Monday, August 29, 2011

The Past and the Future

Paul Borawski, in his blog, recently lamented the lack of knowledge about quality history in some of today's quality professionals. He also pondered the thoughts and feelings of those professionals under 35, vis-a-vis the future of quality. I fear that every business field (including management) has lost track of their history, their heritage. These are not topics that are discussed in boardrooms and production floors, especially when so many companies are simply fighting to survive.
I asked a colleague of mine about the future of quality; he is not only under 35 but he is Chinese. He is a full-time internal quality auditor and member of the QMS Department (our site has 4000+ employees). His comments were related to quality becoming more automated with electronic systems helping to guarantee compliance with QMS standards. I think that he has a good point, as long as companies see the value in having a QMS (!!) and then see the value of automating it. I don't know how long it will take to reach that point, given that QMS resources (i.e. auditing) seem to follow closely behind training on the cost-cutting chopping block. But I think that it will come eventually.
I think that the key to linking the past and the future lies with the understanding and use of technology. In his book Here Comes Everybody Clay Shirky outlined the future (and present) of technology's use to business and society. One key to implementation is that the mindset of the business has to change first. They must be able to culturally manage the new technology; blindly implementing it most likely leads to disaster. Social media and "Internet 2.0" (or 3.0?) is in full force now and those who do not understand nor use it are only better than those who do not understand but use it anyway. This new arsenal of marketing and information tools can be very effective in communicating specific messages to large groups of people; establishing dialogues comes as a natural progression.
ASQ has a vested interest in protecting and promoting the philosophical basis of our field of knowledge. In fact, I believe that it is one reason why ASQ exists. And what better way to do that than to fully understand and embrace technology specifically intended to convey messages to people worldwide. Paul raised a good point about seeking out the under-35 demographic but I am more interested in the under-15 demographic. How to reach the future engineers and managers who will meet the quality challenges of the next decades? They are already online, they are already connected, we need to reach them. We have the tools, we have the desire, what is stopping us? We are only stopping ourselves. ASQ has social media out there (this and other blogs are examples) but is it enough? For those of you who are old enough, does your 15 year old son or daughter understand quality? This is a field of knowledge that impacts all other fields, not just manufacturing. Do they know about it? Of course they know about Twitter, Facebook, etc. Then why don't they know about ASQ and the impact of quality on our lives?
I think that ASQ should start a new initiative related to disseminating the knowledge of quality in the world and a more thorough understanding of its philosophical basis. The social media tools are there. The audience is there. We have to reach them, now, so that they can continue the growth and development of quality in the next 20 years. And lead to a brighter future for all of us.