Arron Angle’s picture

By: Arron Angle

I just received and read the “2021 ASQE Insights on Excellence Executive Brief.” The brief examines how quality initiatives are progressing in the digital era, based on the views and experiences of 542 executives and quality professionals from global enterprises. Here we go again, I thought.

Yes, technology drives change, change drives new quality issues, and new quality issues drive quality professionals to come up with new quality performance metrics and enhancements. I’ve read these same platitudes for years. We believe that systemic issues of quality can be solved with new programs, new spreadsheets, or new ways to calculate quality performance. Obviously, some of the solutions hit the root cause of a specific issue. But the systemic factor, which has always been present and is at the heart of all matters of quality as technology drives change, is management.

Management in most companies is the root cause of not keeping up with technology or the market, or the generational changes needed as younger employees are hired. It’s all about culture and behaviors. As an example, let’s compare and contrast safety and quality.

Rick Grimaldi’s picture

By: Rick Grimaldi

Employee engagement has been a boardroom buzzword for quite some time. We’ve long known engagement matters. Still, the unspoken “but” has always been that metrics—especially those of the performance and financial ilk—matter more. Now, with the workplace talent shortage at a 10-year high, the time is right for a major shift in this “metrics-first” attitude.

Having negotiated hundreds of labor agreements myself, I see firsthand what attracts and retains employees. As leverage keeps shifting toward employees, companies scramble to offer new benefits and put all sorts of expensive retention programs in place—but they’re missing the one thing they should be doing.

As I negotiate contracts, one thing I hear all the time is that employees “don’t feel cared about.” The key to winning the war for talent might be simpler than many employers realize. It’s not just about paying more. It’s about putting engagement at the center of everything.

Gleb Tsipursky’s picture

By: Gleb Tsipursky

Organizations will need to pivot their corporate culture if they wish to survive and thrive in the world of virtual collaboration after the pandemic. The most important changes will stem from the wide-scale and permanent shift to hybrid and fully remote modes of working.

Between 65 percent to 75 percent of employers intend to have a mainly hybrid schedule, with a minority of staff fully remote. This is being led by large companies that announced a permanent switch. Combining hybrid and fully remote work largely matches what employees want.

Donald J. Wheeler’s picture

By: Donald J. Wheeler

Management requires prediction. However, when making predictions it is easy to torture the data until they surrender and tell you what you expect to hear. Even though this torture may be unintentional, it can keep you from hearing the story the data could tell. This column is about how to avoid torturing your data while making predictions.

A few years ago a correspondent sent me the data for the number of major North Atlantic hurricanes for a 65-year period. Major hurricanes are those that make it up to category 3 or higher. I have updated this data set to include the number of major hurricanes through 2021. The counts of these major hurricanes are shown in a histogram in figure 1. In what follows we shall look at two approaches to using these data to make predictions.

Figure 1: Major North Atlantic hurricanes per year, 1935–2021
Figure 1: Major North Atlantic hurricanes per year, 1935–2021

Annette Franz’s picture

By: Annette Franz

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Seth Godin’s concept of Finding Your Who, which is all about identifying who your products are for. The Who isn’t defined by demographics but by psychographics: Their (customer) beliefs, their dreams, their desires. It’s a reminder that developing personas is so important to customer-experience design. And it’s a reminder that we should be finding products for our customers, not customers for our products.

Why personas

Because personas...
• Shift the organization’s focus outside-in (on the customer), as it should be, rather than inside-out
• Really put the experience in the customer’s perspective and make you think about the customer as a “real human”
• Help everyone understand who the customer is and obsess about the customer’s needs
• Keep people from forming their own opinions about who the customer really is—everyone is on the same page
• Develop empathy for the customer
• Bring the customer to life
• Shift “target demographic” thinking to a more actionable definition and view

Karla Jo Helms’s picture

By: Karla Jo Helms

Covid-19 has changed America’s workforce in a fundamental and most likely permanent way, and not adopting the “new normal” can be the difference between success and failure.

According to the Pew Research Center, more than half of American workers surveyed have said that given a choice, they would want to keep working from home even after the pandemic. What began as a necessity has resulted in a refashioning of how work gets done.

Many experts believe that employees will continue to prioritize flexibility and safety, with the expectation that many old paradigms will be reconsidered—from the five-day work week to the power dynamic between employers and employees. Additionally, that shift has brought about changes in the use of technology, which has in and of itself led to a cultural transformation in the workplace. Companies that do not adapt to this new reality are destined to fail.

Innovating Service With Chip Bell’s picture

By: Innovating Service With Chip Bell

One of my favorite Halloween memories was decorating the annual giant pumpkin with my son when he was young. As a toddler, he was primarily an observer as he watched me sculpt the face of the pumpkin with a scrimp knife. However, his commitment to the pumpkin-carving process ramped up dramatically as he got old enough to wield the knife himself. He got to use “the knife” (with close supervision) long before his grandmother thought it was “being responsible.”

Customers care when they share. Their participation elevates their allegiance when they are invited and encouraged to put skin in the game. But when a service provider goes one more step and adds a bit of risk to that inclusion (“the knife”), their allegiance soars to devotion. This is by no means an invitation to cast safety to the wind or to act irresponsibly. But it is a recommendation to walk with your customer on the wild side. It signals how much you care; it communicates how much you want a valued partnership, not just a typical relationship.

Corey Brown’s picture

By: Corey Brown

Even with advancements in technology and automation, the frontline workforce remains essential to modern manufacturing operations. In fact, 72 percent of factory work is still performed by people.

This means that operators, technicians, and line managers are all your biggest operational risks.

Manufacturing organizations have the same goals—reduce waste, improve quality, and increase efficiency. But operational excellence is an evolving target.

With the generational shift happening in the frontline workforce, manufacturing employees are facing a new set of challenges that directly affect these goals in unique ways. It’s time to understand the needs of the frontline workforce and how new strategies can empower them to perform their best.


Manufacturing has a perception problem. Overall interest in manufacturing has decreased by more than 70 percent since 2004, according to Google Trend analytics.

Aron Solomon’s picture

By: Aron Solomon

The past few weeks I advised several entrepreneurs who are trying to bring a product or service to market. Each is struggling with whether the minimum viable product (MVP) they’re launching is too minimum and would therefore be nonviable. The notion of the MVP has always had its pros and cons, but the often-bitter cocktail of time pressure, competition, and agile software development made the MVP the ongoing easy choice.

I introduced my concept of the initial viable product (IVP) to these founders, as I have with many others, and it seems to have resonated with most. The IVP isn’t just a hyper-iterated MVP. It’s the first truly viable product you choose to launch. You’re going to be judged on the first thing you launch—everyone is. Incessant explaining that it’s just your MVP and it’s not really ready yet is sometimes fine, but I’ve seen many other times where that’s the dealbreaker in itself. Why? Because your idea of minimal is far more minimal than that of the person you’re showing it to. Minimal is a sliding scale that will always slide onto you.

The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson’s picture

By: The Un-Comfort Zone With Robert Wilson

The other day I heartily congratulated a friend on her job promotion. She replied, “What if they made a mistake? What if I’m not really qualified, and it’s the Peter Principle in effect—that I’ve risen to the level of my incompetence?”

“You’re totally qualified,” I responded, “They wouldn’t have given you the job if you didn’t deserve it.”

She then said, “But I feel like a fraud.”

My friend was suffering from imposter syndrome. I understood how she felt, so I said, “I get it. I’ve been there. In my first year of speaking professionally, I was hired to present the keynote speech for a national association. It was extremely exciting, and exactly what I wanted, but the night before I was to go on stage, feelings of doubt emerged. And, like you, I felt like a fraud. Worse, I started to feel panicky.

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