Yogi Berra once said, “If people don’t want to come out to the ballpark, how are you going to stop them?” I have found the same is true of statistical process control (SPC).
As the author of the QI Macros SPC Software for Excel, I get emails every week asking, “What’s the right chart to use for my data?” People are terrified of getting it wrong. Somehow, we have made newly minted Green Belts and Black Belts terrified of using the wrong chart or statistic and having someone challenge them on it.
People don’t want to look stupid. So rather than make a mistake, they hesitate.
In the quality community and related publications, a lot of energy is dedicated to getting people to do SPC “right.” I’ve found that the issue isn’t getting them to do it “right,” but getting them to do it at all.
Or, to paraphrase Yogi: “If people are too afraid to use SPC, how you gonna to stop ’em?”
Deming said, “Drive out fear,” but it seems that the quality community has created an environment of fear that slows or stops people from using the tools of quality. People fear the math and statistics; they fear using the wrong chart; they fear looking foolish. If your kid can’t hit a baseball the first time he tries, you don’t correct him. You say, “Good swing!” Then, you just keep throwing balls until he hits one. Then you praise the heck out of him. With practice he gets better.
I’d like to suggest that we in the quality community do the same thing. Rather than criticize or correct people’s use of charts and statistics, let’s change our process:
1. Praise the mere use of the tools. It doesn’t matter if it’s a strike, a bunt, a single, or a home run. I don’t care if she uses the “wrong” chart; she used a chart, and she learned something. People need praise if you want them to keep doing something.
2. Avoid the word “but.” Instead, say, “Yes, and….” For example: “Yes, that’s an excellent use of an XmR chart and how else could we use the data?” “Yes, that’s an interesting result from a t-test, and how else could we evaluate the data? What else could we learn from this data?”
If we want to get a critical mass of people using the tools of quality to create impeccable products and services that delight customers and reduce the burden of waste, rework, and scrap, then we must start rewarding the desired behavior. Once people are in motion, then we can coach them to more refined use of the tools. Otherwise, I fear we are doomed to continue to train Green Belts and Black Belts who hesitate to get started on vital projects for their industry and our economy.
My motto is: You don’t have to be good to start, but you do have to start to be good.