Dec 15, 2010

Speaking up for Baldrige from a DownUnder Aussie ASQ Global Influential Voice for Quality

Baldridge funding to be axed ? What ? Why should someone from DownUnder Australia even care ?
It seemed only hours after the latest award winners were announced, that the Baldridge itself was under threat. Today in Sydney Australia at ISO TC 176 SC2, I shared with Lorrie Hunt & Denise Robitaille how important my ASQ membership has been for me. Likewise for me the Baldridge has been an inspiration, like the Olympics of Quality.
To be honest I found Denis Arter’s views very provocative but definitely worth a read : sort of like ... that winners of awards like Baldridge are too often what we in Australia call “oncers”. They put in a big effort to get the award, only to slowly undergo “quality fade”. But my thoughts were more in tune with Paul Borawski’s and I too am part of the ASQ Influential Voices program. (Note - While I receive a variety of quality resources as honorarium from ASQ in exchange for my commitment, the thoughts and opinions expressed on my blog are my own.)
I have been associated with three organizations who won the Australian Quality Awards, before the awards disappeared. After a while, they were eventually replaced by the Business Excellence Awards run by SAI Global.
1.0 My employer, a manufacturing organization, won the award 20 years ago, after initiating a TQC program. We’ve maintained our ISO 9001 certification since 1991. There’s a photograph of the trophy on the shelf in my office. I often glance at it and ponder on the cultural transformation involved in winning the award. Which was the greater achievement I wondered ? That award ? Or the organizational transformation ? And quite simply put : if the organization hadn’t maintained its certification, it would lose huge market share – many customers simply demand at least ISO 9001.
Now in our organization’s quality management team, we use Web 2.0/Enterprise 2.0 IT tools to stay current with emerging trends in quality and certifications. That includes ISO & ASQ’s RSS feeds& Twitter streams, Sharepoint wiki’s etc. I shared some of these experiences at a Knowledge Management conference, ACTKM10 in Canberra Australia last October. Back In the office, we’ve had robust debates on future directions to keep improving. We cannot afford to stand still – currently we’re looking to a maturity matrix tool as part of our internal quality audit program.
2.0 The Library Manager of the University where I served on the governing Council was totally committed to the quality paradigm. The Library won the Australian Quality Award and later the University Administration department was certified to ISO 9001. No doubt exposure to the Library’s National Quality Award raised the quality paradigm within the university campus.
3.0 Sadly the third organization, a local City Council did not maintain the commitment – it had been regarded as a leader in the field in Australia not only in winning the Australian Quality Award but in other innovative operational ways as well. As an elected Local Government Councillor I was very proud that the City won the Australian Quality Award. Unfortunately the quality vision was lost with the departure of the Lord Mayor to State Government. So winning the award ended up being only a project – it needs to be a process without a sunset.
No, we shouldn’t immediately dismiss the value of quality awards like Baldridge, nor tag all award winners as “oncers”. We have awards in so many fields of endeavour such as sport –so why not quality? Over the last year or so we’ve seen the effect of large organizations dropping the quality ball. Unimaginable human consequences and more, rippling through economies and the environment. We need organizations to aspire to quality performance and recognition helps. We need Quality role models to be the “light on the hill” for others.
Of course awards such as Baldridge may need to evolve, just as we found with the Australian Quality Awards becoming the Business Excellence Awards.
Over the last week I have been very privileged to work with experts from the international quality family. They have travelled from across the globe to Sydney Australia to participate in ISO TC 176 SC2’s activities. We’ve been led by Nigel Croft, assisted by Charles Corrie & Jose Dominguez in imagining possibilities for a future ISO 9001. My team from India, Indonesia, Colombia, UK, Denmark, USA, South Africa, UK & Australia, has been led by a Spaniard. It has been inspiring to meet people like Lorrie Hunt & Denise Robitaille, women of quality who had until now been names on articles in quality magazines to me. Our times see ethics and corporate social responsibility (ISO 26000) emerging, not to mention exploding social media/mobile web IT in quality. So lots of ideas considered this week - some may actually turn into reality and others may not. But it is important to reflect & consider if there is to be innovation.
So let’s not let Baldridge go – maybe change - but not extinction !