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Attending the Preliminary Round Judging of the ITEA

ITEA awardWe got the opportunity a few weeks back to sit in on one of the preliminary round judging events that make up ASQ’s International Team Excellence Award Process (ITEA). I wrote about the ITEA in a previous post, but the process is an annual event that celebrates the accomplishments of quality improvement teams from a broad spectrum of industries.

Eston and I traveled to Charlotte, N.C., to attend the first of seven rounds of preliminary judging that take place each year throughout October and early November. Judges working in the quality improvement field from around the world are selected by ASQ and then convene in one of the cities where preliminary round judging is held. The judges meet for two days. The first day consists of training for judges, and the second day is the actual judging of team presentations.

The ITEA Judging Process

Quality teams from all industries and a wide range of companies submit their presentations for judging in early September, but don’t actually deliver their presentation live unless they are selected as team finalists for the final round of judging at ASQ’s annual World Conference on Quality and Improvement.

The 2011-2012 team finalists saved millions of dollars for their companies and showcased exceptional projects and processes (and many were Minitab customers)!

In Charlotte, the training for judges was conducted by two quality professionals with long-time involvement in the ITEA:  Patti Trapp, current ITEA chair and senior systems applications engineer at Mercury Marine – Brunswick Corporation, and Barry Bickley, director, manager data support for Bank of America. Geetha Balagopal, who has been the ITEA’s Administrator since 1996, was also in attendance at Charlotte.

The first day of the preliminary round is all about preparing the judges for scoring the teams the next day. The scoring is based upon how well individual team presentations address the 37 predefined criteria established by ASQ.

The ITEA criteria, as well as the process for judging, has been developed and refined for more than 25 years by stakeholder groups ranging from quality improvement team members to professional project coaches and managers. The criteria exhibit current best practices for quality improvement teams, with five sections that cover the entire cycle of an improvement project.

Reaching Consensus

Judges must reach consensus among their panel, and this is where things got interesting! It was fun to watch the judges express opinions on why they thought a team did or did not meet a specific criterion. This process seemed to teach everyone involved (me included!) a lot about current best practices in quality improvement and data analysis.

“It’s good for the judges to disagree,” says Bickley. “Divergent opinions yield the best results for teams.”

After scoring, judges create detailed feedback reports for the teams, which help the teams enhance future ITEA presentations, as well as improve their respective quality improvement journeys.

The team presentations give great insight into what kinds of quality tools and methodologies teams are using to achieve success for their companies, making for a meaningful learning experience for all the teams.

“The ITEA process provides an outstanding opportunity for teams from diverse organizations around the world to come together and share their knowledge using a variety of quality processes,” says Trapp.

It’s a particularly exciting time for the ITEA because this year's process attracted a record number of team entries.

“It’s been great to watch the process grow over the years,” says Balagopal. "The dedication and support of our volunteer committee members, trainers, site coordinators and judges has been instrumental to the growth and success of the ITEA process."

At Minitab, we are thrilled to be sponsoring this year’s ITEA, and want to extend our thanks to Patti, Barry, and Geetha for inviting us to Charlotte. Good luck to all the teams who have entered!

The ITEA mission is "To support ASQ in making the ITEA Process THE world recognized program for benchmarking excellence in teams." In this endeavor, we want to continue enhancing our primarily Volunteer organization with talented, enthusiastic professionals with experience in the breadth of quality methodologies.

There are a variety of ways to become involved in the ITEA process, from judging to helping out in any one of the subcommittees that focus on the overall ITEA process, training, or criteria management. For more information, please visit http://wcqi.asq.org/team-competition/index.html or contact Geetha Balagopal at gbalagopal@asq.org.

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