Open to Outages?

Opinions vary on whether a blackout similar to India’s could occur in North America

Shortly after a massive power failure crippled India and nearly brought the country’s economy to its knees for two days in July, U.S. government officials and electrical power experts assured the public that an outage of that size would be extremely unlikely to happen in North America.

"We are much, much less at risk for something like that happening here, especially from the perspective of demand exceeding supply," said Gregory Reed, a professor of electrical power engineering at the University of Pittsburgh. "We’re much more sophisticated in our operations."1

The blackout was the largest in history and affected an area inhabited by 670 million people, or about 10% of the world’s population. The outage was blamed on inadequate infrastructure, a power shortage and too little government action or leadership.2

While the United States has suffered its share of massive outages—for example, in August 2003, more than 50 million people in the northeast and Canada lost power after a major U.S. grid collapsed—most electrical system problems in the United States occur as a result of natural disasters. The 2003 outage was caused by human error, not inadequate technology or infrastructure.3

Aaron Jagdfeld, president and CEO of Generac Power Systems in Waukesha, WI, however, described the U.S. power grid as "aging and fragile, and its susceptibility to outages means our way of life could break down in an instant.4

"Power quality is the measure of reliable power in our homes and businesses, and it has been declining steadily since 1990," Jagdfeld wrote in a guest blog for Forbes magazine. "During this time, demand for power has increased by 25%, but infrastructure needed to transmit power to homes has increased by a mere 7%.

"We have become a digital society, but are burdened with an analog power grid—one that is inefficient and susceptible to weather, surging demand and even terrorist attack," Jagdfeld said.5

Updating the grid won’t be cheap. Some put estimates at $2 trillion, and there are no legitimate national plans to create a new grid. Following the 2003 U.S. blackout, Congress did establish the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) to enforce reliability standards for bulk electricity generation. That’s some reassurance the United States is being proactive and prepared for possible system failures and breakdowns.

"We have the safeguards, but we cannot say it can’t happen here," said Ellen Vancko, an advisor for the Union of Concerned Scientists and a former NERC official. "It’s the most complicated system in the world."6

—Mark Edmund, associate editor


  1. Donna Leinwand Leger, "Energy Experts Say Blackout Like India’s is Unlikely in U.S.," USA Today, July 31, 2012, www.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2012-07-31/usa-india-power-outage/56622978/1.
  2. Jim Yardley and Gardiner Harris, "2nd Day of Power Failures Cripples Wide Swath of India," New York Times, Aug. 1, 2012, www.nytimes.com/2012/08/01/world/asia/power-outages-hit-600-million-in-india.html?pagewanted=all.
  3. Leger, "Energy Experts Say Blackout Like India’s is Unlikely in U.S.," see reference 1.
  4. Aaron Jagdfeld, "India-Style Blackout Could Strike the U.S.," Forbes, Aug. 6, 2012, www.forbes.com/sites/deborahljacobs/2012/08/06/india-style-blackout-could-strike-the-u-s.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Leger, "Energy Experts Say Blackout Like India’s is Unlikely in U.S.," see reference 1.


Covey’s Ideas, Influence Will Live On

His insights and influence not only changed ideas and action in the workplace, but also how people approached life and living.

"(Live by) your own set of principles, your sense of vision of what your life is about," Stephen Covey, the influential guru of management and self-help once said. "Maybe in a few months or year and a half, two years, you’ll be in an altogether different world."

Covey died in July from complications after a bicycle accident in April. He was 79.

The man who studied others’ essays and books on the secrets of success and turned what he learned into simple, straightforward advice in his best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century.

"His brilliance was in boiling down some life practices that lead to action in a way that people could get their arms around and digest, and it seemed actionable and doable and contained and straightforward," said Jennifer Chatman, a management expert at the University of California-Berkeley.

7 Habits was first published in 1989 and stayed on the New York Times best-seller list for more than five years, selling more than 20 million copies in 40 languages. Leading Fortune 500 companies and organizations, including FedEx, Hewlett-Packard, Conoco and Saturn, have embraced his ideas

 More than 800 schools around the world use his work to teach students about business, leadership and life. The work also has been called one of the top 10 business management books ever. While in the White House, President Bill Clinton lauded Covey’s concepts as a way to boost the country’s productivity.

"His timing was perfect. He really caught the wave … as people were becoming increasingly fascinated with leadership," said Barbara Kellerman, a lecturer on leadership at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. "He addressed ordinary people’s desire to succeed through leadership and management."



Change Management Key to Process Management

Change management is critical to developing strong process management capabilities, according to a new research report from the American Productivity and Quality Center (APQC).

The study, conducted with Nimbus, a business process management solutions and consulting firm, looked at six organizations’ process management capability development and reported on their best practices. Researchers found the most commonly cited ideal-world focus is strategic alignment and governance.

"Identifying tasks that can jump-start a process management program is perhaps one of the most difficult activities at an organization," said John Tesmer of APQC. "For leading organizations, it is indeed a journey as they leverage organizational culture and previous process management efforts to continue the development of strong process management capabilities."

The six organizations that participated in the study were: Energias de Portuagal, Hospira Inc., Lincoln Trust Co., National University, Northrup Grumman Corp. and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs SCSP Clinical Research Pharmacy Coordinating Center.

The study can be found at http://asq.org/knowledge-center/benchmarking-reports.


QP Unveils New Digital Format

Starting with this month’s edition, QP will be available in a new digital format that’s ideal for computer screens and tablets such as iPads and Kindle Fires.

The new format, available through a browser-enabled viewer, features technology that allows readers to actually flip through pages, zoom in and out, and connect via hyperlinks to more content in and outside the magazine.

The magazine’s appearance will not change. The same features and columns published in the hard-copy version and the online version will be offered in this new format. Like the online version at www.qualityprogress.com, the new digital edition will allow readers to share articles and information via social media and email, save content or browse archives—all stored digitally.


NOMINATIONS DUE The deadline to submit nominations for one of ASQ’s 11 award medals is Oct. 1. The medals are presented each year at ASQ’s annual World Conference on Quality and Improvement. For more information about the specific medals and to download application forms, visit http://asq.org/about-asq/awards. Contact Karen Prosser at kprosser@asq.org or 800-248-1946 x7471 with any questions.

SECOND SR REPORT For the second time in recent months, ASQ has released a resource on social responsibility (SR). Quality and Social Responsibility: A Key Business Strategy for Enhancing Competitive Position, written in partnership with IBM, shares research on SR programs and how organizations worldwide initiate and maintain them. In July, ASQ released the fourth edition of Pathways to Social Responsibility: Successful Practices for Sustaining the Future, which showcases best practices and case studies on SR. Both reports can be found under "Editor’s Picks" at http://asq.org/knowledge-center/index.html and downloaded at no cost.

TEAM DEADLINE Teams that want to participate in ASQ’s International Team Excellence Award process next year must submit applications by Sept. 12. Finalists will be selected from a preliminary round to participate in live presentations at ASQ’s World Conference on Quality and Improvement May 6-8 in Indianapolis. For more information and to submit your online entry form, visit http://wcqi.asq.org/team-competition/index.html.

UNDER 40 AWARD Elías Monréal, an ASQ member featured as one of QP’s 40 New Voices of Quality last year, has been named one of Wells Fargo’s 40 Hispanic Leaders Under 40 in Arizona. Award recipients will be honored at a ceremony in October.

AUDIT EVENT ASQ’s Audit Division will host its 21st annual conference Oct. 11-12 in Augusta, GA. The division has partnered with the Quality Management, Design and Construction, and Biomedical divisions on the event, which will follow the theme, "The Impact of Globalization on Quality." Visit http://asq.org/conferences/audit/index.html for more details about keynote speakers, the 60-plus sessions and 10 preconference tutorials to be featured at the event.

ROYAL RECOGNITION Madhav Sinha, an ASQ fellow, has received the Queens’ Diamond Jubilee Medal from Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of his 30-plus years of contributing to total quality management and promoting quality. The medal was presented during ceremonies at the fourth Canadian Quality Congress in June.

PACT IN BRAZIL ASQ Global and Qualidade RS, a quality-based association in Brazil, have signed a pact to offer ASQ certification training in that country. The first classes will begin in March 2013.

TEACHING AWARDS Michael Armstrong, an ASQ member and associate professor at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, was one of six faculty members given the Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching from the school. Armstrong also was one of five professors who received the Chancellor’s Chairs Awards for Excellence in Teaching. Armstrong received $5,000 to conduct two research projects that examine student learning.

HIGH HONOR Shoji Shiba, an international expert on total quality management and breakthrough management, has been awarded India’s Padma Shri National Honor for his contributions to Indian industry and for strengthening Indo-Japan relationships. The award, given annually by the president of India, is the fourth-highest civilian honor in India. Shiba is a member of the International Academy for Quality.

DIVISION DEVELOPMENT ASQ’s Quality Management Division recently reorganized its technical committees (TC) to better position its teams to develop quality management theory and practice. To learn more about the division’s six TCs and ways to get involved, visit http://asq-qm.org/technical-committees or contact Claud Russey, the division’s vice chair for TCs, at qmdtechcoms@gmail.com.

SCHOLARSHIP AWARDED Salah Ahmad of Houston has been awarded ASQ’s Richard A. Freund International Scholarship. Ahmad will receive $5,000 to pursue master’s degrees in mechanical engineering technology and technology project management at the University of Houston. Named for a past ASQ president, the scholarship supports a candidate’s graduate study of the theory and application of quality control, quality assurance, quality improvement and total quality management.


Audio About Audit Standard

This month, listen to an audio interview with Thea Dunmire, co-author of the cover article, "Pointed in the Right Direction" (pp. 16-22), discussing more about the recent revision of ISO 19011—Guidelines for auditing management systems and what it means for users around the world.

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 usually stifles change efforts at your organization?"

  • Uncommited leaders. 59%
  • Lack of planning. 22.7%
  • Little buy-in from team members. 15.2%
  • Limited financing. 3%

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

"Which company has recovered best from quality problems during the last few years?" 

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


ASQ Establishes Site as Hub for World Quality Month Activities

ASQ is seeking news and information related to upcoming events and other plans related to the third annual World Quality Month that will take place in November.

ASQ, the driving force behind the month-long celebration, is again hosting a website devoted to the celebration and wants to feature your stories about the impact of quality on your life or organization. ASQ will also showcase research articles, white papers, best practices and any other relevant content.

In the weeks leading up to World Quality Month, www.worldqualitymonth.com will be updated regularly with information on events, videos, stories, polls and other content.

The website also will feature a tool kit with resources to help you and your organization celebrate and promote World Quality Month. The kit will include a downloadable poster, an email signature, web banners for websites, artwork for advertisements and a press release template.

Send your World Quality Month events, resources and other contributions to worldqualitymonth@asq.org.



The number of World Class Winners of the Global Performance Awards from the Asia Pacific Quality Organization (APQO) this year. They are:

  • iGATE Patni, Karnataka, India.
  • Shanghai Waigaoqiao No. 3 Power Generation Co. Ltd., Shanghai.
  • Global Indian International School Singapore, East Coast campus.
  • Colombo International Nautical and Engineering College, Colombo, Sri Lanka.
  • Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore.

Another 13 organizations will receive Best in Class Awards and Quest for Excellence Awards from APQO at a ceremony in October in Singapore. For more information about the honorees, visit www.apqo.org or www.qualityassociation.org.


ASQ issued more than 6,500 certifications in the United States last year as part of its partnership with the Manufacturing Institute. An incorrect estimate was reported in "By the Numbers" in the August’s Keeping Current (p. 14). In total, the institute and the 15 other organizations issued 84,738 certifications and various other credentials last year. QP editors apologize for the error.


Resource Library Blog Launches

The Alliance for Performance Excellence, a group of state and local associations dedicated to advancing organizational excellence through Baldrige-based programs, has launched the Baldrige Resource Library Blog with the support of the Baldrige Foundation and ASQ.

The blog features articles, podcasts and videos on performance improvement—many provided by ASQ—that are contained in the Baldrige Resource Library. Visit the blog at http://baldrigeresourcelibrary.wordpress.com and the library at www.baldrigepe.org/brl to access resources that cover many topics, including organizational improvement, quality approaches and leadership.

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