Staying in balance

There’s a lot of demands on our time these days. Whether you are Gen Y (aka Millenial), Gen X or another generation in the workforce; we have busy lives.

How does one stay in balance when there are so many competing forces knocking us off balance? Here are a 3 quick tips that I’ve come up with. Please add yours in the comments below.

1. Know your priorities
If you don’t know what needs to get done this week and how to prioritize it, you’re swimming in quicksand. If you want to stay afloat, then be sure you have clearly identified priorities along with any due dates. Make sure you use a comprehensive calendar, so you can see both your personal and professional lives. Sometimes we don’t have a say in what takes highest priority, depending on circumstances at work. However, we can control how we react to the situation and determine best course. Identifying priorities and associated tasks and timelines will help you be realistic in assessing what’s happening in your life.

2. Think you can’t delegate, you’re wrong!
Delegation is one of the secret skills I’ve learned along the way to help myself stay in balance. I used to be one of those workers who felt that if I let any piece of my work go, it put me at risk of losing either my job or potentially moving ahead in my career. The biggest a-ha moment was realizing that successful people delegate and delegate often. Delegation isn’t limited to work. You can barter to have work done that needs done, hire out someone to help you (this doesn’t always have to be expensive either), and to get things done. True story: I once got an important task done that I needed another department’s help with by just bringing in some homemade dessert. Respect and appreciation go a long way. In a work setting – Be thankful, tell their boss how much their staff member rocks, and remember that they have an IOU they can call in at a later date.

3. No is not a dirty word.
Another thing I’ve learned through my career. Being a “Yes Man” or in this case a “Yes Woman”, doesn’t equate promotions or a good working environment. You know why? You are bound to take on TOO MUCH and then have to backtrack or make mistakes. Basically knowing priorities and delegation options do make this a no brainer. Understand what’s on your plate before taking on more. And if you are a good manager (or have a good manager), you’ll respect your staff members for being honest.

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Life after OTTC: Post Conference Best Practices

You spent a week in Orlando, networked until your head was spinning (or that could have been The Hulk ride), and crammed so much new info into your brain that you don’t think you could retain one more piece of knowledge.

Now what? Before you go and start answering the several hundred work emails queued up; do these three things to ensure that you maximize your time spent at OTTC.

1. Organize your business cards received and make a formal connection

Nothing is worse than digging through your work drawers, finding your prior year OTTC lanyard stuffed with business cards. These are valuable contacts! Peer networking is one of the best ways that you can further your solution and implement process improvements. What I suggest is sending a short email or LinkedIn invite that is personalized with how you met, and that you look forward to further discussing how to share best practices with them.

2. Organize your notes from the conference

Whether you scribbled down your ideas on a notepad or an iPad – now is the time to put these down in a simple matrix for further reference

I categorize mine as Tip/Trick, Enhancement or New

Tip/Trick – something I learned that can help me/my team right away without much involvement

Enhancement – something that we can implement somewhat easily, but with other resources help

New – totally new process or module to research

I also add a follow up column for notes and resource column if there’s someone else I need to involve. It’s a simple way to keep track of your ideas and identify what you are able to implement or improve as a result of attending the conference.

3. Be a Hero and share your knowledge

Others in your company use OnBase, but you were sent to the conference. Don’t keep that knowledge to yourself. Schedule out some time on your calendar for next week after you’ve  been able to access the presentations that are most relevant to the line of business. Schedule some short meetings with your manager, peers and team. Tailor your meetings to what is most relevant to them (i.e. Tips and Tricks for your team, Enhancements and New ideas for your peers and manager)

Tip: Before the meeting with your manager, be prepared to discuss what the investment might be and how you see a return on investment. If you don’t have the information, keep your meeting brief and let them know what research you are undertaking and who you are working with. Involve your OnBase Solution Provider and/or point of contact at work who acts as a liasion within your institution.

By doing these things, you can maximize the time and money spent for you to attend the conference. This will make it much easier to show the value add you are providing your organization by attending OTTC. This will secure your ability to get approval to attend OTTC in 2013. You don’t want to miss the Mandalay Bay Beach Party, do you?

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Why I stay – a personal look at volunteering

As I went through member leader training yesterday, there was a common thread I kept hearing from the approximately 250 peers that also attended. Passion. People here are passionate about quality. That’s what makes ASQ unique, in that it’s a community of people who want to improve things, who want to make a difference somehow.

I was energized that there were so many young leaders who attended, and I also felt a huge responsibility because of that. As someone who’s been a member leader for almost six years, it’s part of my responsibility to ensure that these new leaders are nurtured. We must listen to them, mentor them, and keep them engaged. If none of this happens, there’s a good chance that they will become a statistic in who we did not retain.

So how do you engage someone? First, I think it’s important to understand why we as volunteers have stayed. What besides a shared passion for quality keeps us here? While every story is different, knowing your own personal story will help you connect and relate to the new kid on the block.

For me, it was the people. Having been a part of the Service Quality Division leadership team for almost six years, I have come to think of them as family. You pick on each other like brothers and sisters, but you also celebrate the good times and carry your friends through the tough times. Then there’s the many others who I’ve come to know through year after year at WCQI or some other ASQ event. People at all stages of their career who have helped me develop a network I appreciate immensely.

As a Chair, I know it’s an unspoken but necessary part of my job to make my team feel the same sense of belonging as I do. It’s my job to make them understand that their contributions are important, that I value their work and I understand that it takes time away from their loved ones and they “day jobs”.

Last night we had our annual thank you dinner with the Division’s leadership team and their guest as just one of the small ways we can show appreciation for the hard work these volunteers put forward. We had a couple of new faces at the dinner table and several familiar ones. As I sat back and heard the laughter, the stories, the brother and sisterly jabs – I let it all sink in. And I thought to myself — Yes, this is why I stay.

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Tips for a Successful WCQI 2012

Like many of you, I’m getting my last minute details finalized for the upcoming WCQI and ASQ Member leader training. I’ve got a myriad of room names, conference sessions and things to pack running amuck in my brain. It seems like every year, my schedule gets busier and I get more absentminded. So here are my tips for a successful world conference. Hopefully one or two might help you!

1. Bring those business cards and remember to distribute them!
While there was a big trend last year of using QR codes, I still think that people love old fashioned business cards. There’s nothing worse than meeting someone and realizing that after they’ve left you forgot to exchange business cards. Meeting so many people in the span of a few jam packed days means that you will forget names (usually by the time you’re boarding the flight home).

2. Follow the trend (Social Networking)
This year, ASQ has decided to heavily promote social networking at the conference. Be sure to tweet using the hashtag #WCQI12. Attend one of the three social networking meetups that ASQ is offering as a way to get to know others who are just as passionate about quality as you are.

Visit the the Conference Voices sign in the ASQ Center (exhibit hall)
Sunday, May 20th 6:30pm – 7:30 pm
Monday, May 21st 10am – 11am
Tuesday, May 22nd 2pm – 3pm

3. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize
With more than 100 sessions and four other concurrent conferences, the number of available sessions can be overwhelming. Downtime at the airport or on the airplane is a perfect time to take one final look at the conference schedule and determine what sessions will provide you the most value. If you are on the fence, google the speaker and find out a little bit more about their experience and background as it relates to the topic. Have a game plan before you go into the conference, but realize that you may swap out sessions once you have a chance to meet a speaker in person or get a recommendation from another conference attendee.

4. Networking shouldn’t be work
While one of your goals may be to expand your network, don’t make it a stressful experience. Not everyone is comfortable introducing themselves to strangers. Here are some low stress openers

So what’s been your favorite session so far?
What did you think of the keynote?
So who has the best giveaways this year at their booth?

Making small talk is a great way to lead to deeper connections. Set a goal for meeting “x” number of new connections, whether it’s through some of the evening networking opportunities or in those minutes before or after a session.

5. Do find time for R&R
Whether it’s some shopping at Downtown Disney, riding Space Mountain for the umpteenth time or dipping your feet in the pool – you don’t want to come home without enjoying a bit of what California has to offer. So many times we go to conferences, and spend our free time buried in our blackberry or on the laptop. If you must work, set a time limit! Then set another time limit for your R&R. Believe me, you will thank me later!

So what are your tips? Leave them in the comments.

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What is the value of an ASQ membership?

I’ve come to realize through the years that the value of an ASQ membership can be substantial, but it’s really up to you to realize it. If you put your effort into making the most out of what ASQ can offer, I promise that the yearly investment is worth it. When I think back to when I first got my membership back in 2004, it was to get discounts on training courses and certifications. Fast forward more than seven years and now my ASQ membership is something I cannot do without.

As a young professional, having the access to training, conferences and certifications during my first couple of years as a member was the foundation I needed to grow in both my professional and personal life. I quickly decided that I wanted to give back to the ASQ Community as a member leader. My decision to volunteer was a turning point in my relationship with ASQ.

Prior to that point, my dues were paid yearly. I was able to obtain my CQIA and CQPA certifications, in addition to taking several great classroom based courses. The instructor led courses opened my eyes to something I had never really experienced at that point in my career. There were others like me! Others who loved soaking up the learning – whether it was about Quality Management, PDCA cycles or Root Causes Analysis. I was lucky to have both the financial and personal support from my then manager and employer.

But it wasn’t until I started becoming an active member leader was when things really started coming together. I became part of a larger effort, and was able to give back my time and energy into growing the quality community. I can directly link the success I’ve had in my career back to the networking that ASQ has provided, and the leadership skills that I’ve been able to foster in several member leader roles. As I came across challenges in my career, I’ve been able to reach out to a vast network of people. Without my involvement in ASQ, this would not be possible.

My advice to young professionals is that if you break the cost of membership down on a monthly basis, you are spending the cost of 2 or 3 coffee drinks to expand your networking, mentorship and learning opportunities. Membership dues are going up as of 7/1, so why not ? For college students, a student membership is only $26!

If you would like to ask me any questions about my membership experience, please feel free to add your question in the comments. If you are already a member, I’d also invite you to comment on your member experience.

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Forces of Change – What really shapes the future of quality?

As I pondered about the latest View from the Q blog on , I boiled it down to one quote from the . The quote being “We have two choices, the first to be swept away by the sea of change coming our way, the second to navigate that sea to our advantage.”

As quality professionals we are used to being the navigators, but how do we successfully show our colleagues that it’s actually safer to lead the way rather than wait for someone to come rescue us? As young professionals, I find many of us are also restless with the status quo, we question why do we have to do things the way they have aways been done. We’ve grown up in a world that’s been flipped on it’s head in so many ways. We don’t expect to work at one place of employment for 25 plus years. We probably don’t have a pension or the health insurance our parents had. We like to keep busy, and really can’t imagine life as a retiree.

That being said, I don’t think many of the forces of change really come as a surprise to the next generation of leaders.

Growing up, many of the people I talk to in the young quality professional community became increasingly aware of the global impact of the decisions we make. We listened to the news about sweat shops or poor working conditions across the globe for the sake of a name brand label on our clothes. Companies had a responsibility to use their knowledge to be more socially aware of their impact and the footprint they leave.

For my generation and generations after me, we place a lot of value in the feedback of others on a product or service. Yes, we use the internet to research items before making a purchase, but we also want to hear testimonials from those we know and trust. We use social media to highlight the positive and negative experiences.

We anticipate a short shelf life of products and things have become increasingly disposible – for better or worse. We get a new cell phone every two years or less, and we fully buy a technology product with the knowledge that we will purchase a replacement in the near future. This is in direct contrast to our parents and grandparents who bought things for the long haul – and had products which lived up to their expectations.

I don’t necessarily buy into that the workforce of the future will create virtually non existant unemployement. Unless those jobs that are created are $10/hour jobs. How can we sustain a middle class workforce? Will the middle class cease to exist? I definitelyam interested in reading more about ASQ’s position on this topic as part of the comprehensive futures study which will be published in September 2011.

One doesn’t need a crystal ball to know that the aging population will have a huge impact on the future of quality. The infrastructure in our healthcare system just isn’t in place to address this, so I think this needs to be addressed. It will affect the way we do business and how we do business on many different levels.

In closing, the research that ASQ has provided as a glimpse into the forces that are shaping the future of quality is one that we need to take notice of. While it may not be surprising to many of us, the key factor is whether we are going to navigate the change or wait for the change to overtake us. I prefer the former.

I’m part of the ASQ Influential Voices program. While I receive an honorarium from ASQ for my commitment, the thoughts and opinions expressed on my blog are my own.

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5 Tips for a Successful WCQI 2011

These are simple yet effective tips to ensure that you have a great World Conference.

1. Bring your business cards in your carry on luggage.
Who’s had the pleasure of having your bags lost by your airline carrier? Even better when you realize that your stack of business cards was in that bag. Am I the only one raising my hand? I don’t think so. Make sure to bring a nice stack of business cards to exchange at WCQI.

2. Get the Linked in app for your iPhone.
Use the In Person feature to connect instantly with nearby LinkedIn users. Fast and efficient, this is a great way to network in the 21st century. (And might help if you run out or lose those business cards)

3. Make it a goal to meet at least 5 new people at the conference, and follow-up with them afterwards.
Whether this is your 1st or 15th conference, make it a point to move outside your comfort zone and meet new people. The Division sponsored Monday evening hospitality suites are a perfect opportunity to network with others in the quality profession. And it doesn’t do a lot of good for you or your new connection if you don’t do a little follow-up post-conference. Make it a point to schedule time on your calendar for performing the follow-up (as we all know how slammed we get when coming back from a few days out of the office)

4. Keep your focus on the conference in order to get the best value out of the conference.
Make plans to delegate critical tasks while you are out of the office. If you must answer work emails, then try your best to do so early in the morning before the conference starts. Otherwise you’ll find yourself standing out in the hall, or worse yet scrolling through messages while in a session. Remember this is an investment in


5. Ask questions during the sessions.
Most sessions allow for some Q&A time. This is your opportunity to ask industry respected SME’s for their insight and advice. This is a prime opportunity to tap into their knowledge, and even add some of them to your professional network!

See you at WCQI 2011!

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Social Responsibility – Accountability to our customers and ourselves

Haven’t we heard the saying of do right by your customers, and the business will succeed?

The coined term of social responsibility might be fairly new, but the sentiment is not. We all know of local businesses or organizations that do right by their people, their customers and the environment. It wasn’t a business choice, but a personal ethic that drove the business decisions.

Now as this cause is so much in the spotlight, there are many companies who have adopted social responsibility and sustainability policies. Is it a smart marketing ploy or driven from the personal ethics of business leaders?

On a trip back from Chicago, I stopped at an Oberweis store which makes it supplier dairy farms adhere to a pledge that includes “Treat our cows humanely and Do nothing different than if our children and families were drinking all of the milk we produce. While I didn’t find the term social responsibility on their website, the ethic of doing right by people shines through. I don’t need to have a company tell me they are “socially responsible”. I want to hear their words about how they serve the communities they impact. Actions speak louder than words, you know.

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(Belated) New Year’s Resolutions…using quality

New Year’s resolutions at the end of January? “Isn’t that a bit odd”, you might say. Yes and no.

When you are a quality professional, you can start to view life as a constant PDSA cycle. And as part of continuous learning, we know that improving isn’t limited to once a year and shouldn’t be done in haste.

So here are my thoughts on what I would like to focus on in 2011. I will come back to this list from time to time and share my progress and what I’ve done to improve based on the PDSA methodology.

1. Focus my spending habits and consumption to support companies that practice social responsibility and sustainability. This of course means researching who these companies are and then choosing the best way to spend my dollars.

2. Mentor at least one person who is interested in quality. As a chairperson of ASQ’s Young Quality Professional and Chair-Elect of the Service Quality Division, there is a community that I can reach out to – via social media or face to face events.
At this year’s WCQI, I will be presenting networking strategies for women in quality. I’m looking forward to being able to help others reach their own networking goals and improve how we connect with each other through quality.

3. On a personal level, I love photography. My goal is to apply quality tools to my photography so I can be more consistent and become a better photographer. So there might be a blog or two related to the application of quality tools to photography!

4. On a professional level, promote the use of quality tools in the work environment. Simply put, I have to be a champion. It’s easy for quality professionals to connect with each other, but think of the many others we interact with daily who may not have our background in quality, but quality is such a huge part of their job.

5. Share my lessons learned and best practices to a larger audience. In the past 10+ years, the fumbles and successes I’ve had can help others. And no matter how much experience any of us has had, we learn from each other. So I will plan more collaboration and learning opportunities.

So what are your quality goals for 2011 and beyond?

Stay tuned for upcoming blog posts that focus on how I am using the PDSA for each of these goals!

I’m part of the ASQ Influential Voices program. While I receive an honorarium from ASQ for my commitment, the thoughts and opinions expressed on my blog are my own.

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How safe is your food? Who makes sure it stays safe?

This month, Paul Barowski blogged about the new food safety law. You can read more about it here.

While I do not claim to know the ins and outs of food regulation and inspection, as a consumer I can definitely weigh in.

Though my generation is starting to grow and tend to community gardens, eat organic and be more cognizant about the origins of the food we eat – there is much we take for granted. When I buy eggs from the supermarket or eat a fresh spinach salad from the deli, I barely ever think about food safety. In fact, I take for granted and have the assumption that my food meets the highest quality standards.

The truth is, we need to pay more attention. As a consumer, I need to understand what laws are in place to protect me and the people I love….and to keep our food safe.

So as a quality professional, it’s good to know that ASQ is working on my behalf to help provide guidance and support for preventative action on food safety.

I agree that having third party assessments would be beneficial within the food safety industry. Using international standards only makes sense, as long as they maintain the highest standards for the industry. So now, I’m going to read up on the Food Safety Modernization Act – because we should all care about keeping our food safe and making sure that the right legislature is in place to protect us.

I’m part of the ASQ Influential Voices program. While I receive an honorarium from ASQ for my commitment, the thoughts and opinions expressed on my blog are my own.

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