Drive Your Own Professional Development

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First, know where you want to go. It’s a lot easier to create a plan when you know your destination, or at least the next stop. There are many directions to choose from. Here’s a list to get you started.

  • ASQ certification:There are many to choose from, so spend some time deciding on where to start. Keep in mind that asking people around you can be helpful.
  • Promotion within your current company: If this is the case, your company may also have training available to you.
  • Earning a spot on a board of directors: This is a great way to expand your knowledge and broaden your impact in your community. Is there a nonprofit you’d love to help? A startup you believe in?
  • Personal goal:Talk about endless possibilities. This could be anything you can think of – expertise in a certain Lean tool, trailblazing a new best practice in your current industry, creating a Six Sigma training for non-technical professionals, etc.
  • KPIs:Are you the kind of person who prefers to blow the KPIs out of the water and set a new standard for everyone? If so, what skills would help you do that?
  • Dollar value of your projects:We all want to save our companies or clients as much money as possible. What dollar value do you want to add to your list of accomplishments?
  • Number of projects:Maybe volume is where you’d like to set your sights right now, like completing a certain number of Kaizen events this quarter or training X amount of people on a root cause analysis tool. What would you need to do differently to achieve that much of an increase? What skills would help you?

Next, let’s dive into how you might achieve your goal. There are a few things to consider when choosing your path. Think about how you learn best, the amount of time you can dedicate to learning, the cost vs. benefit, and how exactly the method would help you.

Take more courses

Signing up for a course may be the easiest way to go, especially if you’re open to online classes. ASQoffers just about any course you could want to take. Other resources include UdemyCoursera,edX, and many others. YouTube also has Lean classes and they’re free. ASQ, several universities, such as Purdue, and other organizations offer courses specific to certifications if that’s more your cup of tea.

Teach courses

One of the best ways to deepen your understanding of a topic is to teach it. To get your point across to someone who doesn’t already understand the material, you have to explain it more thoroughly and clearly, think of it through someone else’s perspective, and make sure they understood what you said. All of that takes effort and flexibility. Some perspectives may not make sense to you, so you’ll have to first understand what they mean and then relay the answer in a way that will make sense to them.

Attend conferences

Conferences offer opportunities to get a lot of education in a short amount of time and to network with other Lean professionals. The downside is that they are often expensive and in expensive places. Before you sign up for one or try to get approval for it, know what you’d want to get out of the event and ask around. Find other people who have already attended the conference and get their feedback. ASQAME (Association for Manufacturing Excellence), Shingo Institute, and Lean Enterprise Instituteoffer several conferences every year. 

Serve as the quality representative on a committee

This could be in your company or outside of it, like with a local government or nonprofit. Which of your skills or desired skills would benefit the committee you’re interested in? Even if you have to make a bit of a business case to sell your idea, serving on a committee can be as mutually beneficial as anything else. Either actively seek out some opportunities by contacting organizations directly or telling your network what you’re looking for, or just keep your ears attuned to possible opportunities.

Publish an article or eBook

Do you have an idea that hasn’t been published before? Is it a passion project of yours? Do your research, create the content, get some feedback from trusted sources, and post it as an article or create a short eBook. LinkedIn is an easy way to share content. You could also pitch your idea to a blog you like reading. If you’re interested in the eBook route, you’ll need to create it as an ePub file, which can easily be done via Google docs. Then you can sell itin an online marketplace or just share it with people you know or meet.

Read and listen more

Podcasts and audio books can be great to listen to while you’re doing something like walking the dog or making dinner. These days, it seems like almost any book you want to read is available in an audio version. As for podcasts, it has a lot to do with personal preference. A couple to check out are from Gemba Academyand LeanBlog.org.

Once you’ve identified a path, all that’s left to do is execute it!

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