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Making the Case for Quality

August 2010

Building a Culture of Quality
By Janet Jacobsen

Jeff Balaban was 15 years into his career before he discovered
At a Glance . . . his interest in the quality field. Then a few years later upon
joining Southern California Edison in 1997, he was immedi-
• As he established a quality ately put in charge of establishing a quality assurance (QA)
assurance program in the program in the electric utility company’s information technol-
information technology (IT) ogy (IT) department. Fast forward to the present and Balaban
department at Southern
has not only built a successful QA program, but he’s also
California Edison, Jeff
Balaban was also building helped foster a culture of quality within his organization.
a culture of quality.
About Southern California Edison
• He mentored several
colleagues and
encouraged them to Southern California Edison (SCE) provides electric service
seek ASQ certification. to nearly 14 million people in some 180 cities in central,
• With its recent focus on coastal, and southern California. With approximately 15,500
continuous improvement, employees, the utility delivers reliable power to residential,
Southern California Edison commercial, industrial, and nonprofit customers.
Jeff Balaban, general manager, business
obtained two ASQ Site
operations support services, information
memberships to provide At SCE, the information technology and business integra- technology, Southern California Edison
benefits to its IT staff.
tion (IT&BI) unit, composed of 1,800 employees, supports
organizational effectiveness by ensuring that work is executed in a consistent, repeatable, and efficient
manner, all while maintaining regulatory compliance. Within the IT department is a business opera-
tions center, which provides support through process management, quality assurance, and regulatory
compliance activities.

Getting Involved With Quality

Balaban caught the “quality bug” after reading an article about QA and realizing that the financial
industry, in which he was employed as an IT testing manager, had a much different definition of this
activity than what is typically agreed to in quality circles. He soon learned of ASQ, joined the orga-
nization, and started reading more about quality methodologies. “I got excited about the whole field
and shifted my professional direction and that just took off,” recalls Balaban, an ASQ Senior member.
Shortly thereafter, SCE hired him to establish a formal QA program in the IT area.

To demonstrate his knowledge of the quality field, Balaban earned ASQ’s Manager of Quality/
Organizational Excellence certification in 1997, followed by certifications as Software Quality Engineer
in 1998 and Quality Auditor in 2001. He’s enjoyed many benefits—both personal and professional—
stemming from these credentials. From the business perspective, he says they provide credibility
because people prefer to hear about quality issues and solutions from someone who has earned

ASQ www.asq.org Page 1 of 2

” says Donaldson. wide continuous improvement activities (see a related case organizations such as SCE to become earned her Certified study article. finds everyday value in her continuous-improvement/electric-utility-powerful-approach. which she earned in • Details on ASQ certifications are available at 2006.” recalls of the same reasons as Steven Bussard. zation and improvement so she began investigating Six Sigma • Further information about the benefits of ASQ organizational training options. ASQ www. credentials in that field. the two site licenses cover everyone working in online Knowledge Center. as employees of Site members receive member Balaban. “Fortunately. the company’s main IT locations. Edison.asq. SCE 18 years ago. so I use the Six Sigma concepts Janet Jacobsen is a freelance writer specializing in quality and by habit now.org/certification/index.asq. take advantage of many of the items on the ASQ site. just those basic principles of planning. Jain was interested in learning more about process optimi. “Electric Utility Deploys Powerful Approach for a 25-year employee at SCE. prices on all certifications.org/2010/08/ Monica Jain. site licenses.” notes Renaud.org Page 2 of 2 . She values year of improvement in process and metrics for IT&BI.asq. SCE ethics. www.” for staff development and as quality mentor to his staff. an IT project manager. “Make Your Organization Part of a Worldwide Quality you’ve gone through the ASQ magazines and journals.edison.org/organizations.org/knowledge-center. she resides in Cedar Rapids. are an economical way to open up the value of certification process and • Sustaining Excellence e-newsletter. the quality tools. With the IT department more and more involved in organization- ASQ Site membership allows ity assurance manager. Balaban’s department.asq. “As we began a business location. as well berships for decades.” Jain reports. The otherwise felt comfortable striving for. The first site license was purchased for the you are held to certain • Access to resources and research Westminster facility in 2006. visit the to it constantly. ASQ Six Sigma Black Belt certification. establish- company’s website at www.” Bussard says. From a personal perspective. shortly after joining ASQ. memberships is located at www. ASQ to new people. SCE leaders began considering the Quality Auditor creden- This type of membership covers one benefits of an ASQ organization membership. –Jeff Balaban he’s encouraged all of his quality analysts to pursue Make Your Organization Part of Joining ASQ as a Site Member ASQ certification.” certifications have given me the confidence Encouraging Staff Development to reach for things that I may not have As a manager Balaban is well positioned to serve as a role model otherwise felt comfortable striving for. IT planning and performance monitoring at • Certification discounts. and the Quality conferences. “It up to $180 per certification. with all employees in tial in 2001. ASQ’s library. saving credibility it confers. “I refer • To learn more about Southern California Edison. he “They [ASQ certifications] signify that says. we felt it that location eligible for a wide range of benefits such as: her certification for many was a good time to increase our involvement with ASQ. CA. fication is beneficial as it provides both theoretical and practical applications. Linda Renaud. www. became a Information Center. such as Another member of • Discounts on ASQ courses. ing an audit. training. books. and additional memberships. Quality Progress magazine. Community”). IA. “They [ASQ certifications] signify that I’ve reached a mile- stone in my professional development and attained a certain level I’ve reached a milestone in my professional of industry knowledge and experience. particularly the SCE’s business operations center. She says the cre- dential provides a great foundation for the auditing field. Continuous Improvement). Electric Utility Deploys Powerful Approach for part of a worldwide quality community. interacting with people. Continuous Improvement. and the tion.pdf. loca- who began her career at Center. A graduate of Drake University. The certifications have development and attained a certain level of given me the confidence to reach for things that I may not have industry knowledge and experience. preparing draft and final • Read a related case study article about Southern California reports. Now. Balaban believes that his certifications provide him with that standing.html. a Worldwide Quality Community Jody Donaldson. compliance topics. and what’s so important—the follow up. In fact. “Those employees can now asq.” at www. in my work we are always looking for About the Author areas of process improvement. Then in November 2009. qual. She says that the Black Belt training and certi. services from the Quality Information purchased a second license to cover its Irwindale. Certified Quality Auditor For More Information: in 2004. or memberships (see the ity when others see that as electronic access to seven other sidebar.com. He notes that while some employees have held ASQ mem- lends a lot of credibil- • Quality Progress magazine.