The Most Significant Quality Event of the Year For Me, and Why?

In Paul Borawski’s December Influential Voices post he asks those of us participating in ASQ’s campaign to Raise the Voice of Quality:

What was the most significant quality event of the year for you, and why?

I reflected on that for a couple of hours, made some notes on the whiteboard at my side, and am now coming back to that a couple of weeks later.

Bottom line: it was the conclusion of a long journey – in spreading the word – raising the voice – of Performance Improvement. Locally. And Internationally.

Raising My Voice Locally

It was the end of the year, the last chapter meeting of ISPI Charlotte, on December 1st, where I was attending as the President, a co-founder who along with Dick Handshaw started this dream with me way back in September 0f 2008 – at lunch. We talked about our professional home – ISPI – the International Society for Performance Improvement – and discovered our common interest in starting a local Chapter in Charlotte.

I am a member currently of both ASQ and ISPI – but my history with ISPI goes back to 1979 while my history with ASQ goes back to only 2004 – as far as “card carrying membership” goes. I’ve published articles in quality journals in the past – starting with “Empowerment is Work, not Magic” in “The Journal for Quality and Participation” (September 1993). But my professional focus is performance-based Instruction – including avoiding Instruction is that’s not at the root cause of a performance problem or opportunity. And ISPI broadened out from a focus on Instruction in its early years – to now an analysis of all of the other variables of performance. So that’s my main Professional Home.

ASQ is more than just a summer Professional Home for me. I appreciate their focus on data, measurement and a respect for and attention to all of the other variables. They have strengths in areas that ISPI is weaker in; and vice versa. So in my view they very much compliment each other – and I value my participation in both.

A Long Story Made Somewhat Shorter

I was made aware of and participated in TQM efforts back when it was still being called VR – Variability Reduction in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

I proposed in 1982 – when I was at Motorola – for a combining of Quality, Performance Improvement and Interpersonal skills that I was being exposed to at MTEC – the Motorola Training & Education Center – the forerunner to Motorola University. I learned from the writings of Deming, Juran, Crosby and others from the world of Big Q – as opposed to little q; and from Rummler, Gilbert and others representing more focus on the Human-side Performance (one of the 4 spines of the Ishikawa Diagram); and the Interpersonal skills – most communications behaviors – that I was seeing in the work of Neil Rackham and his Huthwaite associates (Neil Rackham of SPIN Selling fame).

My White Paper at MTEC for proposing that combination is available on my web site – here:

MTEC White Paper 1982 – 39 page PDF – a white paper I wrote while at MTEC – Motorola’s Training & Education Center – in May 1982 where I proposed combining the concepts, models, methods, processes, tools and techniques of Geary Rummler, Neil Rackham (of SPIN Selling fame) and of Deming, Juran and Crosby (and other quality gurus). This led to my boss taking that idea and changing it to become a Geary Rummler Do-It-Yourself Consulting Kit – which after I left in October 1982 became the training course created by Geary Rummler called OPS (Organization Performance Systems) – that later morphed into what became Six Sigma at Motorola.

Alan Ramias – whom I worked with at MTEC – and who took over my projects in late 1982 when I left Motorola – and who later became a partner with Geary Rummler at The Performance Design Lab – talks about Geary Rummler and Six Sigma in this video tribute to the late Geary Rummler – as well as in this article at BPTrends on “The Mists of Six Sigma.”

Here is a Blog Post about that – with photos of myself and (the crazy manufacturing engineer boss of mine, and then Alan’s, who Bill Wiggenhorn also talked about in that video tribute) with his t-shirt with the Superman logo and the word “Kit” on it. That’s all explained in that post – what had happened to my White Paper proposal – and in this post.

I’ve also belonged to other groups such as ASTD. But ISPI and ASQ mean more to me as they are all about what ISPI colleagues referred to back in the 1980s as “Measured Results.”

Dick and I followed up with more discussions about what we envisioned in a local ISPI chapter, what we wanted to avoid, how to set this new chapter up – what we had learned from similar experiences. We even agreed early on to write-up our start-up story – which you can get for free here – a 54 page PDF that covers our ramp up efforts and the our thinking before starting that – not for anyone to simply adopt as is – but as a starting point for their informed adaptation.

Our discussions culminated at the annual ISPI conference in April of 2009 – and then we began in earnest, whole hog as they might say in this state of BBQ. We had our chapter up and running with over 100 members and 8 Programs with nationally known speakers from the ISPI community lined up up for the remainder of 2009 until the end of 2010 – all by October 1, 2009.

Dick was our appointed President that first 14 months until the end of 2010; and I the appointed President-Elect who then became President for 2011. I/we considered those first 26 months our building months. Standing it up as they might say in the military. Now, with the new leaders taking over – I have concluded the grand experiment.

You see, I am one of very few ISPI International Presidents who took the backwards route of being that first (2003-2004), and then becoming a Chapter President. At least according to many in the ISPI International community who marveled at my volunteer enthusiasm and probably wondered about my sanity. Now I understand why. Some of them must have been Chapter Presidents – or had started a chapter in their past.

It’s a “long row to hoe” as they say.

The Harvest So To Speak

Today, it’s different. I started hearing that when I was a Board Director at ISPI in 1999. The Internet is changing everything we were told by our executive director who got that from his Professional Home of Association Executives.

Most associations were stuck in a synchronous mode. The world meanwhile had shifted or was shifting to an a-synchronous mode. How many of you watch your favorite TV programs when you wish – rather than when they are first broadcasted? Time shifting it is called. Addressing that would be key to an organization’s future success.

So here – 10 years after learning that I am involved in starting up a local F2F affinity group – to bring in speakers for “events” – evening programs of 90 minutes.

Were we swimming upstream? Barking up the wrong tree? Fighting the inevitable?

Were/are affinity groups doomed? Has the Internet and Social Media and Personal Learning Networks made them passé?

Was the planning and implementation efforts – involving lots of hours – all for naught?

Or is there still room in the mix of sources for Professional Development for a group like this?

It is a lot of work to stand up an organization such as a local chapter. Deciding the target audiences, the purpose(s), the product/service mix, the processes, the practices and then recruiting the people to make it happen, work out the fine details – bringing it to life. And adapt as needed.

And it is also difficult to let it go. But I knew that before that came up.

So I spent my year getting ready to let go. To turn over the gavel (figuratively that is).

We had 6 Programs (plus 3 workshops) – and 6 Board Meetings – where my focus was on the fine tuning needed after the initial push to stand up the chapter – so as to be done with that. To share the leadership with the President-Elect by involving them in the setting of the agenda, as shaped by the annual chapter calendar (membership surveys, program planning and recruiting, conducting elections, etc.) for all of the things that can be anticipated and planned for – and for the things that just come up.

So that is done. I am done (in a few days) with my role as President.

The Proof Is In the Pudding

The harvest is done.

Next, the outputs, the crops, will be used in meals going forward. Feeding the needs for Professional Development locally.

I will continue to participate in Board meetings as the Past President – a non-voting role put in place to help the future boards with continuity – answering “why in the world did they decide that?” if/when that question comes up.

The chapter is strong. We offer low cost, high quality Professional Development. Our attendance at bi-monthly programs is the envy of many other chapters who have heard about our story and our successes. We have a Newsletter that comes out during our off months – and a semi-annual Journal that allows our members to get published – easily. It their toe in the water – for getting published elsewhere. You have got to start somewhere.

We offer content on Instructional Design and other interventions needed to improve performance – at the Worker level (the employee), the Work level (the Process), the Workplace level (the organization) and the World (what Roger Kaufman calls: Mega).

ASQ is also focused on improving performance – using some overlapping – but many different tools and techniques also – that helps round me out.

I don’t have time to learn a little bit about everything – and certainly not to master it all.

There is/are no Renaissance Man or Woman – nowadays.

There is simply too much to know – in the world today.

That’s Why We Need To Collaborate!

That’s why I participate in both ISPI and ASQ.

Raising My Voice Internationally

ASQ gives me a broader reach to share what I know – that limited amount given the vastness of all that there is to know – about Performance Improvement for the Human Variable in the Process Performance.

And it gives me a source to learn more about the other variables. That 94% that Deming would say is outside the control of the workers – the humans.  That’s not solved directly with communications, education and training – although implementing the other fixes might require stuff like that.

You too can raise your voice with your theories, concepts, models, methods, tools and techniques and together we can improve quality and performance – for Mega – for the good of Society.

It takes a village – or rather, villages. And cooperation, collaboration, and sharing.

Lots of sharing.

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