About This Blog

A QualitEvolution is intended to capture positions and experiences as a participant in the evolution of the Quality profession into the 21st century. From its origins as the brainchild of Corporate Industrial Statisticians, our profession has transformed and evolved to incorporate and adapt to the demands and expectations of our modern existence.

The scope of the subject matter within A QualitEvolution extends to the furthest ranges of quality, business transformation, management science, and quality issues especially pertinent to the members of ASQ in Canada.

Friday, February 9, 2018

ASQ Transformation and Member Units

Under the current terms, ASQ Member Units are not required to surrender their privileges while they are viable and operate in Good Standing, as defined and affirmed by ASQ Finance and ASQ Community Development.

ASQ's pertinent current references specify how its Member Units are connected to the Society.  Every ASQ Member Unit represents a distinct Interested Party,  Relationships between the Society and its individual Member Units are validated and reinforced by documented and signed agreements directly with the ASQ Chair.  For Member Units which maintain Good Standing, the applicable Section Operating Agreement or Division Management Agreements remain in force in perpetuity without termination.

1. Origination, per the ASQ Bylaws

ASQ Bylaws 11/07/14 Board Modified

4.1 Requirements:
Any group that shares the objectives of the Society may apply for recognition by ASQ as a Member Unit. Member Unit communities shall encompass interested parties representing geographic locations and technical functions or business sectors as specified in the Policies.

4.2 Dissolution
Any Member Unit that fails to maintain good standing may be required by the Board of Directors to surrender its privileges

2. Good Standing

Good Standing represents the fulfillment of multiple governance and reporting practices performed by the Member Unit in accordance with the schedule and protocol defined by ASQ Finance and ASQ Community Development.


"Every member unit within the ASQ organization has an agreement describing requirements for operating and maintaining it in good standing. Operating agreements are applicable to all members involved in the leadership and operation of an ASQ member unit.
Member units include sections, divisions, forums, interest groups, and local member communities (LMC) globally. Standard agreements exist for sections and divisions with other member unit types being customized to their individual formation and operation."

3. Division and Section Agreements

These agreements between the Society (as authorized by the ASQ Chair) and the Member Unit represent the ongoing mutual commitment to ASQ's bylaws, policies, procedures, and shared objectives.

The agreements between the Society and its Member Units have an effective date, but no termination date.  There is no sunset clause, nor can any party optionally withdraw or waive portions of ASQ's bylaws or policies.
Consequently, ASQ cannot proceed in its intended direction, due to its own governance and regulatory commitments.  ASQ Bylaws have a very descriptive phrase, “required by the Board of Director to surrender its privileges”.  This "Member Unit Surrender" currently pertains only to dissolved Member Units, but is actually a core prerequisite of the proposed 2018 ASQ Transformation.  

The ASQ Leadership and BoD are attempting to convince, persuade, and pressure viable and compliant Sections and Divisions to surrender their privileges and assets to ASQ HQ in order to fund and enable:
  • Purchases new technology
  • Hiring additional staff at ASQ HQ
  • Increases to the investment capital for investments in marketable securities
Where applicable, Section Operating Agreements and Division Management Agreements exist between Member Unit leadership team and the ASQ Chair.  ASQ did not set up its Member Unit agreements to be terminated or even require renewals. The agreements also do not specifically name SAC, TCC, or the Board of Directors as intermediaries who can renegotiate such agreements on behalf of either the ASQ Chair or the Member Unit leadership.

If ASQ’s BoD votes to migrate from the current Member Unit model, they are doing so in contravention of the spirit and intent of ASQ's existing bylaws, policies, and signed agreements between ASQ and the individual Member Units.  They are also doing this without the consent of Member Units, which ASQ’s own bylaws have acknowledged as Interested Parties.

With respect to the other identified risks (brand confusion, contract liabilities, private benefits), those are open deficiencies which should be immediately addressed, separately from the financial transfers.  

Sunday, January 21, 2018

5 Principles of ASQ Transformation

As an individual ASQ member, I have prepared my own position statement, along with the sources from which these positions are based.  I encourage all ASQ member leaders to prepare themselves for informed and constructive interactions and to work in the best interests of ASQ and the Quality profession.

If any of ASQ’s proposed transformation initiatives diminish or are in violation of these 5 Principles, I will communicate my concerns to the appropriate forums and contact people, and I encourage all individual member leaders to do the same.

5 Principles of Transformation for ASQ

In the absence of specific details about the proposed Transformation initiatives, I can neither endorse nor oppose anything.  I will evaluate any recommendation based on the extent to which the following 5 principles are enhanced or fulfilled:
  • Quality First
  • Open For Business
  • Transparency and Disclosure
  • Internal Consistency
  • Due Process

  1. Quality First: Ideally, ASQ looks for Quality options and expertise as the first option for business success.
    1. Pursuit of Quality drives and directs other capabilities (i.e. accounting, project management, technology).
    2. Quality is promoted externally by its unwavering adoption internally within ASQ.
    3. Products and services offered and provided by ASQ meet expected acceptance criteria and service levels without compromise.

  1. Open for Business: Ideally, ASQ is open for business in all markets in which it is active.  This means:
    1. Offering Customer Care and access to live agents during all business hours within each market, particularly N. American time zones (Atlantic, Eastern, Central, Mountain, Pacific) instead of just Eastern and Central time zones.
    2. Offering products and services in more primary languages of key markets (add French, Indian, Arabic, Chinese, Tagalog, German, etc.)

  1. Transparency and Disclosure: As a 501( c)(3) tax-exempt, non-profit society, prior to enacting or deploying any ASQ Transformation activities directly affecting sections, divisions, member units, or members in general, ASQ leadership must disclose the nature of the changes, the expected impacts, and the justifications for such changes. 
    1. When changes represent a reduction of perceived benefits or member value, ASQ must gain the explicit consent of its membership to Opt In to changes
    2. Changes to financial stewardship of ASQ assets must also be disclosed to the membership.
    3. Any transformation must safeguard against conflict of interest, and no individual or organization may disproportionately benefit from ASQ’s activities, assets, or earnings.

  1. Internal Consistency: This is the principle that where reasonable, members and member units should have similar experiences and opportunities for member benefits.  No group should have disproportionate influence or representation, and policies applied for one group or purpose should be sufficiently portable to be used within other parts of ASQ.

  1. Due Process: Any transformation activities must follow the most current version of bylaws and governing policies currently posted on the ASQ website
    1. Transformations cannot be made retroactively following a policy change (i.e. Allotments to sections cannot be reduced from $18.25/member to $10.00/member retroactively to 1990, forcing ASQ sections to return money to ASQ HQ).
    2. If a change is made to the policies that would represent a material revision of section or division operating agreements, those changes require review by and consent of the membership, either directly or through the representative member leaders.  In cases of chartered member units (i.e. sections, divisions) with existing operating agreements, ASQ cannot make policy changes unilaterally, but must renegotiate these individual agreements with the affected member units.
    3. Assets that were acquired over time by member units through a combination of member unit allotments, the voluntary service of ASQ member leaders and members, and in-kind donations (i.e meeting rooms provided without cost to ASQ) may be ASQ assets, but are for the use and stewardship of member units.  These assets cannot be redirected toward ASQ operational or capital expenditures without the consent of the ASQ membership for those affected member units.
    4. Transformation of ASQ member units must follow the current ASQ policies (refer to the summary below).

Summary of Current ASQ Bylaws and Policies pertaining to ASQ Transformation

Based on my individual review of ASQ’s governing documents, I am sharing those section which I believe are pertinent and relevant to offer guidance to any proposed changes arising from the ASQ Transformation.

2.1.4, 2.3.5, 3.4.4, 3.5.2, 4.5.2, 4.5.3, 4.5.5, 9.1.2, 9.3.3,

S 02.00 Revision A – 03/01/13 Section Maintenance
4.8.3, 4.9.3, 4.9.4

S 04.00 Revision H – 11/03/16 Section Internal Controls and Financial Reporting, 3.6, 3.6.1, 3.6.2,

D 01.00 Revision A – 4/27/06 Division – Operations and Governance
4.5.3, 4.5.10,

D 04.00 Revision B – 05/05/01 Division Treasurer & Auditing Committee Guidelines

F 10.02 Revision M – 05/07/15 Membership Dues Allocation to Member Units
3.1, 3.2.1, 3.4

G 42.00 Revision A – 5/02/1998 Joint Activities of Society and Member Units
4.3.1, 4.3.2, 4.9.1, 4.9.2, 4.10

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

ASQ Bylaw and Policies Concerning Transformation

There are clear reasons why ASQ has to move from the status quo.

  • Declining membership
  • Depleted reserves
  • Difficulty of controlling legal and financial risks
If ASQ is simply going to take upon itself the burden of administering the finances for each of its member units, that will serve the membership and limit the risks of inappropriate allocations.

If ASQ perceives member unit money to be its operational capital and prevents the distribution back to the member units, this is a risk, particularly if the member unit has surplus funds beyond what it needs to operate for the next 1-2 years.

ASQ HQ should demonstrate its capability to meet reasonable service levels for basic regular transactions before embarking on a major transformational activity that will cause even more delays and disruptions.  Transformations require a stable baseline against which to evaluate and assess the positive or negative impacts of applied changes.  Some immediate concerns include:

  1. Finance: Individual Member Allotments: How will individual member allotments be directed under the new organizational structure? 
  1. Governance: Elected and Appointed Officers: How are decision-makers elected or appointed (and by whom) for these centralized bodies (Regional Geographic Centers, Market Segments)? 
  1. Operations: Member Unit Programs and Events: How will these transformation changes improve the planning and performance of existing programs and events, and the approval and adoption of new programs and events offered by sections and divisions? 
  1. Corrective Action: Issues Resolution: How will issues or disputes be resolved between member units and central authorities? 
  1. Transparency: Meeting minutes and business/financial reports: What are the expected requirements for reporting and disclosure of ASQ member units and their central governing bodies, and how will these be reinforced?

The new ASQ organizational structure proposed for the transformation cannot be realized unless ASQ is prepared to do one of two courses of action.  Either: 
  • ASQ and the BoD have to dissolve all member units and reform them in a new configuration, or 
  • ASQ HQ is required to secure explicit agreements 1 by 1 with every single division and section, and come up with workable and palatable financial expectations and reporting commitments.

The applicable policy, G42 Joint Activity of Society and Member Units, has not been updated since 1998.  Even if it is not directly applicable to internal organizational transformation activities, it offers a documented precedent demonstrating the proper levels of diligence, fiscal restrictions, and reporting to membership needed between ASQ and its Member Units when pursuing a joint initiative.
Summary of pertinent ASQ governing documents and clauses affecting and affected by Transformation

2.1.4, 2.3.5, 3.4.4, 3.5.2, 4.5.2, 4.5.3, 4.5.5, 9.1.2, 9.3.3,

S 02.00 Revision A – 03/01/13 Section Maintenance
4.8.3, 4.9.3, 4.9.4

S 04.00 Revision H – 11/03/16 Section Internal Controls and Financial Reporting, 3.6, 3.6.1, 3.6.2,

D 01.00 Revision A – 4/27/06 Division – Operations and Governance
4.5.3, 4.5.10,

D 04.00 Revision B – 05/05/01 Division Treasurer & Auditing Committee Guidelines

F 10.02 Revision M – 05/07/15 Membership Dues Allocation to Member Units
3.1, 3.2.1, 3.4

G 42.00 Revision A – 5/02/1998 Joint Activities of Society and Member Units
4.3.1, 4.3.2, 4.9.1, 4.9.2, 4.10

Overall summary and takeaways

Transformation aspires, among other things, to move the treasurer function from individual ASQ member units to connected centralized entities:
Based on current Transformation Proposals:
  • Geographic Community Regional Centers (controlling Member Units: Sections, Sub-Sections, Student Branches)
  • Market Segments (Controlling Member Units: Divisions, Technical Committees)
However this transformation conflicts with current clauses and provisions of ASQ bylaws and policies. Certain facts emerge:
  • Member units reflect the organizational entities which ASQ members choose to affiliate and support with membership, voluntary involvement, in-kind donations, and their own personal reputations.
  • Financial assets within the ASQ member units are Society property, and no individual member can make a claim on these assets.  When the Member Units are dissolved, funds or assets remain with the Society.
  • Member Unit dues are collected by the society and disbursed to the member unit.
  • Unless Member Units are dissolved, the assets remain within their financial stewardship, and ASQ is required to continue with monthly allotments based on the membership levels.
  • Since Transformation jointly involves the Society and Member Units, explicit financial arrangements must be determined and agreed in advance by all affected
  • Sections receive allotments and are required to maintain and make available the section operating budget to members and ASQ.
  • Unless the section is dissolved, ASQ Financial Management can only have view access, or hold the funds until transfer to a new set of sectional leaders.
  • Divisions receive allotments, less any fees owed to the Society
  • Only when the division is dissolved are the funds returned to the Society.  Otherwise the Division receives the allotments on a monthly basis.
  • Member Units receive allocations per member according to ASQ policy F10.02.  This can be changed by vote of BoD.
    • $18.25: Sections
    • $9.00: Divisions and Forums
    • $1.25: Section Affairs and Technical Communities Councils (SAC/TCC)
  • Transformation activities could be governed using Joint Activities of Society and Member Units
    • Fiscal arrangements (allocation of expenses, distribution of revenues, etc.) must be fixed n writing in advance, and discharged as agreed by the sponsoring groups.
    • Financial reports must be communicated to members and must include income, expenses, income, assets, accounts payable, accounts receivable, liabilities.
  • If the joint activity requires a variance to the Society budget, the Office of the President’s approval is required.
Summary by section


2.1.4. Groups of members may apply for recognition as Member Units of the society as specified in the Policies.

2.3.5 Members, voting and nonvoting, may not make any claims against, or have any rights or interests in, Society property.

3.4.4 No part of ASQ’s net earnings or assets shall accrue to the benefit of any private individual or other person having a personal and private interest in ASQ’s activities.

3.5.2 Financial reporting for the activities of all Member Units … rolled-up into a consolidated financial statement for the Society as a whole.

4.5.2 Any Member Unit dues are collected with Society dues, then disbursed to the Member Unit.

4.5.5 When a Member Unit is dissolved, any funds or assets remaining after discharge of all debts and obligation shall remain with the society.

9.1.2 Bylaws may be amended with a vote of at least three-quarters of the members present.

9.3.3 Amendments approved by the BoD shall be effective as determined by the BoD, and included in subsequent publications of the Bylaws.


S 02.00 Revision A – 03/01/13 Section Maintenance

4.8.3 A portion of the annual membership dues paid to the Society by members affiliated with the section will be allocated and paid to the section for use as approved by the Leadership Committee, subject to section and Society governing policies.

4.9.3 The section will create an operating budget in conjunction with its preparation of the annual business plan. The section will make the section operating budget available to all members  in the same manner in which it makes the annual business plan available to members. The operating budget will serve as a planning document defining projected section expenses and revenues for the upcoming year.

4.9.4 The section will create an annual report that includes information regarding the section's membership numbers, financial performance, and progress toward annual goals as specified in the annual business plan. The annual report will contain membership numbers, including at a minimum, the total number of section members at the beginning and at the end of each fiscal year. Financial performance items detailed in the annual report will minimally include total revenue and expenses of this section for each fiscal year. The annual report will be provided to the Society upon the Society's request. The section will make such annual report (or a summary) available to all members in the same manner in which it makes the annual business plan available to members. The report need not be lengthy or exhaustive.

S 04.00 Revision H – 11/03/16 Section Internal Controls and Financial Reporting ASQ HQ collects annual dues from the members directly for the sections and remits monthly to each section treasurer for dues received during the previous month. Membership numbers and dues allotment totals are provided to the section on a monthly basis to those volunteers designated with access to the database. The section treasurer maintains the record of allotments received from dues.

3.6 The section shall provide access to all bank accounts and monetary instruments to ASQ Financial Management in the following manner;
3.6.1 For all sections ASQ Financial Management should have view access to these accounts. The purpose of this would be to cross check balances and reconcile reporting differences.
3.6.2 ASQ Financial Management representative shall be added as a signatory to all accounts if any of the following occur: The Section is unable to identify to ASQ its Section Chair and Section Treasurer within 30 days after the start of their annual term; The Section is unable to submit its annual Financial Report within 90 days of its due date; OR The Section is unable to submit its Quarterly Financial Report within 90 days of its due date for two consecutive quarters. The access to the account in this manner shall only be used in the following manners; ASQ Financial Management to transfer ownership and access to a new set of sectional leaders. Access to Society funds in the event of a dissolved section. Access for reporting needs.


D 01.00 Revision A – 4/27/06 Division – Operations and Governance

4.5 Fiscal requirements
4.5.1 Division fiscal years will coincide with those of the Society.
4.5.2 Each Division will charge member dues as specified in Society policies and procedures. Changes to Division dues will be made in accordance with Society policies and procedures.
4.5.3 Division dues may be collected with Society dues and then disbursed to the Divisions. The Society will assess applicable fees for each collection as specified in applicable Society policies and procedures.

4.5.10 When a Division is dissolved, the dissolution will be in accordance with Society policies and procedures, and any funds or assets remaining after discharge of all debts and obligations will remain with and be transferred within the Society as determined by the Board of Directors.

D 04.00 Revision B – 05/05/01 Division Treasurer & Auditing Committee Guidelines

4.2 The division should maintain a sound financial management system that utilizes the following guidelines:
4.2.1 Receipts and collections Headquarters collects annual dues from the members directly for the division and remits monthly to each division treasurer for dues received during the previous month.


F 10.02 Revision M – 05/07/15 Membership Dues Allocation to Member Units

3.1 Allocation of Dues
3.1.1 Base allocation per paid member (excluding students) from annual established dues rate:
Member Community Use Amount

Section: Section Operations
Section Affairs Council: SAC Fund (travel and special projects)
$ 1.25
Division: Division Operations
$ 9.00
Technical Communities Council: TCC Fund (travel and special projects)
$ 1.25
Forums: Forum Operations
$ 9.00

3.2 Change of Base Dues Allocations
3.2.1 Requests for changes to the base dues allocation amounts can be made to the BOD as part of the Society’s annual dues review in accordance with policy F 10.00.


G 42.00 Revision A – 5/02/1998 Joint Activities of Society and Member Units

4.3 Society joint activities must comply with fiscal restrictions described below:
4.3.1 Allocation of expenses, distribution of excess revenues, and responsibility for deficits will be fixed in writing in advance of the joint program and will be discharged exactly as agreed by the sponsoring groups.
4.3.2 Joint programs will be closed with a fiscal report to the members. The financial report must be certified by the Auditing Committees of the sponsoring groups and must include: An income and expense summary Summary of any payments or income received made in advance Accounts receivable Current assets Accounts payable Current liabilities and balance sheet
4.3.3 Agreements will be completely discharged by the end of the Society fiscal year wherever possible. If it cannot be completed for the end of the fiscal year, a special auditing committee for the joint program will be formed to audit the end financial report and will be composed of one member of each sponsoring group. The committee will review the end financial report.

4.9 The Community Care manager will review:
4.9.1 Joint activity plans for compliance with requirements specified in the Society Bylaws, policies and procedures, and appropriate division and section bylaws within 10 business days.
4.9.2 MOUs for compliance with legal restrictions regarding the Society’s 501(c)(3) status and fit to basic model MOUs. Any MOUs that exceed the basic model may be submitted to legal counsel for review.
4.10 If participation in a joint activity requires a variance to the Society budget, Office of the President approval is required.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Require ASQ Certifications for Continuous Improvement Role

I read with interest a recent posting by ASQ for hiring an internal role: Senior Continuous Improvement Analyst.

The summary of the role includes the following description, which appears to align with the typical capabilities and credentials expected of a person in possession of an ASQ certification.

 identifying and implementing process efficiencies, establishing a company-wide standard for continuous improvement, completing in-depth data analysis to inform strategies and working closely with Human Resources to facilitate culture change management. This position reports directly to the Executive Director of Strategy and Operational Excellence.

However within this description, I was astonished to find that no ASQ certifications were required, and in fact ASQ preferred someone with project management certification.

A Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering, Business, Organizational Development, or a relevant field. A certification in project management is strongly preferred.
At least 5 years of experience working with data analysis, project management, and/or continuous improvement.
For an Analyst role, I think that ASQ would be very well served by considering applicants who possess one of several pertinent ASQ Certifications.

In the interest of ASQ and its membership, my professional and personal recommendation is that the minimum requirements for any Continual Improvement role sought by ASQ be modified to include:
- Certified Quality Improvement Associate
- Certified Quality Process Analyst
- Certified Six Sigma Yellow Belt and/or Green Belt

This revision will demonstrate that ASQ prioritizes its own quality certifications, and reinforces to the ASQ membership that its credentials are valued and preferred to those of its direct competitors.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Alternatives To Boring Meetings In Windowless Rooms

As I reflect on this beautiful Labor Day weekend, I contemplate how we can get the ideal balance in our lives to ensure the optimal mix of work, recreation, service, fulfillment, and wellness.

As I was cooking ribs and chicken breast on the barbecue last night, I found myself enjoying the fresh air of my backyard more profoundly than if I were confined to a restaurant, dependent on others.  I actually find it invigorating and stimulating to select different approaches to preparing and marinating my meat dishes.  For example, I have recently discovered that tenderizing my chicken in advance will greatly improve the texture of the meat, and also permit the lime-based marinade to more effectively infuse into the chicken.  I like to think of this as my personal Design of Experiments laboratory.

If this summertime exhilaration could be captured and replicated throughout the year, life would indeed be delightful.  It is in this context that I find myself wishing for alternatives to the typical indoor meeting.

A year ago, I was at the beautiful Hotel Irvine in Orange County, California, to attend ASQ member leader events.  To the credit of ASQ Community Development, the reception was held outside in the patio, and we were given frequent breaks to enjoy the daylight.  However, my question remains who ASQ has to conduct its sessions and meetings in windowless rooms, shutting out the light and exuberance of the day.

If we are looking to innovate ASQ and professional activities in general, I think that location and experience are very important things to consider.  Since sunlight is a positive stimulant, this also improves the mood, tone, and temper of the event.  One "win" for ASQ was to have the Awards Recognition Reception on Sunday in a conference foyer instead of a dark room requiring artificial light.

I realize that the weather does not always cooperate, so having outdoor events may not be amenable.  However there are indoor locations which have skylights or natural light.  Often these areas have opportune times to meet when they are not particularly crowded.

Option 1: Shopping Mall Food Courts
Although stores will open mid-morning, many malls leave their public areas open to permit walking traffic.  As food courts do not have portable tables, an early riser can have their pick from dozens or hundreds of seats.

Option 2: Historic buildings
Depending on the community, there are architectural masterpieces that sit empty for all but special occasions.  Even the lobbies of such places have abundant spaces and seating.  An example in Vancouver is the Marine Building which was built in the Art Deco style of 1930 and is of such magnificent design as to have been included in the setting of several Hollywood feature films

Option 3: Public attractions
I have attended work functions at natural parks, aquariums, and museums.  In fact, the ASQ gala has been located at NASCAR and Harley-Davidson museums, which provides interesting visual and interactive experiences.

For the meetings themselves, I have found the most satisfaction from attending sessions with lots of participation, elicited contributions, and movement.  Instead of setting up camp at a back table for the duration, ASQ meetings should be fluid with motion, interaction, and dynamic structure.

An ASQ meeting has to be an event, and it has to justify being prioritized over work, family, and other pursuits.  A desire within each attendee must be created.  If people come because they feel compelled or obligated, they will only provide the minimal engagement.  It is much better if there is a genuine excitement and inspirational energy around each meeting, program, or event.

This starts with a desire to extend gratitude and comfort.  Part of that comfort is to create an environment of warm reception, and in turn induce the attendee to be curious about additional programs or events.  Nobody should be left alone to sit in cold silence.

Even if the rooms do not have windows, there are effects which could replicate brightness and cheer.  Serving fresh fruits and juices with sparkling water will provide the effect of a summer patio.  This is much more refreshing than dark, stale coffee or syrup-based soda.   If the sunshine cannot be brought in from outside, it should be evoked from within.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Taxes, Gratuities, and Expensive Salad Bowls

I am writing this, partly as a personal confession, and partly as a lesson learned from the Food and Beverage industry.

At the recent ASQ World Conference, I was entrusted to select the menu for a networking event hosted by one of the Divisions.  Likely due to prior arrangements or fulfilled conditions, the costs of meeting rooms were covered so we were charged for food and beverages.  As the conference was in Charlotte, North Carolina, there was a buffet with "Low Country" cuisine.  In my wisdom, I thought that the regional delicacies would be a special treat, particularly since the dawn-to-dusk events of the conference would limit the opportunities for dining independently.  However I am also sensitive to certain dietary regimens which may limit the enjoyment of local favorites like pulled pork shoulder and grilled chicken.  To supplement the meats and potatoes, I augmented the buffet with a modest bean salad, priced at $N per portion.

To my realization, the hotel served the beans in a bowl and simply augmented the cost by the quantity of diners.  While nobody specifically demanded that a bean salad be added, I took comfort in the fact that vegetarian diners had an additional option for selection.  What seems like a modest supplement actually represented a 15% cost increase for what represented a 4-5% increase in the dining options.

But wait, there's more!  The fine print of the quotation also referenced taxes and a 24% taxable gratuity.  This meant that for every $100 spent, $124 would be eligible for the various taxes charged by the hotel.  The taxes added an additional layer of costs to the final amount.

For events and activities to be feasible, the costs have to be recovered.  I recommend transparency on any costs to enable and support informed decisions on events and programs.  My personal lesson learned is that catered events will come with a 30% premium over stated costs and this should be considered as part of any fees or sponsorship amounts.  It also helps to understand why a modest meal at a catered hotel event can be so much more expensive than when the same meal is independently prepared and brought in by the volunteers.

Fortunately my event did not include alcoholic beverages.  Judging from the cost of soda and bottled water (which was not purchased in favor of the vats of coffee, iced tea, and lemonade and complimentary pitchers of iced tap water), a single alcoholic beverage would consume a minimum of $8-15 per item, depending on the grade or vintage.  A two-drink provision for a gathering of 50 attendees would add an extra $1000 to the costs; even more when taxes and gratuities are considered.

In advocating thrift, I am promoting care and attention to detail.  Hotels and catering companies use add-ons (think of the used car salesman offering ancillary items and warranties to inflate the cost of the car from the lot).  These add-ons, along with the fine print items, can come as an unanticipated and expensive surprise unless a contingency has been built in.

If you presume 30% cost overruns and another 20-30% of no-shows, the true break-even point is almost double the expected outcome.  For an event of 100 people with expected costs of $10,000 ($100 per attendee), the cost overruns of 30% and the 30% no-shows will result in having 70 people required to fulfill $13,000 ($185 per attendee).  Knowing this in advance and making the appropriate adjustments will protect the financial viability of the ASQ member unit, and ensure sustainability in the years to come.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Build a Case for Conference Attendance and Sponsorship

I received an excellent article which provides guidance on how to request permission to attend and be sponsored for a professional conference.  The source was STAREAST, and I am sharing it because it is also relevant for ASQ events, including the upcoming World Conference on Quality and Improvement.

For convenience, I am providing the STAREAST content on this post, applying ASQ where appropriate.  While organizations like STAREAST and ASQ would benefit from more attendees, my motive is to support the individual participant by improving their chances to get the necessary time and financial assistance to partake in professional activities.

Get Started: Build a Case for Your Attendance
  • Get Informed: Familiarize yourself with the conference schedule and speakers before you discuss the conference with your boss. Determine which learning sessions best align or contribute to you and or your organization’s short-term and long-term goals and objectives.

  • Draft Your Request: Open and customize a justification letter based on the goals, objectives, and interests you’ve defined.  An example is pasted below:

Subject​: Great Testing Conference Opportunity


Hi [Insert Boss’ Name]​,

I am writing to request your approval to attend the <QUALITY> conference, taking place <DATE> in <LOCATION>. <CONFERENCE NAME> will cover both foundational knowledge and new methodologies to further develop Quality skills, enhance my knowledge, and provide new and exciting business strategies to bring back to the team. You can view the full conference details here:


Some of the highlighted features at the conference will include:

  • Speakers
  • Concurrent Sessions
  • Tutorials and Workshops
  • Pre-Conference Training
  • Networking Events


Many of the training courses, tutorials, and sessions at this conference are clearly aligned with our goals—or specifically address some of our biggest challenges. Here are a few of the sessions I would like to attend:


  1. [Titles of Sessions and/or Tutorials you plan to attend]
  2. [Titles of Sessions and/or Tutorials you plan to attend]
  3. [Titles of Sessions and/or Tutorials you plan to attend]

Attending the sessions above would especially help me on these company projects:

  1. [Add a project or initiative]
  2. [Add a project or initiative]
  3. [Add a project or initiative]


Here’s an approximate breakdown of the conference costs:

  • Airfare = $ XXX.XX
  • Transportation/Parking = $XXX.XX
  • Conference Hotel  = $XXX.XX plus taxes
  • Meals (breakfast and lunch already included) = $XXX.XX
  • Registration Fee: $ XXX.XX (this is waived or subsidized for speakers, moderators, volunteers, or member-leaders)
  • Total:​$ XXX.XX

I would appreciate your approval as soon as possible in order to maximize both conference and travel discounts.
Thank you for considering this request. I look forward to your reply.



[Your Signature]


  • Start Early: Start the approval process early to take advantage of the biggest ways to save discounts. Putting your request in early will also ensure enough time for the approval process and coordinating schedules for any additional team members attending the conference or for those covering your projects in your absence. Some conferences offer incentives and registration discounts to groups of 3 or more.

During the Conference: Make the Most of Your Conference Experience

  • Take Notes: Be sure to jot down at least three key takeaways at each session and identify actionable items with an asterisk for easy reference later.
  • Share the Knowledge: Post insightful observations and takeaways about the sessions you attend on your favorite social media channels while you are attending the event. You'll gain new followers, grow your network, and your colleagues will see what you're learning in real-time. 
  • Work It: Take advantage of the conference networking and solutions opportunities to exchange thoughts with like-minded industry peers and mentors. Reach out to fellow attendees to meet at the events throughout the week and broaden potential discussions.

After the Conference: Create a Report and Share What You Learned

  • Review the Goods: Download the conference proceedings to recap the learning sessions you attended as well as any you might have missed. Most conference keynote, tutorial, and concurrent session slides will be available post-conference online which will make it easier to share information with your team when you are back at the office.
  • Prepare Your Report: Review your takeaways, actionable items, and social media posts with this conference summary report example below to create a report detailing what you learned.

Conference Summary Report

[Summarize the specific information and specific benefits and knowledge gained .]


[Connect knowledge and experience gained to any personal or company goals identified in your request to attend.]


Relevant, Realistic, and Refined Information to Share with the Team


[Refer to your session notes, social media posts, and insight gained from the knowledge shared between attendees. Attach the list of sessions you attended to this report.]


[List the new information you’re bringing back, such as: relevant in-depth technical know-how; realistic new development and implementation approaches; tips to streamline your work; refined case studies of success to emulate; or promising new techniques and technologies.]


[Include any relevant presentation PDF files from the conference proceedings.]


People, Companies And Projects Of Note

[List key contacts you made during the conference along with their potential value to your organization.]


[List vendors and products or tools that interested you or might affect your company; case studies of special interest, or projects similar to what you are working on.]


Action items

[List the top realistic action items to implement, such as: ideas for new approaches to problems; technologies to consider; training your employees or peers; case studies to share; or setting follow-up meetings with vendors or new business contacts.]