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Harry Hertz

Quality Insider

A Word for Busy Lives

From hectic to happy in six syllables

Published: Monday, June 6, 2016 - 13:59

I recently returned from the ASQ World Conference in Milwaukee. After going through security in Terminal C at the Milwaukee Airport, there was an area (as is typical) for putting shoes back on, and reassembling belongings and yourself. What was different this time was a sign hanging over this area that read: “Recombobulation Area.”

The meaning was clear and the result was a smile, a chuckle, and an immediate easing of the stress that accompanies the challenges of travel and needed airport security. When I returned home, I googled the word, “recombobulation.”

I first learned that the word is listed in the Urban Dictionary and defined as follows: “1. Something being put back the way it was, or into proper working order.” No surprise there.

Next, I learned from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the sign was created in the airport maintenance shop in 2008 to alleviate stress on airport personnel and travelers.

What caught me somewhat off-guard was the Urban Dictionary’s second definition of recombobulation: “2. Gathering one’s thoughts or composure.” Sure, why not have this meaning also? It caused me to think.

I am not proposing that “recombobulation” be added to the Baldrige glossary of key terms or the Baldrige Excellence Framework. I am suggesting that we all establish a real or virtual recombobulation space in our workplace (and maybe our homes).

Here’s why this might be worthwhile:
• It may allow decompression after a tough commute to work and before interacting with colleagues or customers.
• After a stressful meeting, it can allow a calming period.
• It could prevent a stressful interaction between a colleague and customer from affecting the next interaction.
• Meetings could begin with a recombobulation minute to gather thoughts rather than diving right into the agenda.
• It’s a great segue into some thinking and reflection time.
• Just seeing the word in our minds may cause a smile and change a negative attitude to a positive one.
• No doubt it encourages a mindset of operational excellence and win-win outcomes.

Thank you, Milwaukee, for a great ASQ conference and insight into a simple mode of attitude adjustment! How might you and your organization effectively use recombobulation space and time?

First published May 26, 2016, on the Blogrige blog.

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About The Author

Harry Hertz’s picture

Harry Hertz

 Harry Hertz retired in June 2013 from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) where he served as director of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program since 1995. For more than 15 years he was the primary architect of the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, responsible for expansion of the Baldrige Program and Award to healthcare, education, and nonprofits, including government. Hertz serves on the Advisory Group for VHA’s Center for Applied Healthcare Studies and on the adjunct faculty of American University. He has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn and a Ph.D. from M.I.T.