Thinking Like a New asq certified Quality Manager By Duke Okes Introduction

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Thinking Like a New ASQ Certified Quality Manager

By Duke Okes


In 2000 a revised body of knowledge (BOK) for the ASQ Certified Quality Manager (CQMgr) exam was released, with the first administered to the new BOK in March 2001. This paper intends to provide the reader with a summary of how the BOK has changed, as well as some ideas on how one can improve the probability of passing the exam. It is a brief summary of a more complete verbal presentation of the same topics.

Disclaimer: Although the writer is an active member of ASQ’s Quality Management Division (QMD), he has no involvement in developing/administering/grading the CQMgr exam. ASQ takes great pains to ensure separation between the personnel involved in the exam and those who provide information (e.g., books, refresher courses) intended to prepare people for the exam.

Overview of the Exam

The CQMgr exam is conducted in one 4-hour session beginning with 45 minutes allocated to two constructed response (essay) questions, and the remainder used to answer 150 multiple choice questions. The constructed response portion is closed book, and exam takers were recently provided with three questions from which they could choose. Constructed response questions require a handwritten response to the situation provided in no more than one page.

The multiple-choice portion of the exam is open book, with any generally available public reference material allowed as long as it does not contain example questions & answers. Pass rate of the CQMgr exam is similar to most other ASQ certification exams. For more on the design of the exam, required qualifications to take it, the detailed BOK, example questions, and a list of references see the ASQ website link listed at the end of this paper.


The core BOK on which the exam is based was restructured for the 2001 exam. Following are the seven major content areas in which exam candidates are expected to be knowledgeable:

  • Leadership

  • Strategy Development and Deployment

  • Quality Management Tools

  • Customer-Focused Organizations

  • Supplier Performance

  • Management

  • Training and Development

One can see some distinct parallels between the new BOK and the Baldrige criteria. However, the changes between the first BOK and the new one are more than structural. Figure 1 roughly demonstrates the reallocation of emphasis of topics.

1995 BOK 2001 BOK

Topic % Topic % Net Change

Quality 5 Leadership 20 +2

Organizations 8 Strategy 20 +8

Strategy 12 Tools 13 -2

Customers 20 Customers 13 -7

Projects 20 Suppliers 7 +6

Improvement 15 Management 20 -4

HR 10 Training 7 -3

Training 10
Figure 1 – Map of 1995 versus 2001 BOK

These changes might be interpreted as moving the exam from a focus on internal quality projects to a more strategic view of improvement, and one involving the entire supply chain. In addition, although it cannot be seen at the macro level, some significant topics added to the new BOK include Information Systems, Knowledge Management, Theory of Constraints, and Tools for Innovation and Creativity.

In addition the BOK is now defined at a greater level of detail than before, providing more insight into what each topic area is meant to cover. For example, Strategy Development and Deployment is broken down into three areas:

Environmental Analysis

Strategic Planning and Assessment


Environmental Analysis then consists of:

Legal and Regulatory Factors

Market Forces, Industry Trends, Competitive Analysis

Stakeholder Groups

Technology Trends and Internal Capabilities

SWOT Analysis

Customer/Employee Surveys and Feedback

Internal Capability Analysis

SWOT Analysis is then further defined as “How to identify and prioritize; how to deploy appropriate action in response.”

This increased level of information then allows exam participants to better understand the content to be covered in the exam. However, the exam, as with quality management, is not just about content – process is also emphasized, and is especially tested by the constructed response questions, which are based on an integrated BOK. Following are the major elements, each of which has three-to-eight sub-elements further defined in the BOK:

Contribute to the Strategic Planning and Deployment Process

Develop and Maintain a Customer Focus

Management the Quality Organization/Department

Assess Performance Information

Develop Systems for Managing Supplier Performance

Bloom’s Taxonomy

One of the more significant changes in the exam is not the BOK itself, but the level to which the BOK is tested. How well an individual knows a topic can be tested using questions written at different levels of understanding, and Bloom’s taxonomy is the model now used for this purpose in several ASQ certification exams.

Bloom (1956) proposed six levels of educational cognitive objectives, which could be summarized as:

Knowledge: Recall of basic facts of the subject

Comprehension: Familiarity with basic models used in the subject

Application: Able to use the knowledge in a common situation

Analysis: Can break down subject into component parts and clarify how they are interrelated

Synthesis: Combining various components of the topic in a new way or with other subjects in order to address a unique situation

Evaluation: The ability to determine whether a particular application of the knowledge is appropriate based on defined criteria

Following are two questions on the same topic, with the first written at the Knowledge level and the second at the Application level.

1. A typical component of the strategic planning process is a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for:

Strategic weaknesses or threats

Summarization, weightings, options, tactics

Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats

Suppliers working our territory

2. An organization has identified its strengths and weaknesses and the opportunities and threats it faces. The next steps it should take include all except:

Determine which of the findings are more important

Determine which of the strengths and weaknesses might also apply to competitors, or how they might be different

Allocate sufficient capital and operating funds to pursue the opportunities identified

Develop contingency plans for threats that cannot be addressed directly

The significant differences in the level of understanding are obvious, so someone preparing for the exam must not only understand the BOK, but must do so at the level at which each component can be tested.

A Perspective Shift

Having the proper mindset when taking the CQMgr exam is also likely to impact how one will do on the exam. Following are a couple of major issues one might consider:

The focus of the exam is quality management, not quality assurance. Additionally, it is focused more on a total quality management (TQM) perspective of quality management than the narrower view of the ISO 9000 standards. Given than many quality managers spend much of their time involved in the day-to-day operation of the quality function (e.g., quality engineering, quality control, quality assurance), they may need to step back and think about quality from a more strategic, cross-functional perspective. Thinking of oneself as a director of quality responsible for multiple facilities may be helpful (Okes, 1998, Okes & Westcott, 2001).

Think about the theoretical answer to a question (e.g., what would the ASQ view be?), then adapt it to the question provided. A potential danger is to use past personal experiences (e.g., the way your company does it) as a guide. Although what a particular firm does may be very appropriate for it’s own culture, the same practice may or may not be aligned with what would be deemed the “correct” answer on the exam.

Value of the CQMgr

Some people ask why they should even consider becoming certified as a quality manager. They may already hold a title of quality manager (or even director or VP), and may have many years of experience. Following are just a few ways that CQMgr certification adds value for professionals, the profession, and society.

Let’s be honest … most people work because they need to. So money, although perhaps not the most critical variable in one’s decision about a job, is still a factor. The ASQ Salary Survey can then be of help (see Table 1), indicating an average of $9k difference in salaries of quality managers with versus without CQMgr certification.

Survey Average Salary Average Salary Value

Year Without CQMgr With CQMgr of CQMgr
1996 $55k $63k $ 8k

1997 $56k $64k $ 8k

1998 $58k $69k $11k

1999 $60k $67k $ 7k

2000 $61k $70k $ 9k
Table 1 – Value of CQMgr

Another value can be identified through the use of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, where self-validation and peer recognition can contribute to a sense of self that is more closely self-actualizing. Passing the CQMgr exam is no small task. It indicates that one has an understanding of a very broad body of knowledge.

The CQMgr certification also plays a technology transfer role, helping to disseminate a common perspective of quality management throughout the profession, which will hopefully then carry through into society.


The ASQ CQMgr exam reflects current practice in the field of quality management. Quality professionals can benefit through preparation for the exam, as well as holding the certification itself. However, the exam covers more than the language of quality management, and personnel desiring to sit for the exam would do well to understand the breadth and depth of knowledge required.


ASQ website for CQMgr information:

Bloom, B. (1956). Taxonomy of education objectives. New York: Longmans, Green.

Okes, D. (1998). Thinking like a certified quality manager. The Quality Management Forum, Spring. ASQ Quality Management Division.

Okes, D.W. & Westcott, R.T. (Eds.) (2001). The certified quality manager handbook. (2nd ed.). Milwaukee: ASQ Quality Press.

Author's Bio

Duke Okes is a consultant, writer, and speaker on management and quality topics, and is co-editor of The Certified Quality Manager Handbook, 2nd edition. He can be reached at 423-323-7576 or

31st Annual Delaware Quality Conference

March 4th and 5th, 2004

Call for Papers

Co-Sponsors: Delaware Section, ASQ; University of Delaware

The Reality Continues is the theme of this year’s conference. We will focus on the fact that over the years we have all been involved in various efforts to provide or obtain quintessential quality.

We have “done” Baldrige, State Awards, Benchmarking, Certification, Continuous Improvement, Cost of Quality, Deming, Design of Experiments, ISO 9000, ISO13485, ISO14000, Lean Manufacturing, Process Management, Process Mapping, Project Management, People Management, QFD, Six Sigma, Supply Chain Management, SPC, Theory of Constraints, TQM, and the list goes on and on.

  • What have you learned?

  • Where have you been successful?

  • Where have you been humbled?

The Delaware Quality Conference is THE place to share your experiences with your peers. Have you always been looking for an opportunity to “present” a paper or a workshop? Share a success story? Hone your presentation skills? If the answer to the above is an emphatic YES, please obtain a copy of the CALL FOR PAPERS application at the website, and submit it on line. We would like to have all applications by December 1 so our committee can meet their schedule.

This conference applies to everyone who is concerned about providing and receiving quality goods and services, regardless of whether it is internal to your company, in your community, or involving the paying customer.

Questions? Please contact Ron Makar, 31st Annual Quality Conference Chair, at .

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