Six Sigma
Last Word


Last Word
Mark L. Crossley

The Legend of the Chaotic Castles

A fable about community associations offers valuable lessons for business.

Many years ago, there lived a wealthy young king who one day said to his knaves: "Come, flee with me from this urbanus life. Let us build a clustered common-interest community… surround it with mighty walls and deep moats… collect all the taxes for our mutual benefit… assume the benefits and burdens equally… and live happily forever."

 Some years later the king said: "This life is good. Let's build more castle communities just like ours."

 And build them he did, all over the land. Today his ideas have created some 200,000 castle developments that house more than 42 million humble followers. Their leaders collect $25 billion in assessments annually and hold $18 billion in reserves. And forecasts indicate that there will be 6,000 to 8,000 new castle developments each year.

 From this growth you could assume that all is well. But, alas, all has been found not so great, especially in those that (like the king himself) have become too complacent.

 A kingdom review audit recently examined the oldest castles. Time was not on their side. Despite the warning from the wizards of the finance council, no one had planned for obsolescence. In addition, operations were found to be out of control. Inefficiency and waste were commonplace. So distressed were the auditors with what they found that they emphasized the need for each community to appoint a special independent council to establish the controls needed to improve their operational processes. Therefore, they called for an all-out effort to develop a long-range plan to preserve and enhance the crumbling facilities.

 Upon receipt of the report, the king called the council together. The council determined that the day of reckoning had finally come, and that if action were not taken, the good life for all would gradually dissipate.

 After many soul-searching sessions, these pronouncements spread very noisily throughout the masses. The highest order of the entire kingdom--The Royal Baldrige Commandment--was issued, and slowly these steps were put into place.

 The knight Baldrige was little known, but gradually his teachings began to impress the leaders ordered to comply. He outlined what was needed to inject sparkle and vigor back into the facilities and revitalize the property values that had been slowly eroding over the years. He also developed the Continuous Process Improvement Program, which was conducted to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the operations without reducing the quality of service to the resident masses. The leaders followed him dutifully.

 Sir Baldrige impressed the participants with the advantages to be gained from the implementation of his teachings. But he also felt they could nicely benefit from the help of two professional organizations: The Kingdom Society for Quality and The Community Associations Institute.

 Sir Baldrige believed that both organizations should realize the significance and scope of these operations, weigh the relative lack of knowledge within the communities about quality and management principles, and appreciate the great opportunity that existed to attain significant improvements in both cost containment and resident services.

 He envisioned the need for new educational programs and materials specifically directed at all of the common interest development operations. Although some interest was evident, he was adamant that new tools were necessary to make these operations more effective in the future.

 It was clear to Sir Baldrige and the king that it was important for several elements of the plan to be present:

 All of the community inhabitants and the king's dedicated servants had to work together to improve the processes.

  Residents needed to show long-term commitment to the plan.

  Residents needed to recognize that their welfare was the primary objective of the plan.

 The plan demanded a continuous effort, not just short-term measures that wouldn't be sustainable.

 Training of all of the participants was vital.

 The contributions of the participants working together as a team should be continually recognized.


 Sir Baldrige's plan has been a success. Results are significant: The old castles are sparkling like new, and property values are soaring. Without question, the castle dwellers are feeling better served. And happiness is reigning supreme once again all over the land.

 Everyone has benefited--even the king. News of the success is spreading, and other smaller communities within the kingdom are initiating similar projects. As a result, prosperity is renewing vigor among all of the castle communities.

 And the king who started this revitalization, although he made some mistakes along the way, is now being revered for his vision and commitment to providing such a wonderful way of life for so many people.

 What a happy ending for all.


About the author

 Arthur W. Brown, a retired IBM manager, is a senior member of the American Society for Quality and the Community Associations Institute (CAI). A frequent contributor to CAI's Common Ground magazine and Condo Management magazine, he has been very active in condominium association organizations for several years.

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