FDIS) of ISO 26000:2010—Guidance on social responsibility has been released. The international standard is expected to be available in November. To puchase the FDIS of the social responsibility standard, visit the ASQ Quality Press online bookstore at www.asq.org/quality-press/index.html.

ASQ Initiative Targets Young Quality Professionals

Editor’s note: Roberto Saco, chairman of ASQ’s board of directors and a former ASQ president, has been involved in discussions related to ASQ’s young membership. He prepared this report on the latest ASQ efforts to reach out to young professionals.

As the world around us changes and as new generations enter the workforce with fresh ideas, ASQ is not only reacting to these changes, but is also taking a proactive approach to incorporating young professionals into the organization.

The Young Quality Professionals Network (YQPn) emerged from the Ideas to Action Gathering event in late 2009. There, several member leaders provided feedback about a lack of an organized approach to support the needs and hear the voices of younger ASQ members.

The YQPn creates a community and foundation for ASQ’s young professional members by developing resources and learning opportunities relevant to them. The hope is to build support for the next generation of leaders and reach out to students and other young professionals with an interest in quality or a need for tools, resources and guidance to enhance their careers and growth.

Geared toward individuals who are 40 and younger, the network:

  • Is dedicated to building and developing the next generation of leaders in the quality profession.
  • Encourages members to get involved and make a difference by becoming active participants in the professional, civic and social aspects of their organizations and communities.
  • Offers its community members a way to link to one another to share interests, professional ambitions and experiences.
  • Drives positive and real change in quality, while giving young professionals a chance to make a significant impact.

The start of an idea

Prior to the YQPn initiative, ASQ and the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Baldrige office co-sponsored a roundtable discussion in June 2009 to bring together business and quality leaders with the goal of exploring the trends and forces shaping quality and performance excellence. It was a way to expand the mission of the ASQ Futures Study while exploring the impact of societal changes and technology in the domain of quality.

There were several positive outcomes from this meeting. One key observation was that the younger generation was underrepresented. It was proposed that as part of the Quality in the 21st Century initiative, a New Voices project be initiated, providing the opportunity to engage young quality professionals in open dialogue so their voices could be heard within ASQ.

It was determined the dialogues would:

  • Gather information to serve as an additional input to the strategic and business planning process.
  • Occur as a series of one-day facilitated discussions in college or university settings, with participation of at least 25 young professionals in each.
  • Include participants ranging from current students to individuals with five to 10 years of experience in the workforce.
  • Welcome not only ASQ members or even those with knowledge of the organization, but also individuals with an interest in quality from a variety of backgrounds, including business, engineering, nursing, liberal arts, science and education.

The first program was held May 1 at the University of Miami’s Business School in Coral Gables, FL. As the spring semester ended, enthusiastic young professionals from several business sectors grappled with questions, such as what quality is, what quality management means and where organizational performance excellence is and isn’t found in business today.

The intense discussions included new voices focusing on the future of quality and impassioned leaders using quality tools and systems spreading the word about quality’s value.

Putting their heads together

The dialogue participants came from diverse backgrounds and professions. Putting preconceived notions of quality and business performance excellence aside, they worked together to craft core themes for quality in the 21st century. Their conclusions represent opportunities and challenges for quality professionals and practitioners, as well as executive leaders.

Participants were also asked to create a model for a 21st century professional trade association that would effectively support and meet the needs of young professionals. The participants collaborated with university students to design organizations that strayed from the more traditional view of professional and trade organizations. The trade associations they created were more adaptive and flexible, with many services offered free or through an a la carte fee structure.

Key elements of the business models included the prominence of social networks; the opportunity to solve everyday business operation and large-scale societal problems; and short and long-term action-oriented participation, including philanthropic opportunities for individuals and organizations.

More dialogues to follow

The YQPn will partner with ASQ and some universities to host at least four more dialogues in the coming months. To learn more about the network and to read the briefing report, visit http://community.asq.org/networks/young_quality_professionals_yqp.

Who’s Who in Q

NAME: Malvinder Singh.

RESIDENCE: Uttrakhand, India.

EDUCATION: Master’s degree in engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology in Roorkee, India.

CURRENT JOB: Senior deputy general manager of quality at Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd. in Haridwar, India.

PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE: Singh has 32 years of experience in quality assurance and quality control for turbine and generator manufacturers.

INTRODUCTION TO QUALITY: Singh said he first heard about quality in 1978, when he started reading Philip Crosby’s Quality is Free.

ASQ ACTIVITIES: Singh is a member of ASQ.

OTHER ACTIVITIES: He is a fellow of the Institution of Engineers (India), the Indian Institute of Welding and the Indian Institute of Material Management. Singh is also a member of the National Center for Quality Management India, the Quality Circle Forum of India, the American Society of Welding, the All India Management Association, the Computer Society of India and the Institute of Directors (India). He holds several quality-related certifications

PUBLISHED: Singh has been published in many magazines and journals, including Materials Management Review, Quality Times Journal, Productivity News Journal-New Delhi, Standards India and Industrial Product Finder Mumbai.

RECENT HONORS: Among his other numerous awards and recognitions, Singh has received the Jewel of India Award from the Indian Solidarity Council-New Delhi, and IPH named him a Man of Achievement in 2000. He also received a Millennium Achiever Award 2001 from the India Semiconductor Association and the Rashtriya Gaurav Award from the Indian International Friendship Society.

PERSONAL: Married.


QUALITY QUOTE: Seek knowledge, challenge yourself and keep learning every day. Also, remember that the economics of quality is a foundational skill for the quality professional.

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