Training in the Sharing Economy

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Image Credit: Doug Buckley of http://hyperactive.to

Paul Borawski’s August question to the ASQ Influential Voices is personal: Are you continuously improving yourself through training?

The subtext of this question is, of course, to explore the extent to which companies are currently supporting – and encouraging – training about quality-related topics, tools, and techniques as a form of personal development. Budgets have been tight for everyone since the end of 2008, but Paul’s data shows that many organizations are still investing in quality-related training.

Participating in training programs is one way to increase your quality consciousness:

Quality can be defined as “the totality of characteristics of an ENTITY that bears on its ability to satisfy stated and implied needs.” (ISO 9000 para 3.1.5; formerly ISO 8402) Usually, when we’re thinking about quality systems within business organizations, our entities are products and processes and projects. We employ Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), ISO 9000 or ISO 14000, frameworks like the quality criteria from the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award (MBNQA), Six Sigma or lean tools for reducing variation and defects and improving processes, or any number of a wide variety of tools and techniques to ensure quality and embrace continuous improvement.

But we’re never on our own – whatever we pursue or accomplish, we are always individuals in relationship to, and in community with, one another. So in the context of the ISO 9000 definition, how do you define QUALITY if the ENTITY is YOU? The quality of any product, process, relationship, or venture you contribute to will depend upon the QUALITY OF YOU and how you relate to, and align with, the environment in which you are embedded. Improving your awareness of quality standards, your alignment with teams and organizations, and your ability to manage your attention will all increase your quality consciousness.

But training is not the only way to enhance your quality consciousness. In addition to learning things on your own, you’re always learning from the people around you, and there are undoubtedly people in your immediate environment who have useful things to share – information and talents that you might not even be aware of.

Last month, Fast Company inquired whether the “Sharing Economy” — iconized by companies like car-sharing ZipCar and not-a-taxi service Lyftwill destroy brands. But I think there’s also a renaissance approaching the training industry (and beyond it, education in general) based on these newly blossoming values.

So – can your organization buy less training and instead, share your talents more – more often – internally?

What untapped gifts are lurking around your company?

Quality Consciousness: Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out!

(Image Credit: Doug Buckley of http://hyperactive.to)

In a previous article, I described the notion of quality consciousness that I’m currently preparing an article about.

To achieve quality consciousness, we ask the very important question (cf. ISO 9000 para 3.1.5, formerly ISO 8402) “What are the totality of characteristics of YOU that bear upon YOUR ABILITY to satisfy the stated and implied needs of your stakeholders?”

The reason we WANT quality consciousness is because we know that the more in tune with the essence of quality that we are, within ourselves, the better we will attune to the needs of our customers and clients – to be able to help them achieve their goals for making things better, more streamlined, and more cost effective.

I summarized quality consciousness as the “3 A’s” – Awareness, Alignment, and Attention:

Quality consciousness implies awareness of yourself and the environment around you (including what constitutes quality and high performance for people, processes and products – most importantly, YOU). It also suggests that you must achieve alignment of your consciousness with the consciousness of the organization, which will aid in full activity and engagement of the senses. Your attention must be selectively focused onto what you can accomplish in the present moment according to that alignment (which implies that you are able to effectively filter the rapid and voluminous streams of information coming at you).

It struck me today how similar this whole notion is to Timothy Leary’s appeal to the counterculture of the late 1960’s, to achieve breakthrough innovation in individual and collective perception of the world to “Turn On, Tune In, and Drop Out”! The message, according to the summary on Wikipedia, was intended to “urge people to embrace cultural changes… detaching themselves from the existing conventions and hierarchies in society.”

So if you want to improve a product, a process, or yourself, embrace the breakthrough innovation that is promised by quality consciousness!

  • TURN ON = Become aware of quality standards and the true meaning of excellence, for you and for the domain you live and work in.
  • TUNE IN = Align yourself personally and professionally with your goals, and those of your organization! (Or, find some place you CAN tune in!)
  • DROP OUT! Focus your attention on the essentials… don’t be distracted by the down economy, by social upheaval, or the perils of ever-increasing competition.

Deliver value… to yourself and those around you! Make it a personal imperative and watch the avalanche of breakthrough innovations begin to cascade around you and your inspirational attitude.

What is Quality Consciousness?

For the past few months, I’ve been working on an article to describe and define quality consciousness. Someone recently told me that there have been a lot of people asking about this concept lately (which I find really cool because as far as I know, I’m the only one actively studying it under this banner), and that I should blog about what quality consciousness is ahead of the publication. (That said, if you’re also researching quality consciousness, let me know in the comments section below! Let’s play with this idea together.)

So here’s a synopsis of the story of quality consciousness:

  • The existential question that motivated this line of inquiry: If ISO 8402:1994 says that quality is the “totality of characteristics of an entity that bear upon its ability to satisfy stated and implied needs,” then what if that entity is YOU? What are the totality of characteristics of YOU that bear upon YOUR ABILITY to satisfy the stated and implied needs of your stakeholders?
  • The term “quality consciousness” was first used, from what I can find, in a 1947 keynote by C.R. Sheaffer to the first convention of the American Society for Quality Control (ASQC), the predecessor to ASQ. To answer the question “what does top management expect from quality control [people and organizations]” he notes that a change in quality consciousness is expected. Attitudes must shift from an acceptance of what’s good enough to the constant pursuit of making things better. People must be able to take pride in their high-quality work. (from Borawski, 2006)
  • Consciousness, according to the Random House dictionary, is 1) awareness of one’s own thoughts feelings, and surroundings, 2) the full activity and engagement of the senses, and 3) the thoughts and feelings of individuals and groups.
  • Based on this definition, I believe that quality consciousness can be summed up by the “3 A’s” – Awareness, Alignment, and Attention. Quality consciousness implies awareness of yourself and the environment around you (including what constitutes quality and high performance for people, processes and products – most importantly, YOU). It also suggests that you must achieve alignment of your consciousness with the consciousness of the organization, which will aid in full activity and engagement of the senses. Your attention must be selectively focused onto what you can accomplish in the present moment according to that alignment (which implies that you are able to effectively filter the rapid and voluminous streams of information coming at you).
  • From reviewing the literature, I find that there are four elements that contribute to developing awareness, finding alignment, and focusing attention. These are Action, Reflection, Interaction, and Education. I’ll go into more detail in the article on how these are all related.
  • I think that quality consciousness is exactly what Deming was after… and that it’s the moral of the story of his 14 points. But whereas the unit of analysis for his 14 points was the organizational level, we need to internalize those points within ourselves. What if Deming’s 14 points were geared towards YOU developing your quality consciousness… what do you think he would have said differently?
  • The absence of focus on developing a quality consciousness is, I believe, the distinguishing factor between companies that have implemented the Toyota Production System successfully (ie. Toyota) and companies that have implemented the Toyota Production System with limited results (e.g. pretty much everyone else).
  • A personal path for developing quality consciousness might include asking yourself the following questions: What do YOU need to expand your awareness? To enhance your mood and affect so that you’re aware of the vast landscape of innovative potentials available to you (e.g. http://qualityandinnovation.com/2011/09/29/why-positive-psychology-is-essential-for-quality/)? What do YOU need to align yourself with your organization? What do YOU need to be able to focus your attention on the most productive thing you can do at any given moment – resulting in effortless action, optimal flow and productivity, and positive affect that will cycle back to expanding your awareness even more?

Borawski, P. (2006). The state of quality: 1947 and 2006. Journal for Quality and Participation, Winter 2006, p 19-24.

ASQ’s New Voices of Quality

I’m happy to announce that I’m one of ASQ’s New Voices of Quality! All of us are listed in the 40 New Voices article in the November 2011 issue of Quality Progress.

Although the article only includes a little sound bite that describes my role in the quality profession, there was actually a much longer interview behind the scenes. I’m posting it here so you can get a better sense of what motivates and excites me about the field of quality, and where I think quality is headed over the next 25 years. Let me know what you think by posting comments or questions below – I’ll try to respond to all of them.

:),

Nicole

* * * * * * * * * * *

Summarize your professional achievements and accomplishments. How do you use quality tools and concepts to make a difference?

After working as a software quality manager at a national lab for nearly a decade, I yearned to apply quality tools and methodologies to a wider variety of problems. I realized, by supervising many quality-focused summer student projects, how much I enjoyed sharing my enthusiasm for quality and continuous improvement with young people. So I decided to become a professor of quality! I returned to school for a Ph.D. in Technology Management from Indiana State (with a Quality Systems specialization).

I’m now an Assistant Professor in the Department of Integrated Science and Technology at James Madison University, where I teach statistics, industrial simulation, intelligent systems, and technology management. I introduce students who will work in many different fields to quality concepts, and get them excited about helping organizations solve real, practical improvement problems in their semester projects and thesis projects. We apply DMAIC to structure our problem-solving and storytelling, test hypotheses, use discrete-event simulation and system dynamics, and apply machine learning algorithms to solve quality problems.

I also help my students use quality tools to solve problems outside the classroom. For example, did you know that “5 Whys” can be used to troubleshoot – and fix – many relationship problems in college?

What do you see as your contributions to the community and your commitment to quality?

Since childhood I’ve instinctively and critically examined processes, products, relationships, and myself to find and act on opportunities for improvement. Like many ASQ members, I can’t help but be committed to quality – it’s in my blood!

As a result, I regularly contribute to my student community, local community, and ASQ. In addition to supervising student projects and theses, a colleague and I are working to launch a quality and process improvement minor/certificate at our university. It will prepare students for entry-level ASQ certifications and increase their marketability upon graduation. Locally, we’ve started a “quality without borders” program to broker service learning experiences that link organizations that have quality issues to students with a desire to help out. I started volunteering for ASQ in 2005. I served as a Regional Councilor (2006-2008) and Chair (2009-2011) of the Software Division, and have recently started to support university outreach for the Young Quality Professionals interest group.

I’ve also served as a Baldrige Examiner (2009 and 2010), for the National Science Foundation (NSF) as a quality management specialist (making funding recommendations for technology development and research infrastructure from $2M to $120M), and on the TAG for the ISO 26000 Standard for Social Responsibility.

How will quality evolve over the next 25 years?

I think the two major forces impacting quality will be the rapid pace of change (and accompanying expansion of information), and the changing nature of the workforce. First, as the volume of information about our customers, products and processes expands, advanced techniques for extracting insights from large amounts of data will become necessary territory for quality professionals. My term for this kind of data-intensive improvement is quality informatics. Second, the demarcation between higher education and the workforce will become less distinct over the next 25 years in response to pressures on higher education to deliver more value, strongly influencing the composition of the workforce. As a result, we will have to position our profession to support more hybridized learning opportunities. We will also have to learn how to be better learners as we make individual and collective learning a more integral part of the workplace, and cultivate a quality consciousness to help us adapt to the rapid pace of change in an agile way, both as individuals and organizations.

All the research and educational activities I’m involved in target these areas, especially the “quality without borders” initiative which will get students involved in quality improvement efforts as community service.

During that time, where will you fit in the quality professional and make a contribution?

My role is to educate and inspire as the workforce of the future evolves. I’ll continue teaching my students how to structure and solve quality-related problems for their companies and communities, and connecting them with opportunities to do quality-related community service. I want to inspire students from all different majors to understand and promote the value of quality in their fields, and spread the message of improvement!

I’m also doing research in quality consciousness and quality informatics. By adopting quality as a personal imperative (e.g. through mindfulness and agility), I’m exploring how a quality culture can emerge in organizations and in the classroom. As my contribution to quality informatics, I want to help make machine learning techniques more readily accessible to quality improvement professionals.

My most exciting goal, though, is to inspire the world beyond ASQ about the value of what we do through storytelling and fiction! My first book, Disconnected, covered how social media addiction can negatively impact quality of life (and what you can do to fix it). I’ve started a new statistics-related novel, called The Gypsy of Sigma, which will be published in late 2012.

And of course, I will stay involved with ASQ and continue volunteering!