When I joined ASQC in 1987 I didn’t join the Quality Management Division or any other division per se. I joined ASQC. As a benefit of my full membership I was able to join a section and two divisions. I worked for a small manufacturer with about 20 people in the QC department at the time and was required to join ASQC by my boss. Yes, I was coerced into joining ASQC.
There were about 40 or 50 other small manufacturers in this rural area with 20 to 30 quality professionals (mostly inspectors and technicians) in each. That meant our local section had a market of about 1,000 people. Our section averaged around 400 members that were almost exclusively manufacturing. This was during the tail end of the transition from Quality Control to Quality Assurance. The decline in ASQC membership from its heyday was beginning, but we weren’t really feeling it yet.
Back in 1987, ISO 9000 was newly released. Most of the knowledge I received was pushed to me through Quality Progress, books, manuals, and local section programs and seminars… done on overhead transparencies. PC networks were in their infancy. The information superhighway was for all practical purposes nonexistent. We had tablets back then, but they came with a hammer and chisel. Knowledge was relatively hard to obtain. It took real work, a lot of patience, and sometimes a little luck to find information. Much of the transfer of knowledge had to be face to face because we really had no choice. The structure of the ASQC member units made sense for the times.
Bear with me. I’ll get to the point.
Fast forward 3 decades. We dropped the C to become ASQ. For various reasons there are less than 10 manufacturers in this same rural area now. Each might have 4 or 5 people in the quality department. Most of the work once done by quality professionals are done by operators. Inspection is more automated due in large part to technology advancements. The section that had 400 members 30 years ago now has around 70 members with some of those members now coming from healthcare and education… and gasp… even service sectors… and I’m pretty sure very few were coerced to join. In fact, they probably had to sell the value of membership to their boss.
Back in 1987 nobody could have accurately predicted how technology would change our daily lives. Windows PC’s may even become a thing of the past soon. We have “phones” that can do all kinds of crazy things. Some people even consider them to be smart. Most importantly, information and knowledge is readily available to anyone for the taking… delivered within seconds… anywhere in the world.
Meanwhile, a whole generation of these illusive creatures called Millennials have grown up googling stuff they want to know… and they are very good at it. They don’t have to wait around for knowledge to be pushed to them. If they want to know something they “pull” that knowledge. If they want to share it they #hashtag it. There is less need to go to a section program when they can just jump on a social network for peer to peer interaction. They have more choices. In fact, we all do.
What’s the point?
The member unit structure we had 30 years ago doesn’t work anymore. There is less manufacturing. The manufacturing facilities left no longer rely on a large staff of dedicated quality professionals. Quality management principles are INTEGRATED into our organizations. Quality has expanded to focus more on continuous improvement, innovation, organizational excellence and … gasp… sustainability. The dedicated professionals that are left don’t need a ton of information pushed to them. We don’t have time to consume it anyway. However, when we need to learn something, the expectation is the knowledge is readily available.
If ASQ cannot provide the knowledge we need we go to Google, Wikipedia, etc. Section programs and conferences are still important, but they don’t play the major role they have in the past. Technology now allows easy peer to peer interaction. Remote learning through webinars is now a standard practice. Virtual conferences are coming. One thing that hasn’t changed is our membership values access to knowledge and proving they have acquired that knowledge through certification. There is also still value to the organizations where this knowledge is applied.
ASQ’s knowledge being scattered about between various divisions that are almost like their own separate organization is confusing to those that don’t really care what division they belong to. A single-entry point to all ASQ’s knowledge should benefit the entire society. Each member unit going it alone does a disservice to all of us in the long run. If ASQ’s web presence doesn’t have the features we need, then we should work together for a solution.
Do what we do best
Likewise, every member unit having their own administrative staff doesn’t make sense anymore. Sure, in the days of word processors and faxes we didn’t have a choice. We have a choice now. Most of us already use apps every day for things like expense reports, event registration and credit card transactions. It only makes sense that these activities would be automated and centralized for us. This goes for performance feedback on dashboards and tasks such as setting up webinars as well. We are volunteers with day jobs and expertise that probably doesn’t line up with these administrative functions. We should be able to concede as much the administration drudgery as possible to hired professionals. It frees member leaders’ precious time to do what we do best… preach what we practice.
I still renew my ASQ membership… not my Quality Management Division membership or Boston section membership. The section and divisions I belong to are still just member benefits. I don’t think people really care what ASQ “tribe” they are learning from. We have a need and we fill it. It is just that simple.
It is evident by recent membership trends and market research that ASQ needs to change its business model for a sustainable future. I’ve put in over 20 years as a member leader and am painfully aware of the problems we have encountered in the past with various changes and complaints about “headquarters”. However, I do not believe we have ever been able to really let go of some of the past that gets in our way. I don’t think the “us vs them” serves us well. We should be working through the upcoming challenges together with the staff at headquarters in good faith to make transformation a success… and maybe enjoy a few “sacred cow” burgers along the way. Metaphorically speaking of course.
ASQ Quality Management Division