ASQ Influential Voices Contribution: Don’t Wait for an Invite!

In his November blog post titled “World Quality Month: Accelerating Quality,” Paul Borawski, CEO of ASQ, writes “…those professionals who have dedicated their careers and lives to the mastery of quality concepts, techniques, and tools will never reach their full potential until they are invited ‘to the table.’” Paul adds, “…there are two ways to get to the table. The first is to wait and hope. The other is to ask.”

There’s Yet Another Way

I suggest there is a third way to get to the table: just pull up a chair! There are situations which will require the quality professional to “just do it” or to “proceed until apprehended.” This works exceedingly well if you are the newly-hired, top quality professional in your organization. If you find yourself in this situation, know that there is a honeymoon period of sorts where new leaders can make such bold moves to claim political capital and territory. Again, proceed until apprehended. Someone once told me “It’s easier to ask for forgiveness, than to ask for permission.”

Pick Your Table Wisely

There are various “tables” at which the quality professional should sit. A seat at the board room table [whether an actual table or not] may have to be earned. To earn such a seat an organization’s top quality professional needs to secure the trust of top management. An organization’s top management needs to see quality and the quality management system as a business management system which adds value to the organization. The strategic planning and management review “tables” are two areas where the quality professional can earn this respect.

Take Control with Subtle “Coup” Tactics

It may seem strange to some that the top quality professional in an organization isn’t always the one who heads up the strategic planning for the organization. In a previous life our general manager and engineering manager led our monthly leadership meetings [however named]. When these meetings seemed to want for more relevance and those heading up these meetings seemed tired of the task, Quality was waiting in the wings for just such an opportunity to take control. The “coup attempt” was a success! We quickly took control and turned the meeting into our “quality council” and later our “ISO Management Review.”

The Strategic Planning Table

Using our ISO Management Review meetings to advance our quality management system as a “business management system” where we strategically manage the business with facts gave us leverage to take control of our annual strategic planning. The catalyst we used was the ISO requirement to establish quality objectives at relevant functions and levels of the organization. We made the case that these are “strategic business objectives” which needed to be established at strategic planning. Since nobody but the quality professional understood this requirement we earned a seat at the head of the table; another subtle coup tactic successfully deployed!

Accelerating the Rate of Quality Adoption

Paul Borawski concludes his blog post with, “Yes, we have much to celebrate [National Quality Month] and we should. And we have much to do!” I agree with Paul. We quality professionals have much to do to accelerate the adoption of Quality. If we don’t do it, nobody else will. Having top quality professionals at the table with top management is essential to advancing Quality and accelerating its adoption. Take a look at your organization. Does Quality have a seat at the table? If you’re the top quality professional in your organization, don’t wait and hope for an invite; either ask for a seat at the table or be bold and crash the party!

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