Friday, February 27, 2009

Sometimes you just FAIL – It Happens to Everyone

Have you ever wondered why some things just go wrong? Even after you have planned, prepared, and made sure everything was just right. I know I have.

Have you ever worked for a boss that loudly and too publicly wondered why things went wrong with a project you were working on? Even after you have planned, prepared, and made sure everything was just right. I know I have.

While we are all in control of many aspects of our lives there are always unexpected things that can go wrong or at least not as we expected. Random variables affect everything we do – whether it’s related to work or personal interactions.

Yesterday I received a Tweet from RedBeadInfo – a newcomer to image the Twiiterverse that likely found me because I have written about Dr. W. Edwards Deming and the PDCA cycle. Well, it brought me back to my life as a manufacturing engineer and to school. I went to Cal Poly Pomona and earned a degree in Manufacturing Engineering. Before I attended university I worked for a manufacturing firm and we used Total Quality Management (TQM) methodologies. We were lucky – we had an enlightened management team that knew about Deming’s work and they encouraged us to look for the root causes when a defect occurred.

That tweet from RedBeadInfo brought me back to those days and encouraged me to write a comment on the Red Bead blog. If you have had a Red Bead Experiment experience tell Mike Johnson about it here: Red Bead Experiment - Discussion Group


For those unfamiliar with the Red Bead Experiment the gist is – using a paddle with a number of indentations reach into a bucket filled with mostly while and a few red beads without looking and ONLY fill the indents with white beads. Red beads are considered defects or failures. Of course, it is almost impossible to do this and that’s the point.

I am a huge believer in – Taking Responsibility for your own Actions - and I say it probably more often than my kids and colleagues would like. However, there are times where actions beyond our control occur and we need to take a step back and look for the root cause. The Red Bead Experiment is a simple example that can easily be repeated and shows this to be true.

What’s the point?

Whether it’s working with family & friends or with colleagues you’ve known for years there will always be factors beyond the control of the people (and systems) you are working with. Don’t hold it against them and move on.

Additional Resources:
ASQ – American Society for Quality. Follow ASQ on Twitter

clip_image002 About The Author:
I have spent the better part of the last 16 years working in various aspects of the ECM space. I spent time at
Kofax, Microsoft, FileNet, K2, and most recently Captaris (which was acquired by Open Text in Nov 2008). Prior to that I was a Unix VAR running my own company. Follow me on Twitter, check my blog, send email or find me on Facebook or LinkedIn.

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Becky Metcalf said...

Hey Jeff, nice post. Thought provoking. I was just exploring a similar line of thinking about the importance of professional flexiblity and being thrown a curve ball - how we react to the things that are beyond our control define us.


chrisg said...

Failure can be a good thing. It is often how we learn the most. I think that a lot of people fear it because of the lack of management support and the fear of consequences. Makes you long for those great situations where management knows how valueable failure can be.