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Managing Quality's Future

April 13, 2006
The new focus: broadening quality agendas to maximize innovation, says the American Society for Quality, now celebrating 60 years.

The quality challenge is to not only understand the customer today, but to improve and optimize the innovation to satisfy the customer 10 years from now," says Jerry Mairani, president of the Milwaukee-based American Society for Quality (ASQ). "As Dr. Deming said: 'It's not about getting your piece of the pie, it's about getting a bigger pie.' Global competition is focusing on innovation, and ASQ is trying to help companies become more innovative and more successful," adds Mairani.

Last year's ASQ's Futures Study found "innovation, creativity and change" to be the second strongest 'force of change' (globalization was first) to affect the future of quality. The finding reinforces an earlier conclusion of the U.S. Council on Competitiveness: "For the past 25 years we have optimized our organizations for efficiency and quality. Over the next quarter-century we must optimize our entire society for innovation."

ASQ's latest efforts to help members play the innovation card were evident at its World Conference on Quality and Improvement (May 1-3, Milwaukee). Co-located for attendee convenience was the annual conference by the Altshuller Institute for TRIZ studies. ASQ badges enabled attendees to sit in on tutorials for TRIZ, a Russian acronym that translates as "The Theory of Inventive Problem Solving." Corporations using the TRIZ set of innovation optimization tools include Boeing, Delphi and Samsung, says Larry R. Smith, president, Altshuller Institute, Worcester, Mass., and director of innovation for GOAL/QPC, a nonprofit quality organization. (He is also an ASQ director.)

Jerry Mairani, ASQ

While Smith says industry is becoming aware of the growing need for innovation tools and methods to be integrated with quality tools and methods, he also reports shortfalls in practice. For example, he says most people don't have any training in tools or methods to help them be innovative and creative.

Even more pessimistic is an enterprise analysis of quality practices by consultant John A. Goodman, vice chairman, TARP, Arlington, Va., and London: Eighty percent of companies need to improve their quality programs and don't even know it."

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