ASQ to quality professionals – change is hard!

The ASQ has announced​ the theme for the 2019 World Conference On Quality And Improvement: “Leading Change”.

Change has always been constant, but in today’s digital landscape the pace of change is accelerating at a faster and faster rate. Within this dynamic is the opportunity for quality professionals to lead their organizations through the changes that each is destined to go through.

The focus areas are:

  • The Future of Quality
  • Managing Change
  • Building and Sustaining a Culture of Quality
  • Quality Basics
  • Advanced Content Master’s Series

For those interested, you can submit your proposal at

Looking back at the last few years:

  • The 2018 theme, was the “Innovation of You,” with focus areas of​ “Building and Sustaining a Culture of Quality”, “Master’s Series”, “Quality 4.0: The Future of Quality Starts Here”, “Quality Fundamentals in the Digital Age” and “Risk and Change.”
  • The 2017 theme was “Grow Your Influence: In the Profession, Through the Organization and Around the World” with focus areas of “Focus on the Customer
    Operational Excellence”, “Quality as a Competitive Advantage”, “Quality Fundamentals” and “Risk and Change.”

From this I draw the following opinion:

  1. Change is perceived as hard
  2. The future is murky
  3. Culture of Quality is definitely something important (we might not be sure exactly what it is, but it is important!)

All of which are true. It also iterates what I fundamentally believe is a core function of quality. We drive change, we build a culture of excellence, we help navigate the future.

I enjoyed the 2018 ASQ WCQI in Seattle and will certainly plan on going whether as a speaker again or a participant. While I wish the ASQ would be the perfect organization of my dreams, I do deeply believe that an approach defined in the 2019 focus areas is one that brings a lot of value to any organization.

I have begun recommending co-workers submit this year, and I have a few ideas I am toying with myself. Proposals are due Aug. 17. I encourage you to be contemplating the best practices in your organization and be considering how you can share them with the wider quality world.

Open Spaces

Jason Kottke is spot on “Open offices result in less collaboration among employees

In the past few weeks I’ve had more and more upset conversations with co-workers who have moved to open office work locations. And the Royal Society study that Jason references is a good read for anyone contemplating open spaces.

Being here in Boston, and having done my share of hanging out at MIT, I’ve seen some good open space concepts. But what the best ones actually do is create modular areas of privacy and areas for scalable interactions. And this is what the application of open offices I’m seeing in the corporate world are missing.

I’m hoping to ride this trend out. Or at least until the open office concept has been improved to a more scalable modularized office. I know it is currently one of my criteria for considering moving jobs and I’ve turned down an offer because of the location’s open office.

How folks work contributes to the culture. We should be driving interaction, collaboration (another problematic concept according to some studies) and problem-solving. Folks sitting with headsets on as they wait to get a Skype call does none of that. As the research shows, and anecdotal evidence supports, open spaces drive down productivity and make folks more likely to tune out and move on to a new job.

Deep expertise, quality culture and the long road

Dr. Zeynep Tufekci, a professor who writes about the social impact of technology, wrote and excellent Op-Ed in the New York Times this past weekend titled “What Elon Musk Should Learn From the Thailand Cave Rescue.” In this she takes to task silicon valley, stresses the importance of hard-earned expertise and the “safety culture” model. A topic near-and-dear to my heart as a quality professional, as she stresses the importance of deep expertise, lengthy training and the ability to learn from experience (and to incorporate the lessons of those experiences into future practices) as a valuable form of ingenuity.

Safety culture = quality culture. It has been said many times that the only real difference is that of the question asked (patient safety vs employee safety), but lets all agree that the tools used are pretty equivalent.

What this article really reminds me of is an article from A Lean Journey back in February titled “Lean Culture: Do You Want Firemen or Farmers in Your Organization.”

I see this a lot in Lean, especially early in the transformation process. An idea that any expert is equivalent, that quick, fast wins are the best. Which is sometimes relevant, often not good for the long run. Its interesting that we are, what, 30-40 years into Lean as a management methodology in this country (my entire adult life I have been involved in Lean projects of one sort or another) and it still feels new in most places.

I think that the trends Dr Tufekci and Mr McMahon are discussing are very similar. Stem from similar causes, and probably lead to why a lot of long-term transformations don’t get the benefits we intend.

Learning Culture

Over at the Harvard Business Review there is a great article on 4 Ways to Create a Learning Culture on Your Team. A learning culture is a quality culture, and enabling a learning culture should be a key element of a robust knowledge management system.

Frankly, this is an attribute that I think needs to be better reflected in the QBok, as it is a core trait of a successful quality leader. And supporting learning is a core element of any professional society.