New Opportunities for A New Decade of Lean and Six Sigma

Thank you to everyone who joined us for the 2021 Lean and Six Sigma Conference, New Opportunities for a New Decade. This event was an incredible success thanks to you!

For 20 years, the ASQ Lean and Six Sigma Conference has been the premier event for quality professionals to learn cutting-edge trends and practices, hear from industry leaders, and connect with their peers. At our 20th Lean and Six Sigma Conference (LSSC), we looked ahead to New Opportunities for a New Decade. ASQ created a unique approach to attendee engagement, and networking salons, virtual happy hours, and even a magic show meant attendees were able to get the quality LSSC experience attendees are used to. This year’s virtual format also enabled some quality professionals their first opportunity to attend LSSC, gave attendees the opportunities to take advantage of more than 60 on-demand sessions, and allowed participants to consume content on their own schedule – all while ensuring everyone’s safety.

We’ve pulled together some highlights and key learnings from the conference. If you couldn’t make this year’s event, don’t worry! LSSC recordings are available for purchase now until the end of March and watch our website, we announce our LSSC 2022 dates on Monday, March 8!

NextGen Day Header

Brand new this year, NextGen Day was created to energize emerging quality professionals and help them boost their careers while connecting them to experienced members who manage, mentor, and lead them.

The day began with “Your Best Decade: Skills, Traits and Strategies for Your Quality Career.” This panel discussion featured five lean and Six Sigma practitioners as well as a highly interactive Q&A, where panelists tackled questions about company culture, diversity, seeking mentorship, and more.

There were opportunities for emerging professionals to explore career pathing within the quality field. During the Lunch and Learn, Matt Mueleners expanded on the morning’s discussion panel and how to navigate unconscious bias to drive better decision making. In the Support and Innovation in Training session, attendees could also connect directly with the ASQ Education Team and Component Relations Team to find how to leverage additional training for their career growth, and discover which training best serves them. Professional development training, like Soft Skills To Go, was popular among attendees, along with supplementary lean and Six Sigma eLearning to help boost knowledge, like Lean Specialized Credentials.

Following the success of last years’ experience, the Six Sigma Forum hosted a virtual Escape Room where teams used Six Sigma concepts to solve riddles and escape the virtual room within an hour!  The day finished with a video tour of Cambridge Air sponsored by the Lean Enterprise Division. A group of staff members led the tour while sharing how they implemented a “2-second Lean.”


Natalie Nixon is a global speaker, strategist, and President of Figure 8 Thinking, LLC. She joined LSSC for our first keynote speech, presenting “The Future of Work: The 4 Shifts Your Organization Must Make…Now!” It was fitting that Nixon delivered her keynote virtually. She began her presentation by explaining how the future of work will require us all to be more than just familiar with technology changes like virtual reality, big data, artificial intelligence, and robotics. Professionals must have a heightened creative capacity. Nixon guided attendees through the 4th industrial revolution, where cloud technology, automation, and cryptocurrency are all realities that must be worked with, not just reacted to. To do that, Nixon outlined the value of creativity in business, and the four shifts every organization must make to be nimble and adaptive.

Keynote Speaker Natalie Nixon and Mike Walsh
Natalie Nixon and Mike Walsh

Mike Walsh is an innovation and futurist speaker, author, and CEO of the global consultancy Tomorrow. He presented “The Algorithmic Leader” on Wednesday. Like Natalie Nixon, Walsh also started his presentation with an image of the future—a place with self-driving cars, platforms that anticipate our needs, and even robots performing complex surgeries. How can people thrive in this machine-driven future? Walsh presented tactics on how emerging leaders can upgrade their capabilities to succeed in an age of rapidly accelerating technology, as well as actionable insights on the ways companies can redesign their organizations and reinvent their decision-making to match the age of machine intelligence.

Header: Focus Areas
Header: Making the Most of Data Mining and Visualization

As the availability of data increases, being able to strategically collect, analyze, and visually represent data is more important than ever for quality practitioners. As one of four focus areas for the Lean and Six Sigma Conference, attendees were able to attend a mix of on-demand sessions and live presentations that explored how lean and Six Sigma methods can be used to gather, examine, and apply data.

In the live presentations “Good to Go: Using Process Modeling for Rapid Innovation” speaker Lars Maaseidvaag walked attendees through the benefits of process modeling to innovate with confidence and identify barriers like waste and bottlenecks early in the design phase. In the on-demand session “Root Cause Analysis in a Data Desert” presenter Jennifer Munson used examples of Kaizens she’d been presented with that had little quantifiable data. How can quality professionals make improvements in this “data desert”? Munson outlined simple steps on how to find and evaluate “non-quantifiable” data and get buy-in from stakeholders to make a Kaizen a success.

Focus Area: Lean and Six Sigma In a Continuous Improvement Culture

Quality professionals know that company culture has a huge impact on the success—or failure—of the pursuit of continuous improvement. This focus area provided attendees with on-demand sessions and live presentations that provided insight into how lean and Six Sigma elements can be infused into a company culture, and strategies to gain staff buy-in and participation.

The importance of interpersonal relationships to foster cultural improvement was a theme throughout these sessions, including in Richard F. Uphoff’s presentation “I’m Not Emotional…I’m a Quality Professional: Lean Emotional Intelligence for Leaders and Practitioners.” Uphoff didn’t need to remind attendees of the upheaval of the past year as he shared his experiences of how “work” and “life” have become closely merged for a lot of people because of the pandemic. In the workplace, this shifting emotional landscape affects individual employees, teams, and projects. This presentation aimed to help attendees understand their own emotional landscape and use the tenants of Emotional Intelligence to support the success of quality teams in lean organizations.

Dave Harry dove further into relationships in his on-demand session “Can’t We All Just Get Along Here? – Team Dynamics.” Lean and Six Sigma projects hinge on team dynamics, and dysfunctional teams can cause significant disruptions. Harry explained Tuckman’s model for group performance and the various stages so team leaders can recognize when teams are not progressing and prevent overall failure.


This focus area combines the techniques of project management with the data and analysis benefits of lean and Six Sigma, providing attendees opportunities to optimize performance, customer satisfaction, and decision-making capabilities in their organizations. Sessions in this area highlight how quality organizations can benefit from applying lean and Six Sigma methodologies to ensure greater reliability via an evidence-based approach in a variety of project management scenarios.

Attendees for this focus area learned that defect isn’t a dirty word. In her presentation “Driving Quality Culture Change with DMAIC – Defect isn’t a Dirty Word,” Paula Evans explained how she used DMAIC and specifically defects to foster a transparent culture of quality in her organization. She showcased her data-collection tool and taught attendees’ key steps in getting leadership buy-in, including utilizing Voice of the Customer data.

Header: The Quality Trinity: Lean, Six Sigma, and Quality 4.0

Organizations are seeing rapid gains in access to data, computing power, and connectivity. Aligning the disruptive technologies of Quality 4.0 with problem-solving methodologies of lean and Six Sigma can further drive improvements in business intelligence, strategic initiatives, and product and service offerings. This area of focus gives insight into building an effective lean and Six Sigma framework to accommodate Quality 4.0 and allow for an enterprise’s data-driven transformation.

On Wednesday, March 3rd, participants attendedInfusing Data into DMAIC” presented by Scott Rutherford. The presentation began with Rutherford providing a history of operations research and management science techniques. This field of study has been around since WWII, but with the digital transformation in quality in the past 30 years, these tools are now more widely available and practical to use. Rutherford matched these tools to various phases of DMAIC, while providing specific examples of how they can be applied to help attendees implement these learnings in their organizations.

In the on-demand session, “A New Problem-Solving Strategy for Quality 4.0,” Carlos Escobar and Daniela Macias discussed how quality professionals, specifically those in manufacturing, can help position their companies to excel by implementing Quality 4.0 practices. Escobar and Macias explained how quality leaders lack the ability to communicate and create value from Quality 4.0 initiatives, leading to a lack of sustainable Quality 4.0 solutions. They introduced a Quality 4.0 initiative, Process Monitoring for Quality, while walking attendees through a 7-step problem solving strategy to analyze the likely success of the initiative. Attendees left with concrete problem-solving strategies to help ensure the success of their organization’s Quality 4.0 initiatives.

On Wednesday, prior to the closing keynote, The Six Sigma Forum Annual Award was presented to James Bossert by Scott C. Sterbenz, ASQ Six Sigma Forum Chair. Bossert is a Senior Performance Excellence Consultant at John Peter Smith Hospital, Fort Worth, Texas.

Thank you to all the quality professionals who joined us for the ASQ Lean and Six Sigma Conference 2021, and to the Technical Planning Committee, Six Sigma Forum, and Lean Enterprise Division for their support in making this event a success.

Thank you to all of our sponsors!

Lean and Six Sigma Conference Sponsors. ABBYY, MoreSteam, Ohio State University, QI Macros, SAS, Minitab, San Diego State University

Black History Month 2021

ASQ is proud to recognize Black History Month, and all the Black quality professionals who elevate not only our Society, but the entire field of quality.  From past ASQ president and Hutchens Medal namesake, Spencer Hutchens Jr., to current Executive Board Member and Treasurer Wayne Brown and the Black women leading in quality mentioned in Quality Progress, our Black members continue to propel quality forward.

ASQ is committed to being a Society that makes everyone feel welcome and valued. In the spring of 2020, past chair Austin Lin created the ASQ Diversity Culture Task Force. This group of members and ASQ staff has already begun collecting benchmarking data to understand ASQ’s cultural footprint and has created a report outlining its focus for 2021. The Society’s 2021-2022 strategic plan includes an actionable initiatives to build a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion to ensure the success of this commitment.                                                 

This year, to celebrate Black History Month, we’ve gathered just a few examples of the resources our Black ASQ members and contributors have produced with ASQ.

United States Air Force member Gerald Johnson discusses receiving the Inspection Division’s 2019 Inspector of the Year award and the future of inspection in this ASQTV episode.

Cover Image of Advanced Quality Auditing by Lance B. Coleman

Advanced Quality Auditing by Lance B. Coleman

Quality auditor, certification instructor, and author Lance B. Coleman wrote this review, and sat down with ASQ to record an exclusive webcast where he walks the audience through advancing auditing techniques that not only ensure compliance and drive continuous improvement, but also reveal substantial gaps and opportunities in risk management programs.

In this episode of ASQTV, Kemi Sorinmade, a Performance Improvement and Leadership Development coach and Trainer, discusses strategies to help organizations become more effective.

Cover Image of Document Control System for Compliance with ISO 9001:2015, ISO 13485:2016 and FDA Requirements by Stephanie L. Skipper

Document Control System for Compliance with ISO 9001:2015, ISO 13485:2016 and FDA Requirements

Managing all the documentation of your QMS is a must and can be very challenging, particularly for those new to ISO 9001. ASQ author and compliance expert Stephanie L. Skipper discussed her book in an ASQ webcast, and explained the foundational concepts of document control and compliance with ISO 9001:2015 requirements.

Headshot of Spencer J. Hutchens

Living Responsibly – A Quality Role Model

The life of Spencer Hutchens Jr. (1922-2010) and the concepts that shaped his career decisions center on a theme–social responsibility. This article by Gregory H. Watson defines and celebrates Spencer Hutchens’ contribution to the operational definition of a theory for social responsibility, demonstrating how he had consciously put his theory into practice.

Quality professionals, by the nature of their work, improve the future of workplaces, systems, and communities. ASQ is proud to champion this work, and the professionals who lead it. The changes ASQ is making to foster open communication, engaged members, and the exchange of ideas is ongoing, and we invite you to stay updated with our diversity, equity, and inclusion work via myASQ. While this is article can only illustrate a small sample of the myriad of contributions Black quality professionals have made at ASQ and the field at large, we want to thank all of our Black members for their partnership and commitment to advancing the pursuit of excellence through quality.

Three Key Takeaways from the Women in Quality Symposium

More than 500 quality professionals joined ASQ for the first annual Women in Quality Symposium, December 9! Participants spent the day collaborating with expert panelists, connecting with quality professionals in networking salons and learning how to strengthen their quality roles through mentorship, career planning and overcoming obstacles to growth. Here are three meaningful takeaways from the Symposium that support an Ascent to Meaningful Leadership.

Leaders from ASQ and ASQE introduced the Symposium by sharing what it means for them to be a woman in quality.

1) Build (and actually use) a meaningful network

Networking can often seem like a snappy buzzword instead of a real tactic for career growth. But, if done correctly, it can be a truly beneficial tool. Finding and connecting with people who share your interests and values can create lasting relationships. In our first panel, “From Surviving to Thriving: Aligning Purpose, Passion, and Service,” Jd Marhevko, Jami Kovach, Aimee Siegler, and Allison Grealis discussed the value of mentorship between women. This goes beyond just sending a LinkedIn request, to actively sponsoring project opportunities, reviewing resumes and providing a sounding board. Women account for nearly half of the U.S. labor force and hold approximately 50%  of all management and professional level jobs but hold significantly fewer leadership positions. Actively mentoring and sponsoring other women in quality helps usher in the next generation of quality leaders and create a support network across industries. In breakout networking salons and across panels, the impact of COVID-19 was covered, and how now, more than ever, having a supportive community is crucial for both your personal and professional development.

WIQS blog images network.png

2) Intentional leadership encourages diversity

Throughout the Symposium, one thing was clear: Diversity makes the quality field better. Good leadership recognizes and encourages diversity. In the panel, “Identifying Innate Leadership Attributes in Women,” Jd Marhevko, Liz Keim, Mary Reich Cooper, and Alexis Skoufalos shared the experiences that shaped their leadership styles and discussed how they honed that style throughout their careers. These successful leaders also divulged how they use their leadership roles to help empower others and advocate for greater diversity, equity, and inclusion in the quality field. When women are encouraged to cultivate an authentic sense of self, they can bring a more diverse and valuable perspective to their organization, field, and the quality profession.

WIQS blog images diversity.png

3) Develop Your Personal Toolbox

Our third panel, “Addressing Obstacles in Career Growth,” encouraged participants to identify and address the challenges they face as women in the quality field. Panelists Kathryn Leonhardt, Cheryl Thompson, Peggy Milz, and moderator Luciana Paulise led the discussion by highlighting specific obstacles they’ve faced in their careers. From implicit gender bias, being interrupted, or battling assumptions, women often face challenges their male counterparts do not. Developing leadership and communication tactics can help you address and work through those obstacles.

Keynote speaker Allison Levine imparted thrilling details of her journey as the first American Women’s Everest Expedition Team Captain, where she led “Team No Boundaries” through a treacherous two-month journey to summit Mount Everest. With such high stakes, Levine relied upon leadership tools to guide her team. While most of us are not scaling mountains, we can use and adapt Levine’s tools like breaking goals down into manageable modules and understanding that “backing up is not the same as backing down.”

WIQS blog images toolbox.png

The 2020 Women in Quality Symposium provided quality professionals the opportunity to dive into the challenges, possibilities, and joys of being and working with women in the quality field. This special event was a success because of the energetic engagement, valuable insights shared, and the meaningful connections made! Over 320 participants met, shared ideas, and networked across our 20 breakout salons, and they can keep the conversation going on

ASQ has an array of events planned for 2021, including our next virtual conference: the 2021 Lean and Six Sigma Conference (LSSC)! Join us March 1-4 for our 20th anniversary of the event and discover New Opportunities for a New Decade. Registration opens soon, and you can review the program now!


The Inaugural WCQI Virtual

WCQI Virtual

The global response to COVID-19 has changed how people everywhere work, connect, and learn. One thing that hasn’t changed: ASQ’s commitment to educating and inspiring members. While ASQ made the necessary decision to cancel the 2020 in-person World Conference on Quality and Improvement (WCQI), we knew there was more we could do. Driven by the challenge to provide members with the unique value that WCQI always provides, on May 6, 2020 ASQ hosted the inaugural WCQI Virtual. Thousands of ASQ members joined this completely digital event featuring world-renowned keynote speakers, dozens of on-demand recordings, and online networking forums.

Keynote Speakers
Keynote Speaker James Clear
Keynote Speaker James Clear

Personal development speaker and bestselling author of Atomic Habits James Clear began the event with his presentation “Atomic Habits: How to Get 1% Better Every Day.” After suffering from a traumatic brain injury in his youth, Clear was forced to rebuild his life through small moments and achievements. This experience changed his life, and he realized that while luck is not within your control, habits are. Through examples from literature, biology, and economics, Clear outlined the value of incremental improvements. Achieving true excellence is not about radical change, but rather accruing small improvements over time. Clear guided members through his four stages of building successful habits and provided tactical tips to help quality professionals implement new habits in their personal and professional lives.

Keynote Speaker Shabnam Mogharabi
Shabnam Mogharabi

The second keynote speaker was Shabnam Mogharabi. Cofounder of media company SoulPancake, Mogharabi brought her experience in digital content, media, and building startups to her keynote presentation “The Power of Positive Psychology.” Mogharabi presented research from Dr. Martin Seligman on the changes to the brain’s chemical infrastructure with positive perspectives. In today’s uncertain landscape, many people are looking at corporations to lead with a sense of purpose. If professionals can learn their “why,” they can help guide social responsibility within their organization. By practicing gratitude, vulnerability, and connection, people are able to tap into positive psychology and create more authentic personal and professional lives.

myASQ Virtual Discussions

WCQI has always provided a collaborative space for quality professionals to network with people across industries, interests, and even countries. For WCQI Virtual, we knew that creating opportunities for collaboration was more important than ever. With the help of ASQ’s Technical Program Committee and World Conference Reviewers, we hosted virtual discussion boards on ASQ’s community platform, myASQ. Throughout the week, members asked questions, challenged ideas, and learned from one another on a variety of quality topics. With over 900 new members joining the community, the conversations have continued to grow. Here are a few stand-out observations:

myASQ quote
myASQ quote
myASQ quote
myASQ quote
On-Demand Recordings

WCQI is known for bringing quality experts, industry trailblazers, and thought leaders together to teach and share exclusive content. This year, ASQ is offering dozens of on-demand recordings for both members and nonmembers. With three focus areas—Quality Foundations, Beyond Technical, and Sustaining Innovation—quality professionals can expand their knowledge and skills with topical recordings like Integrating Risk, Leading Change in a Changing World, and Designing High Impact Experiments. These recordings are available for purchase until June 1, 2020, so take advantage of this opportunity!

Without our ASQ members, WCQI Virtual would not have been the success it was. So, to our members, we want to say thank you! Your abilities to adapt, your willingness to try new systems, and your consistent drive to learn and improve made this event possible. To quality professionals seeking inspiration, connections, and access to exclusive, members-only benefits like WCQI Virtual, please consider becoming an ASQ member today. We hope to see you all for WCQI 2021!