From Davis Balestracci -- The Journey of 1000 Miles Begins with a Single Step

Published: Mon, 08/19/13

From Davis Balestracci -- The Journey of 1000 Miles Begins with a Single Step

[~ 1100 words:  Take 4-7 minutes to read over a break or lunch

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Improvement as a "Path with Heart"

Hi, Folks,

Most of you originally met me as the "data sanity guy," but you also know that I try to dive deeply into organizational cultural issues to get improvement "hardwired" into a culture.  I'm deeply committed to having you folks develop the skills to get the respect you DESERVE.

Several years ago, I discovered Jack Kornfield's book A Path With Heart.  Kornfield beautifully demonstrates elusive lessons of Eastern spiritual transformation for integration into one's daily life:  Living with attentiveness, meditation, and full-tilt compassion.  

I realized:  Improvement (especially in health care) is a true "path with heart."  I have tried my best to heed Kornfield's advice to make this my "path" for teaching and consulting...and tempering my well-known passion with a bit more compassion.

"Improvement" (Transformation) is an Integrated Package

Last newsletter, some of you were no doubt challenged by my 4-step path for transformation.   It triggered a memory of one 2-day seminar I taught based on my book .   It was a profound experience with 26 wonderful people -- high level executives, physician administrators, directors of finance, MBAs, quality analysts as well as one work team with one of each! The synergy of having those different viewpoints in the room created tremendous dialogues using a common "language" coupled with data sanity as the catalyst for new, different, productive conversations.  

And here's my point:  Everyone felt comfortable contributing to the dialogue, and any distinctions about "levels" in the room vanished.

The month before this seminar,, I received an e-mail from an administrator of a large clinic who was terrified of numbers.  She wasn't sure she should attend this seminar.  I told her there was absolutely no doubt in my mind that she should.  

The first half-day, I put quality in a larger context of changing culture to see 'improvement' as the conduit to organizational transformation. Projects may be necessary, but they are not sufficient.   In balanced scorecard terminology, it's like owning the 'learning and growth' aspect of it as a sub-business in a context of Snee's holistic improvement.

I do believe that facilitating holistic improvement is the true future for someone serious about a career in improvement:  Seeing it as a "path with heart."

The formerly terrified person brought very high energy into the room with her contributions to the dialogue and commented in her evaluation:

"Loved the seminar....For someone like me to feel any confidence in working in this way is very exciting!...I think you should expand the seminar title: perhaps 'Data Sanity and Successful Leadership.'

"I don't think most of us expected such an emphasis on leadership and the human factor, but it was certainly an essential component that I think most of us found inspiring and encouraging. It's heartwarming to experience a business professional who finds a way to bring such healing (and workable/productive) concepts to the business of reporting and making $ for our organizations. It's one of the things that is often on my mind - aspiring to ensure my work is truly meaningful in the midst of the demands for productions and dollars."

Where to Begin? -- Will...Belief...Wherewithal...Taking the First Step

Kornfield advocates "one practice and teacher among all of the possibilities...[I]nwardly it means having the determination to stick with that practice through whatever difficulties and doubts arise until you have come to true clarity and understanding" - a simplicity of perception that brings alive spiritual practice, peace, and truth in daily life.

The late, great W. Edwards Deming was passionate about improvement, and I've concluded that he has been my one "path" amongst all the quality movements.  As I wrote my careful synthesis and adaptation of Deming's message, I realized that it has indeed been a "path" to both professional success and personal peace.  I feel I've created an integrated package that will result in practitioners and organizations with "heart" - and goes far beyond a statistical toolkit.

How do you begin?  Let's take some famous wisdom you will recognize from Chapter 64 of Tao te Ching in the brilliant translation The Tao of Power by R.L Wing:

What at rest is easy to hold;
   What is not yet begun is easy to plan.
What is thin is easy to melt;
   What is minute is easy to disperse.
Deal with things before they emerge;
   Put them in order before there is disorder.

A tree of many arm spans is produced from a tiny sprout.
A tower of nine stories is raised from a pile of earth.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a footstep.

Those who act on things, spoil them;
   Those who seize things, lose them.
Thus [those who truly imbibe Tao] do nothing;
   Hence they spoil nothing.
They seize nothing;
   Hence they lose nothing.

People often spoil their work at the point of its completion.
With care at the end as well as the beginning,
No work will be spoiled.

Thus [those who truly imbibe Tao] desire to be desireless
   And do not treasure goods that are hard to get.
They learn without learning,
   By returning to the place where the Collective Mind passes,
In this way they assist All things naturally
   Without venturing to act.

Wing's commentary:   Guide and control events by developing an instinct about where and when events originate.  One can then act when situations are at their smallest, simplest, most unentrenched, and least reactive state - and at the same time positioning oneself to guide the situation through to completion.  The instinct that signals the origin of events can be cultivated in individuals who are not blinded by excessive desires or crippled by dogmatic thinking.  Individuals who are free of such limitations can use their intuitive powers to guide the world around them and work around rigid structures already in place.

Take that "first step" as I described last newsletter and take heed of this wisdom from 70 year-old Benedictine nun and author Sister Joan Chittister:

"If you define serenity as blind acceptance of a bad situation, then I'm not serene. But if you define serenity as being willing to surrender to present circumstances while keeping a vision of a better future in mind, then I am that. I know things move slowly...if nobody points out that the emperor has no clothes...

..."Serenity is being aware of both what is and what can be, and having the patience to get from the former to the latter. The opposite of serenity is when you destroy what is, in pursuit of what ought to be. And those who take that route destroy themselves as well as the society around them."

If any of you would like the challenge of quietly bringing your organization to the next level towards a transformed culture, please contact me about the possibility of CO-facilitating a similar seminar as a possible retreat for your staff or -- do you dare? -- your executive management (by solving a major problem, of course!) to create their "will" and "belief."

Until next time...

Kind regards,

P.S. Help me help YOU discover your "path with heart" to become successful -- regardless of your organization's current path

  • Perhaps a plenary speaking engagement at one of your professional conferences or internal quality conferences to create will and belief in a critical mass of like-minded colleagues
  •  A "data sanity"seminar to expose the invisible everyday opportunities that will help you gain the respect you deserve when you do it
  • Show the power of "plotting a dot" to help you do something to eradicate data INsanity
  • Or just about any other reason!  I love corresponding with my readers and answering their questions.

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Davis's Book

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"For anyone interested in the wide, wide field of improvement and its related sciences, no other book offers more discipline and wit wrapped into a single, enjoyable package." 
-- Dr. Donald Berwick