ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition — January 2003

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“Remember the Titans”—The Rest of the Story
Looking Toward the Future

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Looking Toward the Future

During the summer of 2002, ASQ conducted its third Futures Study in six years. Representatives of the Institute for Alternative Futures guided the study and were aided by the results of an international Delphi study. Delphi studies use gatherings of knowledgeable people who meet electronically to gather data, generate ideas, or reach consensus. In the next several issues of News for a Change, Kenneth Case, ASQ president-elect, will guide us through a summary of the study findings.

“The future comes much faster than anyone can predict; therefore, we are compelled to polish our crystal ball and remain alert to the signposts on the horizon,” says Case in his introduction to the study report. “Only then will we be positioned to shift gears quickly to meet new challenges as they unfold. Any hope we have of participating in a future that we help shape depends not only on our ability to accurately foresee the future, but also on our agility in responding to future-shaping world events.”

The 2002 study identified seven key forces that are most likely to affect quality in the foreseeable future, as described below:

  • Quality must deliver bottom-line results.
    To demonstrate quality’s true impact and investment value, we must fully engage the language of finance, economics, and business. This must become our own natural language, not a foreign language.
  • Management systems increasingly will absorb the quality function.
    The quality profession will be difficult to define as quality is further decentralized and becomes an integral component of good management. The role of the quality professional is shifting from “doing quality for employees” to “coaching employees” to do it for themselves.
  • Quality will be everyone’s job.
    We have an opportunity to develop the practices and understanding of the future work force by introducing continuous improvement and other quality processes in the educational system.
  • The economic case for a broader application of quality will need to be proven.
    In order for quality methods to be applied to large-scale social and environmental problems, economists must be engaged to link the cost of quality to its benefits.
  • Global demand for products and services will create a global work force.
    Large corporations increasingly transport employees from county to country as projects, profits, or productivity demands. These new global citizens are joined by virtual employees who telecommute in a global-knowledge community.
  • Declining trust and confidence in business leaders and organizations.
    Consumers will become increasingly conscious of and responsive to the perceived ethical conduct of the organizations they patronize. The ethical aspects of a growing number of issues and decisions will assume greater importance and be more visible.
  • Rising customer expectations.
    Consumers who have become accustomed to speed, efficiency, and excellent customer service when conducting business over the Internet will demand the same in retail transactions. Government, public service, and charitable entities also will be measured against these Internet-driven benchmarks.

In the next issue of News for a Change, we’ll present the first of four scenarios that project how society may look in the not-too-distant future if the Delphi study trends and the key forces are accepted.

KEN CASE is regents professor of industrial engineering and management at Oklahoma State University, where he also serves as executive director of the master of science in engineering and technology management program. He has doctorate and master’s degrees in industrial engineering, and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Oklahoma State University. Case is currently ASQ’s president-elect and has served as board treasurer, national director, editorial board member, and Tulsa Section chair. An ASQ-certified quality engineer, reliability engineer, quality auditor, and quality manager, Case was named outstanding engineer in Oklahoma in 1987. He is a past president of the Institute of Industrial Engineers, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a Baldrige Judge (1991-93), and an academician in the International Academy for Quality.

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