Earlier this month I attended the ASQ World Conference on Quality Improvement (WCQI) in Dallas, Texas, USA. While my primary purpose to visit was to receive in person my Fellow status, it was a delight to stay on at the conference. I am certain I am not alone in feeling this way.
Many of you have helped me on my journey to become a Fellow of the ASQ and continue to help. My most sincere thanks for your help. This post is dedicated to those amongst you who could not visit the conference. Here is my summary of the conference.
Award ceremonies and exhibition opening
For a pre-conference inauguration kind of day this was a packed to the rim day. The day started with opening of the exhibition area. The exhibition area was something I had not imagined at this scale. In many ways all of us can imagine a speaker session. A large hall, with a glittering dais, huge seating etc. But, to imagine an exhibition center as big as a football ground, I wasn’t ready for that.
It was a delight to see so many companies setting up booths/stalls to promote their goods and services. The ones I loved were:
The Quality Council of Indiana stall was probably the highlight. It was also a highlight because I know the founder of QCI, Bill Wortman fairly well and he was very welcoming. The entire range of study material for ASQ exams was on display. The booth also attracted attention with some glamour quotient!www.qualitycouncil.com
QI Macros by Jay Arthur – those of you who are looking for an Excel Alternative for Mintab/JMP, please check this out. Excellent add-on for MS Excel. Can do almost any analysis that other software over 5 times the price do. At $200 or so I think QI Marcos is a fantastic product.
Gemba Academy by Ron Perriera – While the academy offers training in the US, I was particularly interested in the online training they offer. For $ 2000 you can do an online LSS BB. The modules I checked were very well prepared. There are coaching sessions packed in as well. Good alternative, if you want to study at your pace or don’t have access to good training in your area.
Other booths of interest were Minitab, JMP, ASQ Center, and Quality Management Division.
The Fellows Lunch was a grand affair. All past fellows are invited and a lot of them came. The 24 new Fellows felt much honored in the presence of luminaries. Announcements were made by ASQ Past Chair John Timmerman. The Fellow lapel Pin being given away by current Chair, Stephen Hacker. This was a truly memorable moment for both Hemant Urdhwareshe and me as the two Fellows from India this year. During the networking session that followed I met a lot of quality celebs and found them all very warm and welcoming.
The opening and closing talks of the conferences were the highlights for me. Erik Wahl – a very popular artist, author, speaker, and philanthropist took stage as the opening keynote. He delivered an engaging talk on remaining creative and embellished the talk with making three paintings right there on the stage– Bono, Einstein, Steve Jobs. The highlight of the talk was how he demonstrated to the over 2000 + people present that fear is real but mostly unfounded. And if you took some risk there are big rewards. I loved the talk and bought his book and stood in a mile long queue to get it autographed.
The closing keynote was delivered by Michelle Rhee. Michelle’s claim to fame is turning around the public school system in Washington. She delivered with amazing passion, sincerity, and timely wit. Battling all odds she reformed a broken system and during her time as Chancellor of Washington Public School System has delivered excellent results for students in grades 8 to 10. She has written a book (title Radical) around this and I urge you all to read it for an amazing story of how impossible can be made possible.
Commander Mike Abrashoff of the US Navy spoke about his experience of leading a ship. His ship became the best ‘damn’ ship in the US Navy in his tenure.
There were two more keynotes. Bob Pence, CEO of Freese and Nichols Inc, an engineering company based in Texas and an MBNQA winner, spoke about how to lead a MBNQA winning effort. I was delighted to see MBNQA flourish. Alicia Davis of General Motors spoke about how the auto maker has benefited from merging the Quality and Customer Experience functions. This was one keynote which clearly wasn’t key note class. Alica read through her talk with no eye contact with the audience. She was good in the Q&A sessions.
Other interesting sessions
The WCQI is built around concurrent sessions and team presentations. As a result one has to plan in advance about which sessions to attend. Amongst the ones I attended here are the interesting ones:
§ Culture and Quality research by Corporate Executive Board
§ Using DOE in financial services call centers
§ Hoshin Kanri by Beth Cudney (Beth became a Fellow this year)
§ Networking by Erick Hayler (Fellow)
§ Using Quality Tools in career planning
The International Team Excellence competition finals were also held during the conference. India’s Max Life Insurance won a Bronze which is very commendable. The competition was fierce but a lot of fun as well.
A key trend that I picked up this year was the renewed interest in MBNQA (Baldrige) and focus on Hoshin Kanri.
My personal highlight of the event was the 10 mins I spent with Robert Camp (Father of Benchmarking). Dr Camp is Chairman of the Global Benchmarking Council. My mentor/guru Suresh Lulla is also on this council. Dr Camp was very warm and eager to discuss even in the short time we had. He invited me to get photographed with him and his family as well. Made me feel special!
One regret – could not meet Prof Kano. He was at the conference but I couldn’t meet him.
Other quality celebs that I met and interacted with are Richard Shainin (son of Dorain Shainin), Russel Westcott, Greg Watson (Author of several quality studies), Charles Aubrey, J P Russel, Bill Wortman (QCI), Bob King (GOAL/QPC)
The NRI contingent was in strong numbers. Some key members were Govind Ramu, Navin Dedhia, Pradip Mehta, Dilip Shah, and Kush Shah.
Truly World Class
Attending the WCQI this year has permanently altered my idea about ‘world-class’. I remain amazed at how a bunch of staff and volunteers could deliver such an amazing event. The size, quality, diversity, professionalism, detail-orientation, everything about the event was ‘world-class’. I will try and improve our ASQ Bangalore events based on this experience.
The other shift in my mindset is around setting higher goals. While becoming a Fellow is indeed special, it was at the WCQI that I realized that so much more is to be done. I met other Fellows and Award Winners and returned impressed by what they have done and are doing. I have set my bar higher now and found new motivation.