ASQ Conference Recap–Day Three

Have you ever heard of the saying, “saving the best for last?”

Well, that pretty much sums up the last day of the ASQ Conference. It’s unfortunate too that some of the best sessions were on the last day of the conference.

Why is that you ask?

See, yesterday when I blogged about day two, I said I expected the attendance to drop on day three because it is only a half day, the exhibit hall is closed, and their isn’t a lunch. I was right.

The two presentations I sat through yesterday were the following:

– Leading Your Business Forward for Sustainable Success, Shane Yount
– Engaging Employees as Change Agents, Alan Shaw and Gautam Mehra

Shane turned out to be the best public speaker, aside from the keynote speakers I saw, that presented at the conference. His message from his book, Leading Your Business Forward, was very good. His public speaking skills were great! It’s just too bad that only half the room was filled–given the nature of his topic, if it were Monday or Tuesday, that room would have been filled to capacity.

Alan and Gautam were good presenters, but that wasn’t the highlight of their presentation. They, along with BMC Software, have done what everyone is looking to do–build a culture of continuous improvement owned by the employees. Their story/message was well presented, but it was only given to a crown about a quarter of what should have been there. For anyone reading this that attended the conference, get the videos and watch their video!

I guess successful quality journey’s don’t apply to everyone. The guy in front of me had filled out his evaluation form and I caught a glimpse of it. He gave highest marks to the presenters, but when it came to meeting his expectations, he scored them very low.

Why do I think that could be?

Well, the guy I went to the convention with, Ken, told me the reason he didn’t attend this session was because it was a software company and he thought it was going to be a presentation about software as a service that leads a quality deployment. I have to say that the thought had crossed my mind as well, but the write up did sound different–it was. So, maybe that guy was looking for a software solution.

My hat is off to the Wednesday session presenters that I saw.

Michelle Rhee rounded out the event with her closing keynote address. But before that was the recognition of the Quality Team Award. I’ll talk about the award in a second. Michelle was great…her message was very powerful, but extremely political. She was using the podium to send her political message with a very weak tie to quality. Not that her message wasn’t important, just that it was what it was.

Michelle talked about the importance of public education and how the US needs to improve it. Let me add my two cents, which I will probably blog further about in the future. Educational Quality is much needed! Quality in Healthcare is hurting, but Quality in Education is pretty much no where to be seen. This made me stop and think for a moment. I did not see one session that addressed any quality in education topics at this conference and don’t ever remember one from last year or anything the the Lean and Six Sigma Conference a month ago. ASQ has an Education Division and I plan to learn more about what they do, but I think this is a huge opportunity for the US, not just because of Michelle’s message.

However, Michelle’s message was specifically on public education and dealt very specifically with government and political issues reading education, which are probably huge in themselves. If government run education is any example of every other government run organization, quality isn’t in their language.

Back to the Quality Award…

Last year in Indianapollis, I remember sitting in a much reduced audience group watching all the teams parade down the aisle and I was sad that many of the people had already left the conference early. I remember now commenting on that in my trip report back to work. Again, I saw the same effect. The room felt full, but there were many empty chairs. Not at all like day one!

Since ASQ reads these blogs — thank you by the way — I want to send a suggestion. Take it or leave it. I will also share this on my feedback regarding the conference as a whole.

For five years, while in the Air Force, I ran the Chief of Staff Team Excellence Award (CSTEA) Award competition in USAFE–that’s in Europe. I was on the technical review committee every year and then I flew with the two finalist teams to the Air Force Association Conference Exhibition in DC to coach and support the teams through the competition.

The storyboard presentation is interesting, but this is how the CSTEA did it a bit differently. Each of the teams had an actual booth space in the back of the Exhibition Hall that was paid for by the Air Force. The teams had a couple people manning the booths at all times, except when it was time for them to present for their formal part of the competition. The CSTEA had a technical review score from people like me–one from every command. And there was a presentation score given by a panel of senior officers and civilians at the actual conference.

We didn’t gather a score from the audience that visited the booths and talked to each team, but I think that would have been a great addition. I like that you give out the Storyboard Award. Improvement to that would be to allow viewing and voting via app. Even if they could post a video of their story online that people could watch would be even neater…this allows more people to view and score–even if they are not at the conference. Having the Quality Impact sessions done as open webinars to ASQ members could also generate interest in attending the conference for the future.

But, back to the idea of the booths. Instead of just storyboards, each team has a booth and are expected to man the booth during the exhibit hall hours, unless they are presenting. Put them all in a line against the back wall, so they are all together–perhaps facing each other. This would allow attendees to not just read a quick snippet of what they did, but really stop and ask questions and discuss. Since the Quality Impact sessions all kind of run together in groups, this gives everyone the opportunity to fully understand what every team did.

Just a suggestion.

The three days were well worth it. It is always impressive to see so many quality professionals in one place. So many presentations to choose from provides almost too many options, but that’s great too. As one might expect, you will always end up with a dud here and there, but I’m fine with that. As you can see, there are clearly diamonds in the rough and the videos of each presentation are available for only $49, which is pretty awesome.

Nashville in May 2015…be there and see how things have grown and changed. I suspect it to only get better.

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About johnrknotts
John Knotts is a results-oriented business professional leader, manager, and supervisor with experience from the military, small business, several nonprofits, and is currently a management consultant. Working out of the San Antonio, Texas, he retired from the Air Force in July 2008 and worked with Booz Allen Hamilton from the end of October 2008 to December 2011. Now he is a Strategic Business Adviser with USAA. John leads large and small strategic transformations and has extensive experience in the areas of change management, strategic planning, process improvement, strategic communication and marketing, strategic human capital and resource management, education and training, facilitation, organizational design and development, modeling and simulation, financial and budget analysis, activity based costing and management, quality management, competitive sourcing and privatization, leadership development, and business development.

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