Probing the Limits: Time to Say Good-Bye

July 31, 2007
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This is my last column for Quality Magazine. When I was invited to write this column in 2002, I would have never guessed that I would be doing this for five years.

Because valuable things can be learned by looking back, I would like to reflect on my experience writing “Probing the Limits.” In my first column, I explained my mission as, “Often, I will raise issues that may not set well with some, and I will be critical of the quality community. I expect that this will trigger disagreement, but that is fine. My goal is not to be a rabble-rouser, but rather to initiate a constructive dialogue that will lead to positive change. After all, we can’t change what is wrong with our profession until we start talking about it. I hope that the dialogue that this column generates will lead to changes that will refuel your passion for quality. I also hope that changes will occur that will re-establish quality professionals in their rightful role as change agents leading the way to new highs in end-user quality and organizational performance.”

Five years ago, I also explained that I felt things in the quality profession had changed for the worse. I now feel that many of the issues in the quality profession that were really frustrating me are being recognized as potential problems-and that’s a significant step forward. I also feel like there is still work to do for the profession to meet its full potential.

The goal for my column was to cause some positive change in the profession. Looking back, I didn’t have as much impact as I had hoped, but feel that some of my columns did play a role in affecting positive change.

In August 2003, I wrote a series of columns that started with, “Wake Up ASQ!” where I outlined problems I saw with the American Society for Quality (ASQ) and invited readers to send me their perspective. I give Quality Magazine credit for having the backbone to run columns that critiqued some sacred issues in the profession.

I also give Ken Case, the president of ASQ at the time, credit for reaching out to me to address those issues. Ken invited me to a large meeting of the ASQ Board of Directors and other ASQ stakeholders where I presented the readers’ input on ASQ. After the meeting, Ken sent a note to me stating, “Your input was very valuable to us. I wish you could have seen the planning session later in the day-there were frequent references to what you told us. I believe your comments gave emphasis and validity to many of the things we have been aware of, but which are now in sharper focus.”

I found it very gratifying to play a role in giving the readers of Quality Magazine a direct conduit to influence changes in the profession.

I don’t know exactly how much impact my columns have had on the quality profession, but I am glad to see more discussion and questioning on issues I raised such as the value of ISO 9000 and quality trends du jour. Five years ago, I felt like a heretic voicing those issues. I think the discussion going on now is a positive sign of progress.

I also want to give the readers of this column a huge thank you. The e-mail feedback kept me going. The supportive and encouraging e-mails went a long way toward making me feel great. The e-mails that disagreed with me were often more valuable to me. There were many times when e-mails explaining why I was wrong changed and improved my perspective on the issues I raised.

Starting my own business two years ago has been an incredible journey but it has also been exhausting. Taking a break from the duty of writing this column each month comes at a good time for me and I wish Quality Magazine the best with their new direction. I’ve really enjoyed writing this column, and I hope we can find a way to keep the dialogue going after I’ve had a chance to catch my breath.

I sincerely thank the magazine staff and the readers for all your support over the past five years

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