The Metamorphosis of the Quality Professional

Perhaps I’m about to preach to the faithful, but I really sense not too many quality professionals are actively pursuing continual professional development.

If what I’m going to say is old stuff to you, I apologize. However, you might stay with me a while longer and see if there is a gem or two worth noting. The rest will find most of the suggestions strike a bell-the bell of negligent indifference.

We are all in the midst of the most impactful, world shaking changes ever to confront the people on planet Earth. Look around you. Who isn’t in fear of something, be it war, the weather, dealing with technology that appears to change every nanosecond, out-of- sight medical costs, stronger strains of virulent diseases and possible job loss? Add religious, political and family turmoil-and the list goes on.

The following captures the essence of what faces each of us as a new day dawns:

Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up knowing it must run faster than the fastest lion or be killed.

Every morning a lion awakens knowing it must outrun the slowest gazelle or starve to death.

It doesn’t matter if you are a lion or a gazelle, when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.

Martis Jones’

You owe it to yourself and to any others for whom you provide financial support to stay on top of your game, foresee the world and local events that could upset your equilibrium and take a proactive approach to being ready. What does this mean for the quality professional?

First, I predict the roles of quality professionals (quality manager, quality engineer, quality inspector and so on) will nearly disappear within the next eight to 10 years. The duties not taken over by advanced technology will be absorbed into the product or service realization processes. Quality as an entity will be subsumed, with only tiny vestiges remaining of the now multiarmed profession.

In terms of the Kano model,2 quality will move (if it hasn’t already) from being a delighter to being a “must have” and an integral part of the mainstream value chain-much as the factory installed cup holder first delighted auto buyers, then gradually moved into the must-have category.

Quality managers and quality engineers will, if they are prepared, metamorphose to project managers, executive positions or roles in other functional areas. To make the transition, survivors from the present quality profession will have to learn a new language -the language of management-and acquire new competencies.

Competency consists of five factors (see Figure 1, p. 24):3

* Knowledge: Formal education, degrees, educational certifications, professional certifications and self-study achievements.

* Experience: Years spent applying knowledge and skills in types of organizations, kinds of industries and jobs and positions held.

* Skills: Skill certifications, training received and demonstrated proficiency in use of pertinent tools and equipment.

* Aptitude: Natural talent, capability, capacity, innate qualities, deftness, knack, adaptability to change, natural ability to do things requiring hand-eye coordination and fine-motor-skills.

FIGURE 1 The KESAA Factors

FIGURE 2 KESAA Requisites Analysis

FIGURE 3 Overall Competence

* Attitude: Manner of showing one’s feelings or thoughts, disposition, opinion, mood, ideas about an issue, belief, demeanor, condition of mind, reaction, bias, inclination, emotion, temperament, mental state and ease in accepting and adopting new or changed plans and practices.

Using the KESAA Factors, complete a KESAA Requisites Analysis for your present position ( see Figure 2).

This KESAA Requisites Analysis represents your baseline. Begin your strategic planning for your future position or work role. Look ahead five to 10 years from today. Take some time to think through what KESAA Factors will have to change to meet your future goal, and do one or more KESAA Requisites Analyses for each of the potential future positions you will hold on your journey to your goal.

The difference between where you are today and where you plan to be in the future represents the gap you need to work on. Let’s now use the mind maps in Figures 3 through 8 to look at some of the additional competence requisites you may wish to consider:

* Overall competence categories.

* Technical competence.

* Business competence (p. 26).

* People competence (p. 29).

* HR competence (p. 30).

* Environmental competence (p. 31).

Caution: The maps are not intended to be all-inclusive but merely indicative of the range of competence.

FIGURE 4 Technical Competence

Technical Competence

The technical competence area is very fluid-changing rapidly as new technologies are added or replace existing technologies. Figure 4 maps some of the technologies known at this time.

It will be important to promptly add new or changed technologies to your competence bank as each becomes pertinent to your professional development. As a quality professional, you should be familiar with most of these current technologies.

Business Competence

As you emerge from your present cocoon, you will need to expand your competence range from the current narrow, quality oriented perspective. It will be increasingly important for you to acquire competencies in how businesses are planned, managed and measured. You will need to understand and speak the language of management.

In the book used to assist individuals in preparing to take the ASQ certified quality manager examination,4 there is advice to:

* Think of yourself as a corporate director of quality for a multifacility business entity.

* Think of yourself as having to integrate the needs of the quality assurance function with the needs of the management team and all other business processes.

* Always think plan-do-check-act.

* Develop an understanding of how all the elements of the certified quality manager body of knowledge are interrelated.

Quality expertise is or should be inherent in every line listed on Figure 5 (p. 26). Areas that loom large for the near term are developing competencies in project management, customer relations management, lessening the negative impact of outsourcing to other countries and supply chain management.

More and more organizations will be built around projects. Some businesses are already entirely project oriented. Developing your competency in project planning, project management, and project measurement and evaluation is an excellent way to break out of the purely quality oriented milieu.

FIGURE 5 Business Competence

Serving first as a project team member and ultimately positioning yourself to assume a project manager role helps you:

* Gain exposure to a wider range of business functions and the people responsible for these activities.

* Build your knowledge and hone your skills in planning and managing a business within the business.

* Be in the spotlight by being associated with a project important to achieving the strategic objectives of the organization.

* Become an executive-in-training for that bigger and better role in the future.

With the dwindling of middle management positions, ask yourself, where do you get the training and competencies needed to become a vice president or president of an organization? Project management competency is an excellent step in the right direction.

Accounting and finance in general were never your thing? Can’t make sense of an annual report? Well, dear reader, if you’re aspiring to a role beyond quality control, you’ll need to know more than how to balance your checkbook and establish a household budget (you do know how to do that, right?).

Money enables the business to carry on its work. Budgeting enables the appropriate allocation of monies to the activities of the business. Investing enables the procurement of additional funds beyond those generated by business operations. Investing also enables warehousing of funds through interest producing entities for future contingencies.

Accounting aids in keeping track of how the business’s money has been used and provides measurement information for executive decision making. Accounting also provides the analysis and reports that are officially made to the business owners, government and the public (if the business is publicly owned).

Does your business have a strategic plan? If so, have you seen and read it? Establishing strategy and the plans to carry out the activities that will fulfill the strategic needs is a primary function of senior management. Understanding the strategic planning process, as it is practiced and could be practiced and the influence it has or should have on the entire organization is key to your professional development. Every activity engaged in by the organization should be traceable to the strategic objectives. (This is not always the case, leaving an opportunity for improvement.)

It is important to understand and appreciate relations with customers, suppliers, employees and business owners. Without the synergy among these constituencies, business would not function, or not well.

It is vital to understand the basic functions of the business: marketing, engineering, production and support functions, such as finance, HR and legal affairs, and the interaction among these functions.

If a model doesn’t exist, create one of your business and plan to gain some level of competency in each function. Understand how your business organization is structured, what characterizes its culture, how the culture developed a\nd what the predominant managing style is.

Pay attention to the effect of mergers, acquisitions, divestitures and closings. Understand the ramifications of these extreme events on the future well-being of the organization and the people affected. These decisions, often financially driven and made by top level executives, are seemingly executed without a thorough risk assessment of the impact on customers, suppliers, employees and the owners if the company is public.

Know and understand the principal metrics used for high level decision making.

Traditionally, business decisions have been based on past experience, intuition and financial data. Reliance was placed on indicators that were lagging behind reality (experiences of a bygone time and reports detailing financial data at least one and a half to three months old). What was needed was more emphasis on a balance between lagging and leading indicators.

Additionally, financial figures reflect only one perspective of business. Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton proposed a balanced scorecard5 that integrated the scorecard with managing business strategy. The elements measured and presented in the scorecard represent the best elements needed to present a balanced view of the business, for example:

* Financial factors.

* Customer factors.

* Internal factors.

* Organizational learning factors.

Richard Y. Chang and Mark W. Morgan have presented a measurement process they call performance scorecards.6 Clearly, scorecards, sometimes called dashboards, recognize the need for making decisions based on a balanced perspective of the business.

Mark T. Czarnecki reviews a number of measurement processes and programs leading to the concept of benchmarking measurement programs with other businesses and ultimately reengineering an organization’s programs for greater effectiveness.7

The term “language of business” is steadily creeping into the literature. What does this mean? In Quality Progress, Stephen George, following the thinking of J.M. Juran, discusses what matters most to senior management and how quality professionals can align their actions with those of executives by speaking the same language of business.8

Look again at the list in Figure 5 and ask yourself two questions:

1. Do I have a working competence in all these elements of business?

2. In what areas should I develop a competency to position myself for future changes?

There are two examinations for business management certifications you may wish to investigate:9

1. The certified associate business manager focuses on helping individuals master business management principles and can serve as a diagnostic tool to determine strengths and weaknesses in business management knowledge. With content on a level of a bachelor’s degree course of study, the four-hour exam covers 200 questions and touches on 98 topics.

2. The certified business manager focuses on advanced business applications. The three-part, nine-hour exam has 400 questions covering 168 topics. The content is at master’s degree level.

People Competence

Developing your competence in communicating with people is at least as important as technical and business competence.

Consider two examples from Simplified Project Management for the Quality Professional.10 Naive Harry demonstrates a basic lack of people competence. Paula displays a relatively uncommon understanding of human behavior and attitude.

Harry is a newly hired graduate quality engineer in his first week on the job. He observes a major bottleneck in his employer’s order fulfillment process. As an avid student of the theory of constraints and the techniques involved, he knows without any doubt a change could shorten cycle time from two weeks to three days.

Harry scribbles a few notes on paper and tells his boss about his great new idea. He is stopped short as the boss tells him, “You’re too new on the job to be messing with that stuff; that’s not your job.”

Harry is shot out of the water before getting to the third sentence. What mistakes did this now disillusioned but initially enthusiastic quality engineer make? He:

* Presented it as his brilliant idea.

* Did not have a plan to seek his boss’s viewpoint on the bottleneck situation before mentioning the idea.

* Had no facts to substantiate the idea.

* Had no rationale for spending time on something not his official job or concern.

* Had little concept of what it might take to implement the change or its potential impact, either negative or positive.

* Had poor timing (too little time on the job to build a good performance record).

* Had not taken the time and effort to understand what the boss might view as important, what the boss’s needs might be and on what criteria the boss was measured by his superior (for example, finding the hot button).

* Was too new to have gained friends in the organization and therefore had no known supporters for the idea.

* Had no knowledge, skill or experience in planning and managing a project and therefore would have been an unlikely person to be allowed to run the project if he had gotten that far.

Assuming the zealous engineer’s perception was correct, but a plan did not get off the ground, who lost out? Harry did and the company did. They both lost because Harry did not know how to create and sell the vision.

If it were possible to compile a list of the rejected opportunities passed up by organizations because the ideas and visions were never sold properly, the list would startle all of us.

Another example is Paula, a quality engineer at Omega Bearings, who learned approval for a new expenditure of any magnitude required making a presentation to the president and his direct reports (top management). Paula was not high in the organization’s hierarchy.

However, Paula took a very proactive approach to her job and constantly looked for ways Omega could improve both its quality and productivity. For example, in performing a quality management system process audit, Paula observed a deficiency in the audited process that often resulted in mistakes in communicating customer order requirements.

Over several weeks of performing her regular duties, Paula found time to talk with some of the people involved in the process in question, gathered some opinions and facts and got support for a change, provided she took the initiative to propose the change. She analyzed her data, spoke with the finance people about how to estimate the value of the change and picked up some pointers on how to present the financial impact.

Paula discussed the observations with her boss, received his suggestions and gained his support, including permission to contact top management. She then visited “all the president’s men” and solicited their suggestions on what to do. Out of five top management members, Paula was able to gain committed support for her vision from three. Paula then asked the art department for help in creating presentation materials.

With a mock-up of her presentation, Paula went separately to her boss and the three top level supporters to give each a run-through of what they could see at the next funding meeting. She emphasized how she had incorporated their suggestions. After receiving constructive criticism and making finishing touches, Paula gave her boss a trial run of the presentation and asked him to arrange an appointment for her to present the proposal to top management. The project was approved, and Paula was designated project manager.

What happened? All the president’s direct reports had been exposed to the vision in advance and had been asked for suggestions and support. During the meeting it was clearly evident that three of them had immediately bought in and were supporting the vision from the outset. Following Paula’s presentation, the remaining two top management members nodded their approval. The president approved the initiation of the project. A done deal.

Paula, virtually unknown to top management, successfully sold her vision by carefully covering the bases up front. Intuitively or otherwise, she knew you couldn’t spring something new on people, especially if you were an unknown, without doing your homework first. She also knew she needed hard facts to prove her case and that those numbers must correlate with the criteria by which the people she was selling the idea were evaluated. And, she needed full support from her boss.

These two real situations (names disguised) point out people competence is the combination of knowledge plus experience plus skills plus attitude plus aptitude. While you may not yet have matured sufficiently to have the experience for addressing a particular task, you need the people skill to seek out those who do have the experience to help you.

Further, you must always stop and consider answering the spoken or unspoken question from the people whom you ask for support: “What’s in it for me?”

W. Edwards Deming’s system of profound knowledge” contains four interrelated parts:

1. Appreciation for a system.

2. Knowledge about variation.

3. Theory of knowledge.

4. Psychology.

People live within systems and their behavior is influenced by these systems. As quality professionals we, I hope, acknowledge the presence of variation in everything. The theory of knowledge predicts future outcomes, with the potential risk the prediction may be wrong. Further, Deming teaches information is not knowledge, and integrating psychology facilitates understanding people and the interactions between them.

FIGURE 6 People Competence

Because of differences among people, people learn differently. They express love and devotion differently. They are motivated by different events, words and actions-differently at different times and in different situations.

FIGURE 7 HR Competence

The phrase “Different strokes for different folks” sums it up. What do you need to do to build your people competency? Look at the brief but developing list in Figure 6 (p. 29) and note the area\s for which you need to gain competency to reach your goals.

HR Competence

You will need to develop a modicum of competency in the legalities and the consequences for not abiding by the law as this relates to HR. You will need expertise in making quality selections of people as well as training. It is not enough to have knowledge in these areas; you need application experience-for example:

* Can you conduct an in-depth needs analysis to determine training required?

* Can you design a training program or select an external provider’s training program that will produce the desired outcomes from the trainees?

* Can you differentiate between skills training and management training and know why there is a difference?

* Can you effectively evaluate the outputs and outcomes of a training program?

Do you have competency in determining the relative effectiveness of various approaches to recognition and rewards? And, how would you prepare yourself to aid in the professional development of people for whom you have responsibility? Do you comprehend the relative merits and disadvantages of the myriad compensation systems and schemes?

Check the list in Figure 7 for areas in which you need to develop further competence, and make your plans to do so.

Environmental Competence

At first mention, people tend to think of this area of competency as pertaining mostly to air, trees, water and land use. It’s much more. We live and work in the environment. We affect and are affected by the environment. What we learn and experience about this environment enables us to adjust to changes.

A process called environmental scanning equips the astute person and organization with the competence to cope with the rapid changes that, if not detected, can mean unpreparedness, disasters or missed opportunities.

Make it your practice to spend some time each day scanning the environment. Newspapers, radio, TV, the Web, internet forums and magazines are just some of the ways to stay in touch with the environment. Read widely, listen closely and observe behavior.

Figure 8 provides a mind map of world, political, geographical and competitive environments that should be of concern.

Reinvent Yourself

I’ve taken you on a long trip and into many areas not normally your area of expertise or interest. Do I feel strongly you should develop some level of competency in each of the five areas? Yes, I do. Do I believe the areas I’ve presented are the only ones that will be important to you five to 10 years along your journey? No, I don’t.

Certainly whole new areas will be added, some will be replaced along the way, and others will be dropped entirely or subsumed into another area. Furthermore, your personal professional objectives will change.

The modus operandi I’ve adopted is to constantly reinvent myself to meet new and emerging opportunities. The current statistics indicate the average college graduate will face 13 job changes and seven profession or career changes during his or her worklife. I’ve already held more than 13 jobs but am only in my sixth career. Guess I’m a little behind on career changes.

I am continually dismayed with a number of my quality profession colleagues, especially the younger ones, who can’t seem to see the changes occurring and fail to prepare themselves. You owe it to yourselves and your families to continually broaden your perspective.

It’s never too late, so stop ignoring the obvious and do something about it.

FIGURE 8 Environmental Competence

Please comment

If you would like to comment on this article, please post your remarks on the Quality Progress Discussion Board at, or e-mail them to [email protected]

In 50 Words Or Less

* Quality professionals must not ignore the obvious changes that will affect them.

* Their roles will nearly disappear or be subsumed into other processes within the next 10 years.

* These changes demand continual development to increase technical, business, people, HR and environmental competence.

Gain exposure to a wider range of business functions and the people responsible for these activities.

If it were possible to compile a list of the rejected opportunities passed up by organizations because the ideas and visions were never sold properly, the list would startle all of us.


1. Martis Jones, The Prodigal Principle, Worth Publishers, 1995.

2. Professor Noriaki Kano’s ideas concerning the three definitions of quality were published in Japan in 1984. Terry G. Vavra describes Kano’s analysis and classification scheme in Improving Your Measurement of Customer Satisfaction, ASQ Quality Press, 1997.

3. “KESAA Factors,” 2003 R.T. Westcott & Associates.

4. Duke Okes and Russell T. Westcott, editors, The Certified Quality Manager Handbook, second edition, ASQ Quality Press, 2001.

5. Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton, The Balanced Scorecard, Harvard Business School Press, 1996.

6. Richard Y. Chang and Mark W. Morgan, Performance Scorecards: Measuring the Right Things in the Real World, Jossey-Bass, 2000.

7. Mark T. Czarnecki, Managing by Measuring: How To Improve Your Organization’s Performance Through Effective Benchmarking, Amacom, 1999.

8. Stephen George, “How To Speak the Language of Senior Management,” Quality Progress, May 2003.

9. Information about the exams and the Assn. of Professionals in Business Management organization may be obtained at, [email protected] or 323-903-6757.

10. Russell T. Westcott, Simplified Project Management for the Quality Professional, ASQ Quality Press, 2004.

11. W. Edwards Deming, The New Economics: For Industry, Government, Education, second edition, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Center for Advanced Educational Services, 1994.

RUSSELL T. WESTCOTT is president of the Offerjost-Westcott Group, a division ofR.T. Westcott & Associates, in Old Saybrook, CT, specializing in providing work life planning, guidance and coaching. Westcott wrote Stepping Up to ISO 9004:2000 and co-edited The Certified Quality Manager Handbook, second edition, the Certified Quality Manager section Refresher Training Course and The Quality Improvement Handbook. He is an ASQ Fellow, certified quality auditor and certified quality manager. He serves on the ASQ Thames Valley section’s executive board as newsletter editor and job leads chair.

Copyright American Society for Quality Oct 2004

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