Over the past year, I’ve been pleased to serve as one of ASQ’s “Voices of Influence” bloggers. In his December year-end post, ASQ exec Paul Borawski wrote about the future of the quality movement, and two disappointments in 2011. You can read Paul’s remarks at http://asq.org/blog/2011/12/2011-in-quality-successes-and-disappointments/
As I gaze into my own “Qystal Ball,” I can see a bit into the past, and try to look ahead to the future. My year-end gaze revealed “three Bs” – B B B. The more I stared into the Q-ball, the clearer parts of the picture became.
One B for Baldrige: The United States Congress stripped away Federal funding for the Baldrige program. As most readers will know, Baldrige provides a comprehensive, integrated framework to drive continuous improvement in organizations. We need not look into the magical Q-ball to see why this happened. We know that organizations following Baldrige outperform others. We know that the ROI for Baldrige is very positive. What’s a bit more fuzzy is if this was just a case of politics overcoming reason, or if there was something else about Baldrige that Congress wanted changed. Fortunately the leaders of Baldrige foresaw this through their own Q-ball, and took action to keep the program secure in 2012. While it is disappointing to move from stability into the turbulent unknown, there is also a sea of possibility ahead. My own wish for the future is that the Baldrige community will probe the new space of possibility, and learn deeply to shape vision, strategy, and action.
One B for Berwick: The Congress wold not confirm Don Berwick, the nation’s leading advocate for continuous process improvement in healthcare, as the head of CMS- running Medicare and Medicaid. Looking into my Q-ball only confirms, with great clarity, what I already saw. There is no doubt in the mind of any politician or informed person, that our current system of providing healthcare for the elderly and indigent, is not sustainable. There are several well-known reasons. The World Health Organization ranks America #1 in per capita spending on healthcare, but only #37 in actual citizen health. An enormous amount of money is spent each year to care for the elderly poor. As a society, we believe we are entitled to any and every measure to prolong our lives, regardless of cost or degree of benefit. We are the only democratic industrial nation that does not ration end-of-life care in some fashion. This is not the “death panel” hokum of scare-tactic politicians and pundits. But if grandma is 80 and needs a new heart in, say, Denmark, she’ll get great medications to help her old heart do its best. She won’t be getting the transplant. Don Berwick put himself on the line by speaking truth unto power. He advocated significant changes in the processes of healthcare delivery in America. Some of these changes would mean a lesser role, and lesser revenue, for parts of the old system. The old system raised its own “voices of influence” to the Congress, and those voices of fear, called out loudly to their friends in Congress. My wish for the future is that we all live long and healthy to see the changes that Don Berwick advocates, peacefully become an effective new reality.
One B for Beginnings: As a leader of ASQ, Paul Borawski is right to think about the future of the quality movement. As the pioneers of the quality movement – Deming, Feigenbaum, Juran – all knew, “quality” is defined not by a maker or provider’s specification, but by the mind of the customer. The pioneers of quality knew that this was often changeable and unknown – even to the customer themselves. I have taught for years that “quality” is essentially a relational and dynamic process between product or service, and customer. It comes alive in the customer’s experience, and rated by their comparison to expectations. What then, do people want and expect from the “global voice of quality?” Perhaps more important in these complex and rapidly-changing times, what can the quality movement do to delight customers in ways that the customers didn’t know or even think about? That was the approach of the late Steve Jobs. Before iPods and iPhones and iPads, most of us simply did not imagine such products, let alone the ways they might help and delight us. That is the power of vision, communication, and the pursuit of excellence. My wish for the quality movement in 2012, is that it will look into the Q-ball, and see only the bright reflection of its own potential to become better tomorrow than it was yesterday.
NOTE: yes, I am an ASQ Voices of Influence blogger. I get a tiny bit of consideration annually for this. But know that the opinions expressed here are completely my own. I thought you should know