ASQ Influential Voices: My Own Influential Voices of Quality

Posted on February 9, 2015 | in ASQ Influential Voices, Quality, Sports | by
ASQ influential voices blog

The ASQ Influential Voices is a global network of bloggers reinforcing the importance of quality from multiple perspectives.

In his January post in his blog A View From The Q, ASQ CEO Bill Troy asks, “Have you met someone whose teachings on quality influenced you or inspired you? What were these lessons?”

While I certainly have many individuals whose contributions to the field of quality in my eyes have given me new ways of looking at the world, there are but just a few I’ve had the pleasure of actually meeting in person. I haven’t been in the quality profession for 20, 30, or 40 years nor did I start my quality journey in the green fields of any quality movement. I also have not had many great opportunities to be in the presence of those who are early pioneers, as I have been to just two ASQ World Conferences (so far).

That all being said, two individuals really stand out as being quality inspirations I’ve gotten to meet.

First, I have been a fan of Mark Graban’s work on Lean Blog for years, even before we had gotten to cross paths. Prior to meeting him, he featured Lean blog posts that further reinforced how quality applications can work in more industries than just traditional manufacturing, including healthcare AND sports. That gave me the confidence to continue to dig more into how sports can better utilize quality, because a) I’m not the first person to see those linkages because Mark was writing about it before I had gotten the figurative ball rolling myself, and b) it showed that I wasn’t all that crazy to imagine that linkage.

Second, and speaking of Mark Graban…I shared a guest post with him about a quality influence that taught me a different question to ask that helps foster inclusion and ownership of improvement ideas. Mark Fougerousse was an outside consultant at a company that employed me a few years back and his collaborative, even-mannered, but strategically-focused attitude is one I try my best to emulate in my work. He taught me about the power of asking “What do you think?” with colleagues and team members to gain insights, share reasoning, and generate confidence in trying experiments out instead of simply asking for someone else’s answer.

Both Mark Graban and Mark Fougerousse I count as the most inspirational and motivational quality influences I’ve met. However, besides them I have gotten to meet other “rock stars” of the quality profession.

six sigma green belt handbook

ASQ Certified Six Sigma Green Belt Handbook – available from ASQ Quality Press

Two authors of the Certified Six Sigma Green Belt Handbook (from ASQ Quality Press) – Govind Ramu and Dan Zrymiak – I met at last year’s ASQ World Conference on Quality and Improvement in Dallas. Both are significant to me because Dan (also an ASQ Influential Voice) has become a bit of a mentor to me and has provided great career advice, while I had a previous interaction with Govind as I had provided a series of corrections to the authors for the CSSGB Handbook’s 1st edition and defended him on the interwebs when purchasers of the Handbook were venting about the errors on message boards. (We’re all human, folks.)

I also have had the pleasure of meeting other ASQ Influential Voices such as Dan, Jennifer Stepniowski, Scott Rutherford, and Anshuman Tiwari. Karen Martin is another rock star in the Lean world, as a consultant and speaker and author of two Shingo Award-winning books. All of them help reinforce the value of quality in new and exciting ways every day.

ASQ Influential Voices Jennifer Stepniowski Daniel Zrymiak Chad Walters

It was great to meet Jennifer Stepniowski and Daniel Zrymiak, two fellow participants in the ASQ Influential Voices, at the 2014 ASQ WCQI

chad walters karen martin asq wcqi indianapolis the outstanding organization

Karen Martin, two-time Shingo Award-winning author, after her keynote speech at the 2013 ASQ WCQI in Indianapolis

I’m not one to get star struck, but it’s really great to meet the people whose work inspires you and learn how down-to-earth and collaborative they really are. We all face the same challenges in driving improvements in quality, and it’s not difficult to see what common ground we share.

I’m part of the ASQ Influential Voices program. While I receive an honorarium from ASQ for my commitment, the thoughts and opinions expressed on my blog are my own.

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3 Responses to “ASQ Influential Voices: My Own Influential Voices of Quality”

  1. Pingback: January Roundup: Quality Inspirations | A View from the Q

  2. gzanti says:

    Obviously having a mentor in quality is influential to those new to quality. Something that I have come to realize is a lot of times the most helpful people with the best advice are no where near the industry you’re in. You’re in a pretty unique spot applying sports to quality. Is there an industry or industry professional not related to your area that has been the most helpful or easiest to apply? – Josie Zanti

    • Chad Walters says:

      Hello Josie! Thank you for your question. I will do my best to provide a proper answer.

      The simple answer is that I don’t see much genuine quality application in sports (on the business side), period, and the folks providing the quality motivation, knowledge, and advice to me are those outside sports. To me, quality is effective and efficient achievement of an ideal result consistently. In sports, the “ideal result” is unique relative to other industries – the ideal result is to win. We have a lot of new technologies that improve health, safety, and performance – computer-modeled motion analysis, Tommy John surgery, nutritionists, human growth hormone chemists (illegal may it be, it’s still performance improvement) that help teams win more often. Those types of assistance are most readily available at the top levels of the industry. But what about those Little League pitchers being forced to throw curveballs with their still-developing arms by local dads/coaches who don’t know squat about the risks now or into the future? Or the Pop Warner football players who don’t know how to tackle right without getting concussions? Or the high school track coach who can’t properly examine subtle motions within a sprinter’s stride that is leading to extra exertion or causing slight slowdowns that, if eliminated, could shave tenths of a second off of a 100m time?

      Quality should be simple to understand, when looked at from that high level definition. The sports industry has always been the slowest to adopt new business ideologies. Lean and Six Sigma are not new concepts, but they are nearly unheard of in sports. Sports is so obsessed with “try harder” or “rub some dirt on it” or “grit” or “toughness” and think it is so hard to properly measure those things…when in reality it’s either not hard or those things really don’t need measured at all. The concepts of Moneyball are so easy to understand – getting on base and not making outs, which are the finite currency of a baseball game, being one of them – but was trashed by the powers-that-be in baseball because it wasn’t “the way we’ve always done it”. Now that it has been demonstrated as an effective approach to winning baseball games, more teams are copying the approach.

      So what that tells me is it’s so much easier to apply new concepts of quality thinking when you have an example to copy or mimic where success has been achieved. Manufacturing has been doing that for many years, and now industrial manufacturers not using Lean, Six Sigma, or quality methodologies look like dinosaurs. It’s less of a hurdle to change when you see tangible results with your own eyes and can say “We can do that too! They’re just like us!”

      We still don’t have folks like that in sports. We have rogue pockets of innovation here or there, but the big changes like Moneyball or Tommy John surgery or breaking the color barrier are actually small “tweaks” in philosophies that serve as tipping points in how sports moves forward. I look at the work of Billy Beane, Paul DePodesta, Bill James, and Sandy Alderson as those “statistical mavericks” that changed how we look at the value of a baseball player’s contributions to winning.

      But outside of sports, I think the previously mentioned individuals in the post are really the mentors that have shaped the approach to building a culture of ownership and improvement for those who live the processes they operate. Mark Fougerousse is brilliant, knowledgeable, and confident in his abilities to lead but is extremely soft spoken and friendly that you don’t even know he’s empowering you to own your ideas and improvements. Mark Graban is the first person I’ve encountered who could demonstrate Lean concepts as they *could* be applied in sports. He’s even more exceptional because he is continuing to blaze his own trail with Lean in healthcare. Healthcare is going to be the next big revolution in quality because of the huge revenues and the impact on safety and health.

      You got way more of an answer than you bargained for, I’m sure. I’m very long winded and a little bit rant-ey when it comes to quality in sports.

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