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!

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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.”


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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.


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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.



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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.



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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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 myASQ.org

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!

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The 2020 Quality 4.0 Virtual Summit

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WHAT AN INCREDIBLE EVENT!  

The Quality 4.0 Summit was a huge success! This past week, more than 200 quality professionals from around the globe gathered together online to learn how to draft a digital blueprint. Each of the three days was packed with amazing presentations and insights, followed by dynamic discussion.  With the variety of different events on the schedule, you had many options to chose from.  There was so much to see and do to engage with experts and peers.  There was even Happy Hour Trivia two nights in a row with the winners earning a free virtual registration to the 2021 WCQI event!  If you weren’t there, you missed an incredible Summit.   

Quality 4.0 aligns quality practices with the digital environment but we know implementing Quality 4.0 in organizations can be hard. This three-day digital event featured the most popular elements of the annual Quality 4.0 Summit–like innovative keynote speakers and future-focused sessions–while also adding new interactive components.  

For all of those who joined us for the 2020 Quality 4.0 Summit, thank you for being part of this first-of-its-kind virtual event! Keep reading to learn about some of the key take-aways from this week and put a reminder in your calendar now to plan for the Quality 4.0 Summit in 2021! 

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Sheryl Connelly presented “Confessions of a Corporate Futurist: Coming Trends that Will Revolutionize Your Business”. The future plays out in unexpected ways, despite the best efforts to prepare for the unknown. Most often, the success and failure of an organization comes down to two things: its ability to manage uncertainty and effectively identify how trends could have significant impacts to one’s business. Connelly revealed her secrets for how to think like a futurist, providing expertise and strategies necessary for effectively anticipating change. From the 10 megatrends that could change the world as we know it before the year 2050, to perspective that will forever change one’s approach to long-term planning and strategy, she delivered the insights necessary for organizations across industry sectors to prosper, innovate, and remain relevant in our world. 

Michael Gale led an interactive keynote presentation, “Excellence in a Digital Age: Where Quality Evolves in a World of Uncertain Opportunity”. Gale walked participants through the underlying shifts in thinking and architectures for the 28% of companies thriving with their digital transformations, and how they can apply that thinking to influence their own organizations. Gale showcased data from the research partnership between ASQE and Forbes Insights for the Insights on Excellence Benchmarking Tool and discussed how executives and quality professionals look at information. The session tapped into research for Gale’s best-selling book, The Digital Helix. Gale reintroduced and emphasized the five aspects of excellence, and how they can be used to implement Quality 4.0.  

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Mike Lipkin kicked off the third day of the Summit with his inspiring (and entertaining) keynote “Use Your Superpowers to Lead the Recovery”. Drawing on the post-pandemic reality organizations will have to adjust to, Lipkin provided examples of how the professional landscape is changing, and how listeners can breakthrough this new environment. Lipkin guided listeners through ten key forces that are shaping the immediate future and demonstrated the power of certainty, charisma, and conditioning.  

In the final keynote presentation, Radha Agrawal presented “Community Building 101”. She outlined the roles of attendee’s “friends”, “followers” and “users” and how all those relationships can still leave people feeling isolated. Radha Agrawal called this “community confusion.” She discussed how leaders need to cultivate their personal communities beyond business. When leaders find support, they create connections–both personal and within their teams—which studies show are key to happiness, fulfillment, and success. Radha shared the outcome of 18 months dedicated to synthesizing her key methods for community building called the CRAWL (core values, rituals, aesthetics, why, language) Method.  

This year’s event featured three focus areas that helped attendees customize their experience according to which part of Quality 4.0 was most interesting to them. Each focus area had a curated selection of workshops, and on-demand sessions. 

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For those just beginning their journey with Quality 4.0, or who want to brush up on their foundational knowledge, this focus area provided the building blocks of Quality 4.0, from terms and definitions to implementation strategies.  

In the session “Unleashing Quality to Support Industry 4.0” presenter Arron Angle outlined the issue that many quality professionals know to be true-only 15% of organizations believe that quality is a priority for executive management, but prioritizing quality can have large positive impacts to a company’s bottom line. Angle explained the value of Behavior Based Quality, or BBQ, to help executive leadership buy-in and promote a culture of quality across an organization. Angle laid out the ways that having a “breathing” BBQ can help aid participants in implementing their Quality 4.0 program.  

Attendees looking to contextualize their role within digital transformation found André Carvalho’s presentation especially useful. In “Why Digital is Not Enough: Finding Value with Quality 4.0”, Carvalho explained the limitations of technology-driven approaches to Industry 4.0. He gave examples of the ways that quality practitioner’s perspectives are valuable, even in organizational focus is heavily on technical innovation. With the variety of methodologies used in “traditional” quality, Carvalho emphasized the importance of creating an integrated approach to Quality 4.0, in order to identify the real value in the technologies, processes, and strategies adopted.  

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The ability to integrate quality into new technologies is critical for the success of Quality 4.0. With sessions highlighting data and automation, this focus area helped attendees see their role in digital transformation.  

Constantin Stan and Alexandra Niculae provided a great scope of information on the robotic process automation (RPA) in their presentation “How the 6 Sigma Belts Improve Robotic Process Automation”. They discussed how an improved process is more suitable for automation, and how a preliminary Lean Six Sigma project will bring even more results than the automation itself. The pair provided insights on how to prioritize the right processes for the robotic process automation, the right tools and deliverables for the process transformation, frequent errors – the efforts and mitigation plans, the Process Design Document which included content and traps to avoid for LSS professionals, as well as discussing roles and responsibilities of an LSS professional in every RPA project. 

In the presentation “Preparing for AI with Lessons from Your Gage R&R Past” Christopher Colaw explained how AI maturity depends on detection and classification capabilities, as well as an adequate source of training data, in addition to minimized hardware variation (visual cameras and lighting hardware). He grouped these focus areas can be grouped into two main actions for the organization; 1) qualification of the AI Algorithm, and 2) Attribute Gage R&R for the hardware which is used to capture the image and enable execution of the AI Algorithm. Colaw explained how only after these two actions are successfully satisfied can the Quality 4.0 organization display confidence in their efforts to ensure this new form of measurement variation is minimized. 

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This focus area aimed to help quality professionals understand how their organizations can build a cultural foundation of innovation through training, management, and measurement tools. 

Scott Burgmeyer and Tammy Rogers presented “Culture Through Self-Awareness & People Data”. During this workshop, participants delved into the science behind what drives people. By understanding the core drives, participants can use this people data to be an effective and productive team member and leader. Burgmeyer and Rogers used examples to showcase how understanding ourselves, our team members, and using people data builds high performance and positive employee engagement.  

Attendees of every generation found a lot of value in the session “Engaging the New Generations in Quality 4.0” lead by Luciana Paulise. Paulise provided relatable examples of the changing and evolving workplace, and how each generation behaves. It’s critical for leaders to learn how to attract, train, and engage the younger generations of quality professionals, and Paulise laid out ways to understand Millennials and Gen Z in order to build a new employee experience in Industry 4.0.  

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The Lighthouse Series helped attendees connect with the newest trends and emerging technologies in quality program implementation while learning from industry frontrunners. 

During “Easing into Big Data: From Logistic Regression to CART” speaker Kristine Nissen Bradley built upon quality professional’s foundation of data knowledge to explore the current machine learning approaches that are becoming common in the field. Nissen Bradley explains the Classification and Regression Trees learning technique and walks participants through how to interpret the analysis.  

In a very relevant on-demand session, Therese Costich presented “COVID-19-Forcing Digital Transformation”. Costich explained how the term disruption often connotes negativity when it should be considered an opportunity for positive change. In this session, participants discussed the opportunities that arise as a result of embracing disruption, how an organization can thrive by taking advantage of the opportunities, and how organizations in any industry can redefine how they do business by streamlining their digital transformation journey with an operational excellence platform. 

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On Wednesday, attendees got an exclusive preview of the new ASQExcellence offering, the Insights on Excellence Benchmarking Tool. ASQE chair Dani Picciotti and CEO Jim Templin led the presentation. The presentation highlighted how the Insights on Excellence (IoE) tool has been developed through the partnership with Forbes Insights, and described its functionality as an intuitive tool for a variety of employees within organizations. This tool will be a leading benefit of the new ASQE Organizational Membership levels, which are coming in early 2021.  

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Even though event participants couldn’t swap business cards in the hallway or chat over meals, the Summit created plenty of opportunities for the quality community to connect and learn from one another.  

Brain Dates, a new feature in the 2020 Summit, were small interactive sessions, that fostered group discussions around identifying solutions to common challenges. From learning how to publish a book, use storytelling to lead teams, to recovering customer relationships participants were able to get their questions answered and network with like-minded colleagues.  

Attendees also had the opportunity to learn more about the event sponsors, and ASQ and ASQE services through the Quality 4.0 Solutions Center. By clicking through this interactive portal, participants could explore new industry product and service offerings, download exclusive resources, and even pop into a video chat room to have real conversations with Solution Center representatives.  

At the end of the day on Monday and Tuesday, attendees were unable to unwind with Virtual Happy Hours featuring hosted trivia!  Both nights reflected an equal combination of competition and fun as attendees played to win a virtual registration to WCQI 2021.  It was a great way to end each full day of learning.

Thank you to everyone who joined us for a great Quality 4.0 Virtual Summit, we look forward to continuing to help you succeed with digital transformation, and we will see 2021!  

Be sure to keep an eye out for our upcoming events, including Medical Mondays in November. This new series will offer insights into how quality professionals in the healthcare community can not only manage the current conditions facing them but build meaningful quality processes and systems that will last.

This event would not have been a success without our sponsors and exhibitors!

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