Words to describe those in-between, stuck in the middle, between the devil and the deep blue sea, liminal kinds of things.
— Read on www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/in-betweens-words-and-phrases/liminal
As a quality professional I can use threshold, interstice and even liminal and occasionally be-twixt. But now I need to be ‘between the devil and the deep blue sea’ more often at quality management reviews and the visual management boards.
What quality system concerns do you have? What are you investing time in figuring out? What are your best practices – the quality solutions you are proud to share?
The site I work at is under a consent decree (fairly late in the process now). I joined because I wanted the experience of building and refining quality systems in that environment and the last five years here have been incredibly rewarding for a whole host of reasons.
I started this blog because I had a whole host of things I wanted to share. It also serves as a reflective tool to refine several ideas that I am working on. The themes of change management, knowledge management, document management, risk management, computer systems and data integrity (amongst other things) are the items I have spent a lot of time on and are some of the topics driving the next stage of my career.
If I was to do a personal SWOT of where I am at (100% my opinions, does not represent anything official), it would look like this (with seasonal fall leaf structure):
It is not that hard to draw from these to my topics of interest.
I am following a tried-and-true technique, that of thinking aloud, which allows me to reflect upon and clarify the problem and focus on what is next. “Thinking aloud” requires talking through the details, decisions, and the reasoning behind those decisions. This slowing down the process allows me to fully comprehend the problem. This blog then serves to experiment, consider, and then decide upon next steps.
I’ll end this asking the same question I started with: What are your quality system concerns? What would you like to talk about on this blog?
DeHolan and Phillips introduced the concept of organizational forgetting to our concepts of knowledge management. While unintentional forgetting is something we usually want to avoid, there is a time when we want to intentionally forget. Perhaps after a corporate merger we are combining systems or replacing systems. Perhaps it is the result of a large step forward in technology, or an out-right replacement. Some major cultural transformation comes along. And the last thing we want is for no-one to be able to forget the old. For those concepts to linger in our memory and our decisions. For that is a risk that can easily lead to deviations.
Take for example changes in document numbering. Fairly simple of the surface but remember that procedure number is the tag which we use in conversation. No-one ever gives the whole title; we throw around these tags left and right and for our own coded language (another topic worthy of a blog post). Then we change our numbering format and a year later everyone still uses the old number. And mistakes start creeping up. Or just the perception of mistakes builds. Or perhaps everyone still thinks in the manner of the old ERP’s logic, and forget to do crucial aspects of master data management when a change is made. You get the idea
This purposeful frogetting, an aspect of knowledge management (and change management) – that of the purposeful removal of knowledge — is a critical step in our systematic approach and an important part of our strategic toolkit. However, it is very difficult, as deeply embedded pieces of organizational knowledge are generally locked in place by various other pieces of organizational knowledge that depend on them, and removing one implies modifying the others as well. We need to develop the tools to dismantle the previous way of doing work — the unneeded routines and formerly dominant logics of our changed systems.
One of the best way to do this is to get rid of cues. All the little breadcrumbs left behind. If you want people to stop using old document numbers, ensure that no document folks would use on their daily basis has those numbers. However, this ideal model of radical elimination of all cues associated with the old routine seems rather unlikely in all changes from old to new . So when we are working on our change its important to select those cues that will have the biggest bang for our buck. Some general ideas to help inform this are:
- Look for opportunities to drive out mix-messages – aim for consistency in message
- Ensure there are positive reinforcements for use of the new routine
- Actively constrain the to-be-forgotten activity. Reduce the time in two different processes. Do a radical transformation. Reduce the confusion.
- Reward the individual for participating in the new way. The group can’t change faster than the sum of the individuals, so incentive the change.
When doing a change it is important to consider these as risks, and build into your change plan. Incorporate into your training. For the basis of your communications. Drive out the old, embrace the new. Otherwise you are just increasing the risks inherent in your new way of working. But like many aspects of change management, easy in concept, difficult in execution.
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 https://asq.org/conferences/wcqi.
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:
- Change is perceived as hard
- The future is murky
- 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.
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.