Tag Archives: American Society for Quality

How Do You “Sell” Quality?

In his March 2012 question to the ASQ Influential Voices, CEO Paul Borawski presents a question that he deals with regularly – and that industry has been challenged with for several decades:

“How do I convince senior executives (often CEOs) and public officials that quality is important and an essential strategy for–pick your ending–performance excellence, competitiveness, growth, sustainability, survival, efficiency, effectiveness?”

In other words, how can you “sell” the value of quality to an organization and its top executives?

My response: You can’t. Quality is a core value that must be appreciated for it to be cultivated.

This point was made very clear to me in Malta. I had the opportunity to visit the country, a tiny island south of Sicily in the Mediterranean, early this year. (Isn’t that a great picture I took up above??) Speed and efficiency are not some of this country’s values… you can expect to wait for a bus forever, if you’re that patient, and there are a glut of Australian imports trying to sell you boat tours whenever you walk down the street – even when they’ve seen you every day, multiple times a day, and you’ve made it clear to them you’re not a tourist and you don’t want to hop on a sightseeing boat.

However, product quality and value in Malta – especially among the small, independent retailers – are highly esteemed. You aren’t going to get a bad cappuccino, even though you’ll only pay a Euro or two for it (even in a gas station or convenience store). You’re unlikely to get a lunch that’s made from highly overprocessed, bulk ingredients, or that tastes anything less than blissful and homemade. And no one would expect any less… because their reputations are on the line, and they are proud of their products, and proud of the personal excellence that those products represent.

So a better question is… not how do you sell quality… but how do you stimulate the appreciation of quality? Note that this is far more a question of how to impact society on a broad scale than one of how do we implement this in our companies.

(Here’s another way of saying it: How do you get the average Wal-Mart shopper to appreciate quality instead of just rolled-back prices? How do you get people to accept paying more for higher quality products and services, rather than being psychologically recalibrated to think those lower quality things are actually reasonable quality? How do you get people to purchase for longevity in a global era of planned obsolescence and rapidly changing tastes? I’m not sure. I think this may be a particularly nefarious cultural dilemma, grown in America but with the staunch support of Chinese manufacturers, with the potential to culture us all into “pink slime” politics. And we may have to distance ourselves from the notion that profit and growth are what we’re after in order to break this cycle.)

If an appreciation for quality is not ingrained into you by your culture from an early age, perhaps it can still be learned. The first idea I had here was that if art appreciation can be taught in schools, maybe we can do the same for quality. But I’m not an expert in art, nor in appreciation (beyond what I myself appreciate), nor how to teach appreciation.

How can we promote and stimulate the appreciation of higher quality throughout our society?

Apply to Participate in the 2012 YQP Quality Showcase!

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

Are you an entry-level Young Quality Professional (YQP) who has participated or led a project that resulted in tangible benefits for your organization or community? Are you a student in high school or college who has worked individually, or with a team, to apply quality tools to solve practical problems in your school, or community, or at home? If so, WE WANT YOU to tell us about it!

On Wednesday, May 23rd, we will be conducting a session at the ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement (WCQI) to demonstrate the impact that the newest members of our community – students and entry-level professionals – have had on their organizations, businesses, and communities. This session will consist of vignettes from up to 15 quality or process improvement projects performed by students or entry-level professionals. We’ll be inviting all WCQI attendees to come celebrate the accomplishments of the youngest members of our community, and support them as they progress in their education and in their careers!

HOW TO APPLY: Send an email to Jacob Mayiani Loorimirim (Graduate Assistant, JMU) at loorimjm@dukes.jmu.edu (and cc: simmo2ra@jmu.edu and radziwnm@jmu.edu) with short answers to each of the 6 questions below. Project review started on February 1 and will continue until all slots are filled, or February 29 at the latest.

If your project is selected to be part of the Showcase, we’ll work with you to put together a few slides, audio recordings, and/or video clips that describe the problem you solved, the quality tools and approaches you used, your results, and the impact of your solution on your stakeholders. We plan to spend between 3 and 5 minutes showcasing each project. If you are a student who will be attending the WCQI in person, we would love for you to submit a project that you completed individually or as a team – and talk about it yourself for 2 to 3 minutes during our session!


1. Project completed by: (List your names and ages, and specify whether this was part of a school/university project, for a client, or was done in service to your community; if you had a teacher or faculty advisor, please list them too! Also, let us know if you plan to attend the WCQI in person in Anaheim, CA this May.)

2. Project title:

3. Project start and completion dates:

4. Provide a brief problem statement (1-3 sentences) that summarizes the problem, your stakeholders, and your goals:

5. Provide a brief description of your hands-on performance while completing the project, providing specific examples of the methodologies (e.g. PDSA, DMAIC) and/or tools (e.g. process maps, fishbone diagrams, Pareto charts, affinity diagrams, multivoting/nominal group technique) that you used to solve the problem.

6. In one sentence, describe your project’s RESULTS and the impacts on its stakeholders.

Thank you for your interest! Please forward this announcement by email, Facebook, Twitter, or any other mechanism if you know of a Young Quality Professional (YQP) whose work should be noticed and recognized – or where they might be hanging out.


Nicole Radziwill, College of Integrated Science & Technology, James Madison University
Rebecca Simmons, College of Business, James Madison University

How I Passed My ASQ Certified Six Sigma Black Belt (CSSBB) Exam

I very recently took my ASQ CSSBB exam and passed! Here’s what I think helped me:

[And here’s my OTHER POST that has my notes attached! Enjoy!] – October 2012

[Note: On February 9, 2015 I added my Top 10 Statistics Topics for the CSSBB Exam to this blog]

1. I studied for about 4 weeks (2 weeks very gently, 1 week much-more-work-because-the-exam-is-getting-closer, and 1 week of panicked, freaked out all nighters) using these great references that I wrote up tons of comments about.

2. I took about 10 pages of really good, concise notes. (I’ll share those with you sometime before the end of the year… want to write them up for public consumption.) (Note from October 4, 2012: OK, so I didn’t package them for public consumption, but I did post PDFs of EXACTLY what I brought in with me to the exam.)

3. I brought about 15 super sharp #2 pencils just in case 14 of them broke. I made sure all the pencils actually SAID #2 on them, so the Scantron machine wouldn’t fail me.

4. I brought my SMART RULER. I’ve had this ruler since the late 1980’s, and every time I’ve taken a tough test, I’ve had my smart ruler with me in case I need to underline anything, or draw dividers between notes. I usually never have to USE the ruler. Usually, its presence is enough to make me do better on any exam.

5. They (the people who say such things) say that peppermint makes you smarter. So I got a new pack of Orbit peppermint gum and chewed it like I had obsessive compulsive disorder for all four hours. (Afterwards I found out that the peppermint thing isn’t really backed up by research, but I didn’t know that going into the exam, so I believed that the peppermint would make my brain work better, and that belief probably helped me out. Got to stack the deck in my favor… didn’t want those 4 weeks of studying NOT to pay off.)

6. When I wasn’t chewing gum, I was nibbling on a Reese’s peanut butter bar. Best 300 calorie investment ever made… the protein made my stomach stop growling so it wouldn’t bother the other test takers.

7. I also brought a couple very cold Diet Cokes, to wash down the peanut butter and the gum taste.

8. To appropriately address my superstitious nature, I wore my Ganesh necklace. In Hindu parlance, Ganesh helps break through obstacles, and I figured the exam that stood between me and CSSBB-hood was definitely an obstacle I wanted broken. (Hey, whatever works, right??)



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://atomic-temporary-5081318.wpcomstaging.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.



* * * * * * * * * * *

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!

Help Validate the QSDR & Win a $50 Quality Press Gift Certificate!

If you have at least 5 years broad experience in quality, please help us validate the “Quality Systems Development Roadmap” originally published in Quality Progress in 2008 (http://asq.org/quality-progress/2008/09/basic-quality/starting-from-scratch.html). This is part of an expert systems project developed by Doug Jin, a student at James Madison University, under the guidance of Nicole Radziwill, JMU faculty member and ASQ member leader.

The 5-page, 13-question survey will be available until January 15, 2011 or 1500 responses are received, whatever comes first, so contribute now at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/W2LYFYP!