Last month, in this column we featured Marcel Charbonneau, a very long time member of the ASQ. This month we are changing speed a bit. Some of our members are not necessarily long time members of the ASQ, but they are long time practitioners of Quality. They also come with a myriad of talents that have helped them have very successful careers inside and outside the Quality domain. Samira and Eric had the pleasure of interviewing Ruth Stanley, the ASQ’s former Regional Director for Canada and Greenland region. She described her career in Quality and her career as a leader. This is what we learned.
RUTH STANLEY – PRESIDENT, BOANN CONSULTING
Ruth Stanley has Ruth Stanley has 30 plus years in Quality working as a public servant in a number of branches of the Canadian Federal Government. While there she worked with ISO standards: 9001 for quality systems; 14000 for environmental standards; 17025 for laboratory information systems and 31000 for risk management.
Ruth became a member of ASQ in 2014 in the Ottawa Section. In 2017 she took the lead on organizing the first ASQ Canadian National Quality Conference which was hosted by the Ottawa Section. Following that she served as the ASQ Regional Director for Canada Greenland Region in 2019 and 2020, then stepping down to be Deputy Regional Director in 2021. From those positions, she was deeply involved in both the 2020 and 2021 ASQ Canadian National Quality Conferences hosted by Toronto Section and Montreal Section respectively.
Now retired from the Federal Government, she is far from retirement. She is an author, presenter, blogger and now founder of Boann Consulting.
Impressed by Ruth’s resume, Samira had a number of questions for Ruth:
What was the definition of Quality in your industry?
I’m in the Pharmaceutical industry and in my Quality role, the main focus has been mostly on complying with the requirements of national / foreign regulations. It is always interesting to me to know what Quality is in other industries, regulated or non-regulated. I was in the government industry where Quality was actually referred to as excellence. Quality meant acting with integrity and impartiality in providing the best value to Canadians while acting in accordance with statutes and regulations.
How did you get into Quality and how did your profession in Quality evolve over these many years in your industry?
My role changed over the years. My first role was as a Pensions Officer. I audited financial institutions that reported to the government. Quality meant compliance with the Income Tax Act. I was assessing pension plans and RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan), RRIF (Registered Retirement Income Fund) and other financial instruments managed by those institutions.
As an Internal Auditor, I assessed the efficiency, effectiveness and economy of Revenue Canada internal processes. These were the Revenue Canada internal indicators of Quality at the time. Over the course of my time with the government, the tools of quality that we used changed. As a Planner/ Policy Officer, I followed the PDCA cycle to plan improvement activities, measure execution, assess achievements and update plans, following Treasury Board guidelines.
We introduced other tools along the way. We began with process mapping and triage for risk levels, then used a balanced scorecard and key outputs, then we moved to outcome-based key indicators with Canadians as the focus and a Baldridge-inspired excellence framework with elements of ISO standards. Later we changed our focus to risk-based thinking. Lean thinking, along with the move to value-stream mapping and a customer focus, was just getting going in 2016 when I left.
Did you always stay in the same industry?
More or less. I was with the government for a large part of my career, but in the different branches I dealt with different industries. I then devoted myself to service through ASQ and now I am in consulting. I have also authored a published book and I am working on my second book.
What made you successful in your Quality role?
I am a natural connector – ideas, things and people. I was able to distill large amounts of information into bite-sized pieces. I could facilitate and pull information out of people that they didn’t know they knew.
How long have you been with the ASQ and what kept you as a member for such a long time?
Since 2014, almost 8 years. I came to it late in my career. I was still learning about leadership outside the government and deepening my knowledge of quality methods and other very interesting topics. The ASQ gave me a chance to serve in a different way. I am very pleased with the friendships and contacts that I have made along the way.
How has ASQ membership helped or played a role in your career advancement and how have you benefited from being a member?
I really grew as a person and a leader/mentor and I got to try things that I would never have done in the government. The support I got from other people, encouraged me to become a writer, blogger and presenter.
What do you suggest could work / serve members better?
The real magic in ASQ Sections is the support that we give each other as members. Mentoring or twinning is something that the Sections should do more of. This is more personal than a webinar or a workshop. It could be an ongoing relationship, a sounding board for new members. This is something that I would have benefited from in my career.
You have worked with ASQ HQ. What are your impressions of that organization?
Staff are very dedicated and work hard. They are not on the ground, so they need our insights on current needs. They cannot be everywhere at once.
What would you say to any aspiring Regional Director candidate?
As a Regional Director, I was a therapist, problem fixer and sometimes an enforcer, but I would encourage an aspiring candidate to:
- Stay open to new ideas. Don’t get into a rut. Always push forward with something new.
- Don’t try to know everything or do it all yourself. You have a team. Listen to them and cherish them.
- Build others up. Let them try something. Provide opportunities for everyone to push themselves and practice. learning is never “one and done”.
- Be kind but don’t be afraid to “put the skunk out on the porch.” Sometimes it is necessary to address something uncomfortable
- If you don’t measure up to your own ideals, be kind to yourself. You are going to mess up sometimes. You are still human.
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