Social Responsibility: Making a Quality Difference Where We Live, Work, and Play

This is a guest post by Jennifer J. Stepniowski, communications director at Pro QC International, a third-party quality consulting and engineering firm. She is an Influential Voices blogger for ASQ, vice chair of ASQ’s Social Responsibility Technical Community, and Education Chair for ASQ Section 1508. Stepniowski is also an adjunct instructor for Hillsborough Community College and HCC’s Institute for Corporate and Continuing Education.  Her personal mantra is inspired by Peter Drucker, which includes “the best way to predict the future is to create it.”

ASQ recently announced the approval of a Social Responsibility Technical Community.  According to the Community’s charter, its responsibilities will be to establish and administer general policies related to society-wide SR activities and to serve as a member-leader advisory board related to the Body of Knowledge.

This is exciting news that further demonstrates the salience of this topic and its progression into quality.  Further support is found in the United Nations Global Compact that claims more than 12,000 organizations in over 145 countries have committed to showing good global citizenship in the areas of human rights, labor standards, anti-corruption, and environmental protection.

SR is of special interest to quality professionals for several reasons.  The big-picture reason considers the definition of quality as meeting or exceeding customer expectations.  With that, it was cited in a 2010 IBM study that “83 percent of CEOs believe customers will expect an increasing focus on social responsibility.”  In fact, ASQ’s 2011 Future of Quality Study identified global responsibility as “the most significant force shaping the future of quality.”

Want to know more? Additional resources that further demonstrate the quality/SR connection include:

Social responsibility continues to gain momentum, and with it come increased opportunities for us as individuals to make a difference where we live, work, and play.

In a 2007 Harris Poll, 31 percent of those surveyed indicated a belief that “people have a personal responsibility to make the world a better place by being actively involved with various issues and causes.”  And yet in the same survey, 25 percent of respondents indicated “social responsibility has little consequence in their lives.”  (See the Harris poll data.)

So, how do we increase awareness and engagement? How do we become more socially responsible as individuals?

I decided to ask around for some ideas and am grateful for the feedback received.  It turns out that as individuals, there’s a lot we can do.

•    Learn stuff.  Check out ISO 26000, or explore the recently posted Body of Knowledge that ASQ has posted on the subject. Fast Company lists 51 resources in this article. Be inspired to incorporate what you learn at home and at work. Walking meetings, anyone?

•    Review your investments and reallocate to more SR-friendly sources whenever possible.  Several studies indicate that socially responsible investment (SRI) mutual funds are competitive with their non-SRI peers. Socially responsible funds performed well even during times of economic turmoil: Large-cap SRI mutual funds outperformed the S&P 500 by 6 percent in 2009. Source.

•    Make conscious purchasing decisions.  Start with evaluating the top 20 percent of your expenditures. Get into the habit of checking labels before you buy.

Did you know? Some 52 percent of global respondents in a 2014 Nielsen survey including over 30,000 consumers in 60 countries say their purchase decisions are partly dependent on the packaging – they check the labeling first before buying to ensure the brand is committed to positive social and environmental impact. Sustainable purchase considerations are most influenced by the packaging in Asia-Pacific (63 percent), Latin America (62 percent) and Middle East/Africa (62 percent) and to a lesser extent in Europe (36 percent) and North America (32 percent). Source.

•    Join your Homeowners’ Association (HOA) if you have one. Granted, I wasn’t winning any popularity contests with this one. But, it felt good to have more trees planted in my neighborhood, hire an environmentally friendly pest control company, and organize events like community garage sales.

•    Give blood. It’s not something that can be manufactured and must come from volunteers. According to the American Red Cross, someone needs a blood transfusion every two seconds. As little as one pint can save up to three lives.

•    Find a cause and donate some time and/or money. Feed the homeless, help at an animal shelter, volunteer at the hospital, support a crowdfunding project or consider using a website like VolunteerMatch.org to get ideas more suited to what you’re passionate about. I’m working with my ASQ section to organize one SR speaker per year and a follow-up community event to “increase impact” and satisfy strategic objectives.

Did you know? According to a 2010 study, one in five U.S. adults (21 percent) feel that people should generally take part in things such as voluntary service, donating to charities or getting involved in community activities because it is the right thing to do.  Source.

•    Tune in and speak up. Communicate your opinions on policy or other issues and let your public representatives know how you feel.  Sites like Change.org create awareness and provide an opportunity for action.

Did you know? A 2010 Harris Poll revealed among those who have taken action as a result of following a cause online (39 percent), over half (54 percent) say they have talked to a friend or a family member after reading something on a nonprofit or charitable organization’s social networking site, a third (33 percent) have contacted an elected representative, 31 percent have made a financial contribution to the organization, 23 percent have made a financial contribution to a cause the organization supports and 23 percent have attended an event sponsored by the organization. Source.

•    Talk to kids. American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt provided some insight here when he said “we cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build out youth for the future.”

•    Support local parks and outdoor spaces. They’re perfect for family picnics and team building events.

What else?  Share your ideas in the comments!  And, contact me at jenn@proqcna.com if interested in ASQ’s Social Responsibility Technical Community.

“Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.” ~William James

The Gift of Knowledge Transfer Through Technology

This is a guest post by ASQ Influential Voices blogger Manu Vora, chairman and president of Business Excellence, Inc USA. He is an expert in organizational excellence and the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, and blogs at Thoughts on Quality.

Most quality professionals are very proficient in technical knowledge. However, they generally focus only on the technical aspects of their work and overlook “soft” or support skills, which are also crucial for organizational success. In a global economy, professionals need to be more proficient in communication practices and principles to be successful.

One way to approach the development of communication skills and creativity is by experimenting with simple technology such as Google Hangout on Air to share knowledge with a wider audience. As an example, I will describe how this platform was used for a 12-topic leadership excellence series and presented to large audiences in organizations as diverse as Indian universities, large corporations, and ASQ member units, with more presentations planned for the future.

For working quality professionals, Google Hangouts on Air can be used for meeting with offsite colleagues, professional training, or nearly any other professional collaboration.

In regards to ASQ members in particular, with 240 ASQ Sections, 26 Divisions/Interest Groups, and 47 Local Member Communities (LMCs) outside the U.S., there are a large number of technical meetings and conferences being held almost year-round. The Google Hangout platform can easily be used to engage well-qualified speakers from around the world to deliver their topics of expertise. This platform opens up many new opportunities for member units to invite outstanding speakers with minimal time commitment and no expense for travel.

Advantages

There are several advantages to using Google Hangouts on Air.

  • It’s a free, live video conference call (note that Hangouts on Air are different from Hangouts. The Hangouts are not recorded or publicly broadcast and are intended for private conversations).
  • Note that you can certainly record a webinar through a traditional platform like WebEx, but the advantage of the Google Hangout on Air is that it’s free and also immediately shareable through YouTube and, consequently, through other social media and blogs.
  • Up to 10 different participants can take part in the Google Hangout on Air call and there’s no limit to the number or people who can watch the call.
  • Hangouts on Air are automatically recorded and posted on YouTube post-call for easy sharing and viewing (no log-ins, subscriptions, or payment). This is similar to the massive open online courses (MOOCs) distance learning effort that has been gaining popularity in the last five years.

The technology requirements for hosting a Hangout on Air are fairly simple:

  • Stable Internet connection
  • Laptop with microphone and camera
  • Gmail account for the moderator or originator of Google Hangout On Air and the active participants (but not viewers, who only need Internet access).

If using in a conference setting:

  • LCD projector
  • Screen
  • Microphone for Q&A
  • Conference room

Wide reach, low cost:

Here are a few examples of how a Google Hangout on Air can have enormous reach through fairly little organizational effort (unlike, for example, a conference or a physical meeting).

  • The aforementioned leadership excellence series has been shared with more than 6,500 students at the Indian Institute of Technology (ITT-BHU), in Varanasi, India. This series will benefit students during their school years, in their job search, and at work. The leadership excellence series topics (LES), by the way, were: leadership excellence, effective teamwork, effective time management, effective meeting management, effective decision making, effective project management, effective risk management, effective talent management, voice of the customer management, effective operational excellence, sustainable change management, and effective supply chain management.
  • With the success of this program at the IIT BHU, in collaboration with ASQ India, a consortium of engineering and management schools was set up with eight or nine institutions to be on Google Hangout at the same time:
    –At ASQ Mumbai LMC, eight Commerce, Science, Arts, Engineering and Management colleges started the LES program using Google Hangout On Air (live audience of 1,000 or more).
    –ASQ India has collaborated with eight to nine engineering and management schools to initiate similar LES program using Google Hangout On Air (live audience of 1,000 or more).
  • For international students at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, a leadership excellence series will be offered using Google Hangout platform starting in August 2015. The resultant YouTube videos will be shared with the entire campus community (7,900 people).
  • The series was also presented via Google Hangout to eight to nine regional locations of Vinmar India starting in July 2015. This will benefit the entire company in India with new knowledge.

Caveats and Conclusions

As with any software or meeting program, Hangouts on Air are occasionally prone to glitches and setup difficulties. Below, I’m sharing links to several tutorials to help make your Hangout a smooth experience, as well as a video with more information on using Hangouts in Indian universities.

In the 21st century, knowledge can be transferred globally leveraging technology. Hangouts, as well as other technology platforms, provide tremendous benefits to manage scarce budget resources for learning, development, and training.

For Discussion

What kind of resources are you using in your organization or your personal life to share information? Do you experiment with new platforms or do you prefer traditional means of transferring knowledge?

Helpful Resources

June Roundup: Using Quality Tools In Everyday Life

Quality isn’t just meant for the office. If you’ve ever followed a checklist when packing for a trip, you’ve used a quality tool in everyday life. In June, we asked ASQ’s Influential Voices bloggers how they use quality off the job. The kickoff post was by ASQ blogger Sunil Kaushik, who wrote about traveling in Egypt for $500. Many other Influential Voices shared their “real-life” quality adventures, showing that quality has a place far beyond our jobs.

John Priebe wrote about everyday risk management, while new blogger Suresh Gettala wrote about using PDSA in everyday decision-making. Luciana Paulise, too, blogged about using PDSA outside the office. Manu Vora shared his experience using Baldrige tools to manage a non-profit.

Jimena Calfa used SCRUM to navigate through the U.S. green card citizenship process, while Pam Schodt uses lean in home organizing and gardening.  Nicole Radziwill reflected on the many applications of DMAIC, including in loading the dishwasher. John Hunter wrote about using quality in many aspects of daily life, from travel to family life, when growing up. On that note, another new Influential Voice, Prem Ranganath, wrote about teaching children about quality. Lotto Lai discussed the personal lives of modern-day quality gurus.

Like blogger Sunil Kaushik, Aimee Siegler, too, used quality tools to save money while traveling. To use quality in “real life,” Cesar Diaz Guevera argues that it must be a way of life and led by example. And Scott Rutherford reminds us to remember the human consequences of applying quality outside its traditional realm—what may work in the office may not work in the home.

Finally, Edwin Garro had a different interpretation of the topic, writing a comical post—what if your company was a TV sitcom–poking fun at common archetypes in the quality field.

How Lean Helped Me Travel To Egypt With Just $500

This is a guest post by Sunil Kaushik, an ASQ Influential Voices blogger who is planning a round-the-world bicycle tour with a mission to train schools and universities on quality, all while exploring high-quality street food across the globe.

Sunil is a certified ASQ-SSBB, PMP, and SPSM with more than a decade of experience in project and quality management with Fortune 100 companies. He provides training on quality management at schools, universities, and corporations using innovative methods such as origami and food tasting. Read about his travels on his blog, Train and Trot.

All photos provided by Sunil Kaushik.

My wife and I have backpacked close to 40 countries and we are still in the nascent stages of traveling cheap. It is a process that will just keep going—this November, we plan to embark on a round-the-world cycling trip. In this blog I will be sharing one of our travel episodes-backpacking to Egypt with just $500 in my pocket and how Lean principles helped me do so.

As you read this, think about how you’ve incorporated quality tools into your daily life. Remember, you might be doing so without even thinking of your actions as “quality”!

Being a quality professional, one of the things I’m good at is keeping track of data of all my past trips. On this trip, 40 percent of my spending went on transport, 30 percent on accommodation, and remaining part was left over for food, drink, and sightseeing. Even before I planned a trip to Egypt I designed a value stream map shown below. Every backpacker will more or less follow these processes irrespective of the style, luxury or budget.

The next and the last thing I had to do was to just identify and eliminate the seven types of waste at every opportunity.

5S: As a backpacker, too many things are stuffed into my bag, yet few are very critical, like my passport, visa documents, credit cards, etc. Every item has a planned, allotted space in my backpack. Every time I take one out I have to put it back in the same place so that I do not waste time searching or at times panicking when I do not find it.

5S is the key. Before my trip I make sure I set all the things I need in order with the help of a checklist and then sort them. For example, all important documents and passport are deep inside, my camera and iPod are in a separate carry bag. Standardization is another important element, as I carry items that can be used for multiple purposes.  For example, a scarf can be used as a head scarf, towel, or a bag to carry items.  A Swiss army knife also has many uses.  Creativity is the limit and helps in utilizing the space inside the backpack efficiently. I have been able to get the weight of my backpack down by at least a pound from my previous trip by applying the 5S principle and it weighed just 4 kilos on this trip.

Plan Destination – Wait For the Pull Signal: I stopped waiting for an airline to throw an offer to a particular destination I intended to visit. Instead I made a list of destinations and just kept looking for any offer to come up. One day, I saw a two-way ticket from Mumbai to Egypt for $280. I had no reason to think twice. In short, I started looking for a pull signal.

Develop Schedule – Wait Time Is the Key: I planned for a 14-day trip to cover the entire length of Egypt, see all the wonders of the world (six in total), and at the same time I made sure I did not push myself too hard and got to spend enough time at each place. The key is to reduce the wait time, be it in the train station, bus station, ticket counter, etc. I  booked overnight trains , took care of my accommodation, etc., in advance.

Getting In: Though the visa fee for Indian citizens is $25, the embassy was in a different province and I outsourced this part to a travel agent for additional $10. This way I saved lot of time, transportation cost, and stresses (Muri).

Getting Around: I planned in such a way that I stayed in localities which had easy access to public transportation, the market, and reduced unnecessary motion to go around. I downloaded a nice map to my smart phone and borrowed a bicycle from my host for shorter distances (less than 8 kilometers) and used subway, buses, and trains for longer distances.

Surprisingly, many are unaware that all it takes to get from downtown Cairo to the pyramids of Giza is a 20-minute ride on the subway followed by a short ride in a shared minivan, and it costs hardly $5 to get there. It just costs a dollar from the airport to downtown by bus and I get to see the real country this way and that is what backpacking and the lean principle Gemba (the real place) talk about.

Eat/Drink: This is where visual management comes into play. I avoided restaurants with multilingual menus in tourist areas. I preferred those that have a sign board and menu in the local language, are filled with locals, and which serve better local food for less money. If I have a problem in communicating I go with today’s menu or chef’s recommendations. Family-run restaurants have hardly let me down as they care more about their reputation and customer.

Sleep: My first preference is Couchsurfing, which is a large online community of travelers who share their spare rooms or couches with strangers for free. I feel the cultural authenticity when I stay with the locals more than in a hotel. It is fun and it is safe, too. But it is a bit tricky; not every request on Couchsurfing will get a very welcoming response and one important factor is the way we write a request to our host. I made sure all my requests were SMART ( i.e. I tell about myself, where am I coming from, when I will arrive, how long I intend to stay, and why I chose to stay with that particular host–could be that we share common interests).  Out of 14 days I couch-surfed for nine, which was a direct saving of at least $450 (extra processing) and I have new friends in Egypt now.

The second option was Airbnb–very similar to couch surfing though we need to pay our host, but it’s still cheaper than hotels.

See And Do: As an International Youth Travel Card holder, I got a flat 50 percent discount to enter Giza Pyramids, Egyptian Museum at Cairo, Karnak Temple, Valley of the Kings, Abu Simbel, and Luxor Temple. The negotiation skills came into play at the Nile River cruise in a felucca. I started at 30 percent of the initially quoted price and we were able to settle at 50 percent of the price. Hence I avoided a huge, unnecessary fee (over-processing).

This is just my experience and there is no limit to come up with creative ideas to travel economically without compromising on quality.

Note: Many countries have warned against traveling in Egypt due to terrorist threats. I advise you to research the political situation and conflict zones before planning the trip. Of course, the techniques described in this post can apply to planning a trip in any country. You can read more about my travel on my blog, Train and Trot.