From Davis Balestracci -- Time for Some Humor Therapy

Published: Mon, 07/22/13

From Davis Balestracci --  Time for Some Humor Therapy

[~ 825 words:  Take 4-6 minutes to read over a break or lunch

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Some Days, If We Couldn't Laugh, We'd Cry

Hi, Folks,

I'm in the middle of a hot, humid stretch of weather, as are many of the U.S. readers.  I can hardly think straight, so I've decided to lighten things up a bit today.   

Many of you have seen me present and know that I try to inject healthy doses of humor (humour?) to make key points. As my mentor and dear friend Dr. Rodney Dueck said to me while we tried to transform culture, one has to "Think of it all as entertainment."  He kept reminding me that we can't take ourselves and passion for improvement seriously all the time.

I quoted W. Edwards Deming in my last newsletter:  "Don't waste too much time on tools and techniques. You can learn the lot in 15 minutes"...

...but what if you had only 5 minutes?

We all do a lot of teaching.  I think Father Guido Sarducci's concept of a 5-minute university is brilliant.     Click here, then click on Five Minute University (if the link gives you problems, it's easy to find on YouTube).  Just think of its potential to help cultures pass external audits when the auditors swarm upon them or when judges for quality awards visit:

[Sarducci (Don Novello) is a relatively famous character in the history of U.S. comedy from the '80s -- the persona of a somewhat irreverent "priest" with an Italian accent to his English]

So, what would the final exam of our 5-Minute University of Improvement be?
  • Q:  Why do we need quality improvement?
  • A:  "Because when we improve, we get better."
Believe it or not, the above was actually said by a CEO at a quality awards banquet I attended!
  • Q:  Why do we need statistics?
  • A:  (Serious look on face and, pointing with index finger) "Variation!"
  • Q:  What quality philosophy do you use and how do you apply statistics?
  • A:  "Profound knowledge and  PDSA."

Teaching Improvement has a Famous Historical Precedent -- and No Doubt Gets a Similar Reaction

Once we "get" improvement, it's so easy for passion to get the better of us -- it just makes such perfect sense and is so us!  I was present at one of W. Edwards Deming's initial lectures on his synthesis of improvement theory called Profound Knowledge.  It absolutely blew me away -- and took me 5-10 years to even begin to understand all its subtleties and how to make it actually work in the everyday world.

Do you see an analogy between teaching improvement and the Biblical "Sermon on the Mount" with the Beatitudes?  The following is based on a humorous speculation of the disciples' all-too-human reactions during the "dress rehearsal." 

Has something similar happened in your seminars?  Aren't there some days you could just...?

Then Deming took his disciples up on the mountain and gathered them around him.  And then he taught them saying, "You must have Profound Knowledge."

  • Blessed are the front line,
  • Blessed are those who see everything as a process,
  • Blessed are those who blame processes, not people,
  • Blessed are those who see every process as part of an interconnected system,
  • Blessed are those who ask, "Was this undesirable situation the result of common cause or special cause variation?",
  • Blessed are those who 'Plot the dots!',
  • Blessed are those who don't tamper,
  • Blessed are those who don't use arbitrary numerical goals to motivate,
  • Blessed are those who realize that given any set of numbers, 10% of them will be the top 10% and 25% of them will be the bottom quartile,
  • Blessed are those who remove barriers to pride in work,
  • Blessed are those who experiment using PDSA to test a well-formulated theory,
  • Blessed are those who understand that it's all about reducing variation.

And Peter said, "Do we have to write this stuff down?"

And Philip said, "Is there going to be a test?"

And James said, "Huh?"

And Andrew said, "Joseph Juran's disciples don't have to learn this stuff."

And Bartholomew said, "Will I have to stand up in front of others and teach this?"

And Matthew said, "Enough theory!  Where are the tools we need to use?"

And Judas said, "Get real!  Who is ever going to use this in the real world?"

And Simon the Zealot said, "I'm already too busy.  How much more time is this going to take?

And John said, "I already knew this, but it was a great review!  When can I start teaching it to those who really need it?"

Then one of the Human Resource executives, an expert in training, said, "I don't see any of this in the syllabus.  Do you have a lesson plan? Is there an activity for each of the four intelligences? Where is the study guide? Will there be any authentic assessment? What are your terminal objectives in the cognitive domain? Will remediation and extra credit be provided for those who did not meet class requirements so they can still pass?"

And the executive who came late said, "I'm late for my next meeting.  Can you give me the five-minute overview and tell me how much money this will initially cost, then save?"

And Thomas, who had missed the presentation, came to Deming privately and asked, "Did we do anything important today?"

And Deming wept.

Back to serious topics in two weeks.  Until then, keep a smile on your face and...

Kind regards,

P.S.   I need your feedback
I appreciate the enthusiastic response of those who wanted to attend our planned October seminar, but there weren't enough people for me to be able to fairly compensate Dr. Dueck and Dr. Spitzer for their valuable expertise.

The three of us were very excited during our last planning call and agreed that a seminar of this type is unique and much-needed.  We are going to continue to plan for a later date, so stay tuned.  Here are the objectives:

You will be able to implement improvement strategies in your organization by:

  • Effectively using quality improvement tools and data-based thinking
  • Enlisting management sponsors, champions, and coalitions
  • Overcoming resistance to change
  • Creating effective dialogues
  • Increasing your organizational credibility by increasing your emotional intelligence
What are some other objectives that would make this a great seminar that is worth your time?  Please let me know!  If you have specific questions for Dr. Dueck or Dr. Spitzer, e-mail me and I will gladly pass them on.

Especially If this is you, we want your feedback!

As always please contact me if you're interested in:
  •  changing conversations via plotting a dot.

Or just about any other reason!  I love corresponding with my readers and answering their questions.

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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