Member Spotlight – Bob Mitchell

“Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.” William A. Foster

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” Albert Einstein

Bob MitchellI love these two quotes. They typify my thought process around the subject of quality and continual improvement. Hello. My name is Robert Mitchell (aka ‘QualityBob’ within 3M, ASQ and the Minnesota for Quality). I am the junior Director of MN ASQ Section 1203 and a manager of 3M Lean Six Sigma Operations, responsible for global quality and international Lean Six Sigma deployment. I’ve been a member of ASQ since 1985; an active volunteer since in 1987 when I was recruited as the Statistics Division (STAT) Membership Chair. Since that time I have served as the STAT Webmaster, Secretary, Chair-elect, and two separate terms as Division Chair. I am a CQE and CMQ/OE. I was elected to “Fellow” in 2003 for my contributions to business, to the Society, and for my community involvement. I am still active in STAT, currently serving as its William G. Hunter Award Committee Chair and the WCQI Sessions Manager.

Though I have attended and even occasionally presented at the MN and Hiawatha Section dinner program meetings, I had not been all that active in the local section until that fateful evening in the fall of 2006 when Gary Townsend asked me to participate as a member-at-large on the MN Section Long-Range Planning Committee (LRPC). The Statistics Division has arguably a “best practice” in long-range, strategic and operational planning process resulting in Top Achiever status of ASQ’s Division Management Program for 10 out of 10 years, and a #1 member satisfaction rating among all 21 Divisions.

Earlier this year the MN Section LRPC designed and launched a Member Needs survey. We enjoyed an excellent response rate. Your voice of customer (VOC) feedback was subsequently validated in a series of “four corner” breakfast meetings held at various locations around the Twin Cities by members of the Executive Board. Six major activities/projects were identified at our Operational Planning meeting in July:

  • Establish a process to recruit, manage and monitor speakers, instructors and topics
  • Develop a Section-wide marketing strategy for all Section activities
  • Establish a Grants & Scholarships process to engage out-state Section members and to improve Section member recognition, satisfaction and loyalty
  • Integrate web-based eLearning into the Section website
  • Develop a community service program and hold at least one event by June 2009
  • Hold a Strategic Planning retreat

Opportunities abound for you to become more involved in the Section for your personal and professional development and the benefit of the Section and your community. Please contact one of the Committee Chairs or Section Officers if you have an interest in developing your network.

I am also a member of the MN Council for Quality, and serve on the planning committee for its Process Improvement Network (PIN).

My passion is Quality. I started my 3M career 27 years ago as a Quality Assurance engineer with a Chemistry degree from the University of Minnesota-Morris. Early in my career I understood the need for data-based decision making, and the power of Statistical Thinking to ask the right questions to gain insight about the context by which the data were collected. The fundamental concepts of Statistical Thinking, as defined by the ASQ Statistics Division, are:

  • All work occurs in a series of interconnected processes
  • All processes have variation
  • Knowledge and proper management of variation are keys to success

Early in my career Quality was all about the tools – the technical side of change; whether the program of the year was TQM, COPQ, SPC, ISO, MBQNA, Six Sigma, Lean, etc. However, through the years I have come to appreciate that while stable processes are indeed important to predictable, repeatable results, Quality is fundamentally about People. Employee engagement and customer focus are the real drivers to continual improvement, innovation, growth and sustained business success. People must be involved in the change process; an organization must mobilize their employee’s hearts and minds in order to embrace change and become adaptive and nimble.

I look forward to an exciting next 3 years as a Director of the MN Section. We have a good mix of soft skills and hard tools presentations in our Program meetings and Conferences. I’ll be seeing you at a future Program meeting. Stop by and say ‘Hi’, and perhaps talk a little Fantasy Football!!