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Flashback: It is February 10, 1982, and I am sitting in the auditorium at Ford World Headquarters listening to this guy I’ve never heard of before. My boss told me to attend this four-day seminar since I am interested in statistics, so I am here. The auditorium is packed – I assume everyone here was told to attend just like I was. The CEO of Ford Motor Company, Don Peterson, just introduced this guy and told all of us to listen to him even though what he says may not make sense to us right away. Don said that all of us had been promoted into our positions for the wrong reasons, including himself. As the seminar continued, I kept thinking to myself, I understand variation and statistics, so I get this. But my boss should be here instead of me – my boss needs to hear this stuff.

It has been over 40 years since then, the start of my quality journey.

That day Dr. W. Edwards Deming said we needed to lead a transformation. That it would take a generation but that it was imperative for the survival of our organizations and, ultimately, for society as we know it. I thought I understood it at that time, but I do not think I did, because the transformation has not happened, at least not to the extent that Dr. Deming envisioned it, or I envisioned it. Yes, some organizations like Ford Motor Company did transform themselves to a certain extent, but like all human institutions, it was imperfect, several backward steps were taken in the midst of moving forward. Continuous improvement and Dr. Deming’s 14 Points for Management have not been embraced everywhere by everybody, nor did he expect that to happen. As he said, survival is not mandatory.

However, Dr. Deming’s imperative has never been more relevant, more necessary, more critical for human institutions than today. And organizations like ASQ, the American Society for Quality, have never been more needed. Although Phil Crosby stated that “Quality is Free” we know it is not really free. It takes investment in human capital, leadership, constancy of purpose, to drive out fear, engage everyone through education and training, through respect for the individual, to constantly and forever pursue excellence in customer satisfaction through the reduction of variation and the pursuit of perfection.

ASQ provides support to anyone interested in helping their organization improve quality and customer satisfaction through education and training, networking with others who share their experiences and best practices, and through professional quality credentials recognized throughout the world (e.g., I am an ASQ Certified Six Sigma Black Belt). ASQ has 26 Technical Communities which span just about every business sector from automotive to healthcare to service industries like hospitality and finance. ASQ Technical Communities also offer subject matter experts in such methodologies as Lean/ Organizational Excellence, statistics, inspection, reliability and risk management, and environmental management to name a few.

A recent example of networking to share ideas to resolve problems includes an ongoing issue posted in late January 2024 regarding defects frequently generated upstream in a manufacturing process. The person posting the issue sought advice as to how they, as a quality technician, could handle this – he was obviously very stressed about it. To date there have been 15 responses to this post on the MyASQ discussion forum provided to all ASQ members. All the posts, including one I made, provided encouragement and good ideas on how to systematically provide visibility to leadership while working on the problem in a collaborative way. Four days after the initial post, the original author of the issue thanked everyone for the overwhelming response and their support and provided to the discussion thread his plan for resolving it. All of us will stay tuned to this discussion thread to continue to provide encouragement and find out how the resolution of the issue progresses.

Quality touches everyone because all of us are customers. Knowing how to systematically understand the wants, needs, and aspirations of customers, how to fulfill those that are stated and those that are unstated, using quality tools and methods together with inspiration and innovative ideas, including artificial intelligence, is something everyone, everywhere in every human institution needs to learn and practice. As technological change continues to accelerate, the principle of continuous improvement through systematic application of Dr. Deming’s simple Plan, Do, Study, Act cycle becomes ever more necessary to sustain organizational success. That is our challenge and our commitment as quality professionals.