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Towards a global cyber institute – Part 1.
By Allan J. Sayle, President Allan Sayle Associates

What service must a professional institute provide?
What are professional bodies for?
A cyber institute is at hand – if you want one

How were the BAMs built, why did membership grow?

Their profession’s practitioners founded the BAMs. The rise in membership of such bodies as the ASQ and IQA came not as a result of the efforts of HQ staff but as a consequence of the efforts and achievements of ordinary members, leaders of the profession and through business circumstances.

Global challenges, which involved the successful use of “quality” as a key business strategy by Japanese and German firms, raised the profession’s profile in the last four decades. It was the accomplishments of firms’ dedicated employees that demonstrated what was possible. Their achievements got management attention and support. They are the people who created and contributed to quality’s body of knowledge. They contributed their time, knowledge and materials to others needing help. In fact, far more material was disseminated using conventional post, telephone calls and telexes (remember them?) than by the house magazines. And, major publications written by Joseph Juran and Armand Feigenbaum, among others, produced outside of the BAMs provided a wealth of good advice and tools. But, the practitioners also lent their time to build the quality institutes etc. by writing articles, delivering speeches at division, branch and section meetings and, in some cases, attending committee meetings. They also paid the dues that paid the salaries of the servants – headquarters staff. They delivered training courses for those bodies, in some cases for little if any remuneration. They raise the funds to try to enhance the facilitation of knowledge, mentioned above. Much of those funds went to paying for increasingly expensive HQ staff and facilities.

Those people also wrote the quality standards. They took time to review submissions and drafts. HQ people were more like publicity agents, printers and distributors of those peoples’ activities and achievements. Very few HQ people actually contributed to the content of those standards: some merely sat on the committees enjoying the kudos and expenses paid trips to the meetings.

HQ expenses

Quality practitioners built their employers quality departments, they encouraged (or coerced) their suppliers to improve quality and or adopt ISO 9000 (rightly or wrongly). The numbers of quality professionals and practitioners exploded as a result. All the HQ people had to do was sit back and collect the resulting revenues from dues, from conferences, sales of books and training materials created by those members. They were engaged in secretarial and bureaucratic tasks aimed at the same goals: facilitating the development and exchange of knowledge. Since an army of volunteers did the heavy lifting, it was Tom Sawyer work indeed. The money rolled in. But, where did it all go? That question is clearly disturbing a lot of people.

A recent posting on the Elsmar Cove revealed the ASQ has been “running a deficit” – a silly euphemism for losing (or squandering?) money - members’ money – for several years. A few weeks earlier another post revealed someone (no prizes) at ASQ HQ earns about $343000 p.a. and the top 5 aggregate over $1 million.

One cannot argue against paying for results and achievement. Considering, however, the squeeze being experienced by ordinary members who face downsizing, outsourcing and in most cases pay raises lower than inflation, the salaries paid are inappropriate given also the dissatisfaction so obvious from dwindling membership numbers and chat room comments about the service received. Ever more employers are refusing to reimburse members the dues that are typically in excess of $100. (In the case of Britain’s IQA, at today’s exchange rate annual fellowship dues exceed $200 and it only has about 12000 members.) Add to that the magnitude of levies for various cash cow certificates (certified auditor and so forth) the load on an employer’s exchequer is clearly excessive, especially when the firm has perhaps many quality people within its ranks. So, ever more members must fork over an increasing part of their income, discretionary expenditure and probably wonder what are the benefits? Why should not such a person wonder if HQ is just a self-serving, self-absorbed bureaucracy? Why should they not wonder how they spend their time?

As I write this article, I have just received an email from Frank Steer, Director General of Britain’s IQA, a man I have never met, with whom I never exchanged business cards, promoting a book he has written. The book is about military, not quality, matters and the email has been sent directly from the IQA. It seems Mr. Steer used IQA facilities, its email list and time to promote his own products. Considering the appalling loss of membership during his period of tenure and the fact that his remuneration, I understand, is in excess of $150000 p.a., one can reasonably wonder where lie his priorities and where also is the IQA’s council (a.k.a. its “board of directors”) in preventing this misuse of IQA resources and its supposedly confidential members details (i.e. email addresses).

While many of us in the quality movement strive to develop and support our profession, it does seem as if we are the ones out in all weathers and times of day and night, building the windmill in George Orwell’s famous book. Except that those now seated at the farmer’s table never were original residents of the farm while some committee members certainly were.

Until now, the various national quality institutions have enjoyed a virtual monopoly in their countries in that there is only one ASQ and one IQA etc. Competition is healthy and a cyber institute could provide precisely that. As all appreciate, competition tends to raise quality, lower prices. It is my belief the high level of fees deters many from joining our institutions. That is unhealthy.

What must be the new membership?

BAMs are national bodies. They lack the global view and constituency. As the world’s economy expands and value chains encircle the world, so too should the membership of professional institutions. Present day “international chapters” and branches of BAMs cannot hope to be as effective as the internet-based professional community. The reach, the speed, the depth of knowledge is so much greater in the latter and far more easily tapped. International professional opinion can be gauged within a matter of minutes or hours. International norms and standards can be speedily discussed, agreed and harmonized. And, an agreed set of criteria for someone wishing a title, such as member, fellow, associate or companion can be used so that, rather as people understand what compliance with an ISO standard means (I will not cite 9000 or be drawn into that quagmire involving registration efficacy at this juncture): Member of the International Quality Society (or whatever title) infers the individual has met or exceeded prescribed requirements, an outline suggestion for which is offered in Part 2 of this article.

But, it would also be a place where establishment appointees, political drones and professional committee types could not prevail. Just because a person happens to have a title in a major or famous firm, or is the quality manager of a government organization or nationalized company that would be insufficient for acceding to the highest levels of a cyber institute.


Next: What are professional bodies for?




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