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Paul Naysmith

Quality Insider

Those Quality Magic Moments

Don’t let them get buried and forgotten under everyday challenges

Published: Wednesday, August 31, 2011 - 12:42

The human mind is currently the most intelligent device you will ever own. However, have you ever noticed how it has a filtering system? For example, do you remember the uneventful drive to the office this morning? I have no idea why the brain “forgets” these things, but in an instant you will be able to call on the memory of your first kiss.

I am a daydreamer; I could easily lose hours in a day just letting my thoughts and ideas freely roll around my head. Usually these are all about a problem I’m trying to solve. Can you recall when you last had a positive outcome at work? Perhaps you are lucky and have had a great many of these quality outcomes. I like to call them “magic moments.”

Quite often I will return home after work, to be greeted warmly by my wife, who invariably asks how my day was. It’s always an occasion when I can say, “Today I had a magic moment,” and proceed to share my story with her.

My last quality magic moment occurred yesterday. I was in a meeting with two business managers who were providing me with an overview of their current business performance. This was the first time I had been to visit them, and during the presentation, they threw out a “data hand grenade.” You know what I’m referring to here, data that are supposed to impress or bewilder you into silence. Often you’ll hear the phrase “99.9-percent reliability.” Being suspicious by nature, I heard in my head Kaoru Ishikawa advising, “If someone shows you data obtained by the use of measurement… consider them suspect.”

What did they mean by 99.9-percent reliability? They should have known better than to toss that one directly at someone who studies and interprets data for a living.

This is where my magic moment began. Mr. Manager Jr. started by recounting how the team, under the stewardship of Mr. Manager Jr., identified each element of the process that had contributed to the customer’s successes. In total the team had found 200 component parts of the process, and measured those against nine different measures of reliability. I know this doesn’t sound particularly game changing, and many businesses do this every day. However, after being shown the detailed measurements, the magic moment presented itself to me through further explanation.

“Paul, before we started to measure all this, I thought it was a waste of time,” Mr. Manager Jr. openly admitted to me. “Our competitors do not measure these things, and we thought, ‘Why bother?’”

“So why did you measure it, then?” I inquired.

“Well, our customer wanted to know how reliable their process was, and we’re a big part of it.”

OK, I thought, you provided a figure to answer the client, which led me to ask, “Why continue measuring?”

Both managers smiled, and Mr. Manager Sr. followed with, “Now we don’t need to sell the product anymore to the customer for repeat business because we’re so dependable.”

Being Scottish, I’m hard-wired to find negativity in everything, but that has stood me well in most improvement situations, so I continued: “Is there a risk that this level of repeatability cannot be sustained?”

This time the smiles were replaced by laughter. “We sustain reliability by using the measures to identify how to prevent failures,” said Mr. Manager Sr.

Here was my magic moment. They had found the plan-do-check-act (PDCA) process without being taught it. They found it without a consultant teaching it, or without an army of quality professionals supporting it. How rare and wonderful a thing, a business that has evolved into having a world-class quality philosophy, and acting on it daily to their benefit, as well as their customer’s and their customer’s supplier’s.

I like to collect these magic moments and use them whenever I’m faced with that difficult manager who thinks only about what quality improvements are going to cost, or when I’m told, “It can’t be done” simply because no one has ever tried working in a different way.

Keep your magic moments close, share them with others on forums, blogs, and social networks, or pick up the phone and speak to someone. Share your magic moments not to brag, but to celebrate and inspire. If we don’t impart them to others, it’s quite possible our brains will filter them out, and they will end up as lost memories.


About The Author

Paul Naysmith’s picture

Paul Naysmith

Paul Naysmith is the author of Business Management Tips From an Improvement Ninja and Business Management Tips From a Quality Punk. He’s also a Fellow and Chartered Quality Professional with the UK’s Chartered Quality Institute (CQI), and an honorary member of the South African Quality Institute (SAQI). Connect with him at www.paulnaysmith.com, or follow him on twitter @PNaysmith.

Those who have read Paul’s columns might be wondering why they haven’t heard from him in a while. After his stint working in the United States, he moved back to his homeland of Scotland, where he quickly found a new career in the medical-device industry; became a dad to his first child, Florence; and decided to restore a classic car back to its roadworthy glory. With the help of his current employer, he’s also started the first-of-its-kind quality apprenticeship scheme, which he hopes will become a pipeline for future improvement ninjas and quality punks.