The Malcomb Baldrige National Quality Award – Priceless

Can we put a price tag on quality? I think the more pressing question is can we afford to lose the Baldrige Award program? Paul’s most recent blog post raises an important concern.

If I were to ask a handful of acquaintances or friends if they know what the Baldrige Excellence program is, I would bet that the majority of them would not have a clue. Now bear with me, these are people who also say they “aren’t in quality”. So just because there’s a population who doesn’t know about the Baldrige or personally feel that it’s benefited them, mean that it really didn’t provide value? Not in the least.

Paul gets to the heart of what the Baldrige Excellent Award is about. And it isn’t about awards. He says, it’s about identifying and recognizing role model organizations, establishing criteria for evaluating improvement efforts and disseminating and sharing best practices.

I got back to an old saying – Why recreate the wheel? We all know that there are organizations and people that we can learn from, who have been in the trenches and paid their dues…and we can learn from them. We can benefit from their best practices and lessons learned.

Baldrige Award winners are mandated to share their stories with others. And that I think is a priceless part of the benefits we all gain from having this program. Companies are not chomping at the bit to give people an insider view to the journey they took to improving their processes. And many companies (especially small businesses or start ups) do not have the resources to hire consultants to guide them through the improvement cycle.

The Baldrige Program provides a best in class comparison and roadmap for the rest of us. For me, that is priceless.

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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Quality…One At A Time

November is World Quality Month, and ASQ has challenged all of it’s members to Raise The Voice of Quality. You can find info here.

So it got me thinking about what it takes to raise the voice of quality. What are things that we can do as individuals who are part of a larger quality community? How do we share our passion with those who don’t know that they really are a quality professional?

1. First listen
Too many times I hear I’m not in quality, there used to be a quality department at work years ago, or quality is something for the manufacturing industry. My response is quality is in every segment of our jobs and life – and it doesn’t need to be part of a job title.

2. Then lead by example
Before I ask those around me to make a personal committment to being quality advocates, I must examine myself. How am I applying quality principles in my life?

3. Be a mentor
By helping others in the quality community, I am helping sustain the quality movement.

4. Keep my voice heard
Raising the voice of quality isn’t just for the month of November.

So what about your voice? Will you join me in raising the voice of quality?

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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On a perfect day, seek out the imperfections

Did you get caught up in the buzz around 10/10/10? Perfect 10’s. Which only come around once a millenia? Well pardon the pun, but today is a perfect day to seek out and value the imperfect.

The flaws that we do find, give us an ability to continously improve. And to be honest, perfection is short lasting. Because even if we meet all the customer and product requirements, it is a proven fact that requirements do and will change.

Using tried and proven quality tools such as a fishbone diagram or 5 Whys are an easy way to get anyone involved in continuous improvement. Too often people stop at just the first layer of symptoms that are causing our process issues, and don’t do a thorough review to identify a root cause analysis.

This week, my blog will focus on simple techniques and examples of using quality tools to get all stakeholders involved in both identifying potential problems and uncovering the root cause of current issues.

So how do you and your organization handle the imperfect? Are you actively trying to find out how things might fail or be flawed? Or is it your customers or a federal agency that is bringing these issues to your attention? Hopefully it is not the latter.

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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Do you have a networking green thumb?

I continuously am amazed at the power of networking, and how influential your network can be in life.

If you can’t list instances that your network has saved your behind, provided you with a job lead, introduced you to a peer that changed your life, or where you have reciprocated – well then you are not making the most out of your network.

Networks are not one sided. People sometimes make the assumption that they can connect with individuals and perhaps read their blog, twitter posts, linkedin updates – but don’t make the investment in nurturing the relationship.

When we nurture our network, the fruits of that labor can be immense. We are all subject matter experts in at least one area. How have you decided to give back to your community, your peers, and the body of knowledge?

Whether it’s contributing to a white paper, personally mentoring someone, sharing your experiences via a blog or presentation – these all can make the difference to just one person. And if we someone affect just one person, it makes it worthwhile.

Most of us regularly attend some type of conference, and we may see the same individuals there every year. There are key things we can do to build upon these acquaintenances so that we build a mutually beneficial network. My top 5 tips are:

1. Join a user group, then actually participate in it! – whether it’s via linkedin or some other method, joining and participating with other users will build your own knowledge base and create an enviroment best practices sharing.

2. Make it a goal to meet 5 new contacts per conference and then follow up with them – It’s not about coming back with 50 business cards and then not having a clue who was who. Try and meet five indivividuals and bring them into your network.

3. For each new or existing person in your network, identify how you both benefit from your relationship – It’s not always work related. There’s always something positive that you both can bring to each other. If you can’t identify how you are giving back to the relationship, then you must put more of an effort in to nurture it.

4. Document your networking goals and have a strategy – In what shape do you want your network to be in…say in six months, a year? Identify what areas need the most improvement and what are your strengths.

5. Assess your network’s progress – regularly document the benefits you are reaping and that you also provide. Make changes that need to happen. If there are areas or people that are choking the life out of building a successful network, then take necessary action.

Growing a successful network means getting to work! There are seeds to sow, weeds to pull, you have to provide plenty of nutrients….but the fruits of the labor can be priceless.

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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I say to-may-to, you say to-mah-to

The same differences can be had when different people speak of service quality. So, let’s call the whole thing off, right? Well not so fast.

The tangible aspects of quality – ones that can be easily measured, quantified, analyzed and remedied – are obvious. It’s the service side, the intangible aspects of a transaction or interaction that become the source of ambiguity. The root cause of this ambiguity is simple – people are the variation.

You can train your call center representatives to answer the phone the same way or work from the same scripts when handling customer calls. What can not be predicted is the satisfaction level that the customer will feel after that call. Because we don’t explicitly know in most cases what will delight or satisfy that customer.

In the business sector, customers groups are sliced and diced and put into groups. It can be based on age, gender, income, education (and many other factors). But the fact remains is that no matter what common characteristics a group of people may have – they are still individuals.

Individuals who have had thousands of experiences that are specifically unique to them, and it is based on these experiences that they make assumptions about what service quality is or should be.

As service workers, we all need to be cognizant of the people variable when doing our jobs. Whether it’s face to face, phone or email interaction. The best service providers are adept at interpersonal communication. It’s sensing when the person has had a bad day, and one more bad experience is going to put them over the edge. It’s familiarizing yourself with the subtle and not so subtle clues of when your customer may not want to hear a canned script.

Empowering and trusting your workers starts with providing them the right skills training to handle all types of situations. And it’s not for everyone.

Service quality is a unique beast. You can make assumptions about what your customers want out of the service interaction, but you’ll find that your assumptions many times get blown out of the water. That’s why it’s important to not think of customers as part of a segment, but as individuals. Yes, they may behave, look like and spend like 99% of the others in that group but there’s that 1 out of 100 times that things won’t go as planned – where they break the rules and show their individuality.

When that happens, will you be ready?

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 exactly does one Be Quality?

So as I decided to start a blog dedicated to my views on quality, I like so many other blog writers was trying to think of a catchy title or phrase for a blog name. But seriously, either they were tied to a certain field or subgenre of quality or already taken. And that’s when it all became pretty crystal clear to me. For all the courses I’ve taken, certifications I have, or many books on quality (I’ll get around to counting them someday) that I have – the message has never been more in my opinion than just to “be quality”.

What I mean is in every aspect of your life – whether it’s work, love, play, food – quality should be such a fundamental part of your experience where it’s essentially become integrated into your personhood. It becomes part of your core culture, beliefs and norms. And if it isn’t evident to my readers yet, I am an anthropology major. So although I may be firmly situated in the business realm, it is also influenced by an anthropological perspective.

With that being said,  how about you join me on this transformative journey? Let’s think beyond the conventional, and start a new dialogue about quality. So, share your personal quality narrative and any feedback on the concept of “be quality”.

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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