quality

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!

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