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Sunday, February 24, 2008

In the Land of Mickey

I’m in Orlando, the land of Mickey Mouse. I won’t see him though; I’ve been attending the ASQ Quality Management Division Conference. It was quite excellent. It’s a relatively small conference, about 600 people, but that was a good size. It provided great opportunities to meet people and have a conversation with them. I met some wonderful people, very pleasant to speak with, and interesting. You get a wide variety of people at conferences, meaning a wide variety of occupations and jobs. Even at a conference on quality management there were people from many different industries and jobs. I met people from NASA, Pratt & Whitney (the aircraft engine manufacturer), the University of Texas Cancer Center, a steel company (Gerdau Ameristeel), the US Army Corps of Engineers, a couple of consultants, a school district in Texas (Aldine Independent School District), and a student. And that’s just the people I both had a conversation with and got their business card.

I enjoy meeting new people, but this isn’t something I could do just a few years ago. I’m basically pretty shy, and never used to be able to just walk up to someone at a conference or meeting and start a conversation. That is, until I started hanging out with Frank and Ken. They’re amazing, how easily they meet people and start a conversation with them. Especially Frank. He can walk into a room and within five minutes get to know half the people like he’s known them for twenty years. So I started watching them to see how they did it, and started practicing. I found that all it really takes is just to say “hi” to someone. So that’s what I do, I just say hi to whoever I’m sitting next to or standing next to. It sure beats spending the whole conference watching everybody else talking and having a great time. Try it next you go someplace where you don’t know anyone.

I came to this conference to give two presentations, which I did. Why two? Because in the call for papers it said you could submit a maximum of two, and if you submit two, the odds of getting accepted are better. So I submitted two, and both were selected. The worst they could do is say no, right? So why not ask? I thought they went well, and since at least a few people came to both, they must have been pretty good. It feels good when someone comes up to you after your presentation and tells you they got a great gem that they were missing and are going to take it back to work with them and put it into practice. For at least one gentleman it was the methodology that I presented (and is in my book, The Small Manufacturer’s Toolkit) for selecting “the right tool for the job.” Several people got their gem from my Strategic Planning session; and that methodology for selecting the right tool for the job always turns on the light bulb for some people.

In my next post I’ll tell you where I found my gem at the conference.

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