Monday, December 15, 2014

Confusion – solving tough safety issues

The guru of the quality revolution Dr. W. Edwards Deming is known for saying, “If I had to reduce my message for management to just a few words, I’d say it all had to do with reducing variation.”  Before you can reduce variation, you must recognize that it exists. 

Another way of stating this is what my papa once told me; “Son, confusion always precedes revelation.”  Time and again I have been bothered by what I did not understand or comprehend and there was just no simple, quick solution.  What was required on my part was “soak time.”  In order for a revelation to appear, I had to separate myself from the difficult problem, think about it overnight and put together a ‘to do list’ that I reviewed every day.

For field problems, I was often not the correct person to solve the problem because I did not have the experience necessary to get to the solution.  For these cases of confusion, it helped to go to trusted hourly employees and front line supervisors to ask for some guidance.

This led to another important personal lesson; the value of ‘show me’ versus ‘tell me’ leadership.  Once the revelation was birthed from the confusion, I/we had to be able to correctly deliver ‘show me’ leadership.  To paraphrase old man Yoda, “There is no try or tell, there is only do.”   If you want to be sure the confusion has the correct revelation, you and your team must also be able to effectively do what you say is the answer.  This is indeed a smoke test for making sure confusion has been solved, and it takes time and engagement with you and your team to get to the correct solution.

The Doc 

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