ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition — February 2003

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Parents, Schools, and Values
Looking Toward the Future

Ask the PowerPhrase® Expert


AQP Connections
The Help Desk
Articles in Brief
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February 2003 News for a Change—Home Page

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Looking Toward the Future

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 this issue, he’ll present the first of four scenarios that project how society may look in the not-too-distant future.

As I reported in January, the Institute for Alternate Studies which guided our study was aided by an international Delphi study—an electronic method of gathering data, generating ideas, or reaching consensus. By combining that information with the seven key forces, the futures team developed scenarios to describe four potential futures we may encounter.

What purpose do we hope to achieve by creating these scenarios? First and foremost, we hope to stimulate the thinking of quality professionals. By deeply considering each scenario, we can plan ways to help it come to fruition or to prevent its occurrence. Each of these scenarios is plausible; what we do collectively as we move toward the future will determine what portions of these scenarios become reality.

Now, I’d like to review the first scenario—the one that the futures team considered mostly likely to occur. It’s called, “The Fruits of Knowledge,” and it assumes that the fundamental elements of quality management have become instrumental in realizing the benefits promised by technology advancements and the dissemination of knowledge. In this scenario, the world has become a safer and more equitable place for most of humanity. Let’s look at some more detailed aspects of this scenario by reviewing several pertinent categories.


  • The elevated profile of quality in the business world has prompted governments to adopt proactive quality policies, which accelerated democratic and economic reforms.
  • Economic turnarounds in Russia, Brazil, and Cuba are major successes, helped in part by the International Monetary Fund.
  • Technology advancements, working hand-in-hand with government reforms, have raised living standards and spurred poor nations toward self-sufficiency.


  • The terrorist attacks of the early 21st century were a rallying call for the quality profession.
  • Quality professionals have become strategic partners with other experts to design and develop systems to ensure the security of our communities’ infrastructures, their ability to respond effectively to emergency situations to significantly limit damage, and the world’s ability to transport goods and information without fear of terrorist manipulation.
  • The quality profession also helps to ensure personal security with respect to growing concerns over privacy and identity theft.

Business and Consumers

  • Mergers and alliances have revamped business. Companies are complete value chains of interlocking collaborative alliances, with three or four such competitors in each industry.
  • Every product and service is now couched as an “experience” to appeal to history’s most demanding consumer base. Competitive differentiation centers on personal, information-rich, and up-to-the-minute service.
  • Successful organizations have seamless end-to-end distribution systems with consumer demand visible from all points.

Social Responsibility

  • Organizations must be exemplary corporate citizens and environmental stewards because their every move is monitored and broadcast by consumer groups.
  • Quality’s emphasis on performance measurement has led to the development of social responsibility measures for all institutions.
  • In addition, quality has been integrated into nearly every aspect of our personal, professional, and community lives, creating a new model for quality of life and civic responsibility.

The Quality Professional

  • Quality professionals are fewer in number, but higher in status. They serve as university presidents or deans, or in business as strategic change agents and knowledge managers who design and manage quality systems, train other managers, and monitor performance at their own and competing organizations.
  • They are expert at exploiting knowledge to enhance their organizations’ performance.
  • Organizations such as ASQ and AQP lead by helping quality professionals (and others) in personal development and providing “knowledge hub” that allows them to translate quality’s core messages throughout society.

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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