Looking Toward the
In the January issue of News for a
Change, Ken Case, president-elect of ASQ, began
a multipart report on the Futures Study that was
conducted during the summer of 2002. He shared the
seven key forces that are most likely to affect
quality in the foreseeable future. In February and
March, he presented the first two of four scenarios
that speculate how society may look in the
not-too-distant future: scenario one, “The
Fruits of Knowledge”, which was considered
the most likely projection, and scenario two,
“Back to the Past,” which represented
the worst case.
Now it’s time for me to describe scenario
three, “Sustainability,” where
sustainability becomes the central organizing
principle for society, and quality is recognized as
the best approach for achieving sustainability.
Quality philosophies, techniques, and tools have
become commonplace in this scenario; however, much of
the progress that’s been attained has come
through a rise in paternalism and authoritarianism,
including a stronger, larger government.
Before we get into the details of this scenario,
I’ll remind you that although it is plausible,
it isn’t likely to happen exactly as described.
It’s far more probable that parts of this
scenario will combine with segments of the other
scenarios to create the actual future. We can benefit
from considering this prospect if we can determine
how to make its favorable aspects become reality, as
well to avoid its unfavorable aspects.
- Two decades of worldwide turbulence have pushed
society to a sustainability paradigm.
- Environmental crises, economic meltdowns,
social violence, and international terrorism have
led shell-shocked citizens to turn to government
for an end to anarchy and environmental
- National governments have become stronger.
Public order has tightened and crime has declined
at the expense of civil liberties and freedom of
- Government is unified on a global basis with a
single world currency.
- Local governments, however, manage cultural
- In 2019, environmental sustainability became a
regulatory mandate, backed
by the Clean Earth Policy established at the 4th
United Nations Conference on the Environment and
Development. A conference highlight was
ASQ/AQP’s presentation on their
groundbreaking work in sustainability.
- The policy is enforced nationally and
internationally and consumers vote with their
wallets if a company is noncompliant.
- The technological tide is turning from
profit-driven research and development toward
technologies that support social and environmental
- Government-sponsored research and development
has produced amazing biological remedies, like mass
farming of ocean algae to restore the ozone
- Cellulose-based ethanol distilled from plants
has replaced petroleum fuels.
- Benign methods of weather control have
eliminated the destructive effects of natural
- World population is stable at eight billion, as
women have attained political influence, education,
and employment in most societies.
- Since 2009, mass customization has been the
rule for information products. Many goods
self-adapt to changing user needs by intelligently
monitoring usage patterns.
- Distinctions between product and service are
blurred in a customer-centered
- Consumer choices are made more on the desire
for “experience” obtained with the
product than on its practicality or
The Quality Profession
- Environmental standards, based on quality
principles, are implemented worldwide to ensure a
sustainable planet. The Global Quality Council
mediates world business disputes.
- A global acceptance of nanotechnology has led
to development of standards to monitor and control
research (e.g., cloning).
- Looser restrictions on national work permits
have created a near-global talent pool and induced
governments to focus quality tools and techniques
on creating attractive work-and-live
- Through the efforts of the quality community, a
set of standards governing organizational ethics
has been universally credited with the return of
consumer confidence, the resultant stabilization of
the stock market, the rise in respect for business
leaders, and the increase in real organizational
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.