Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Drive-by Quality

Drive-by Quality

Paul B writes an interesting blog note about Quality solutions that you see in real life situations  [ see:].   

In web-parlance we have a phrase that addresses unconscious or casually uninformed activities sometimes with unintended consequence.  You can call that drive-by Quality.   Sometimes drive-by activity is a negative, such as when you download some software that ends up causing grief.  In this situation, I consider drive-by Quality more as an unintended and unexpected but often very pleasant positive.  

I was working with a group of students who were given an assignment to do a presentation.  After being given their topic, the two students got together and scoped out their topic, and developed the list of items they wanted to talk about.  Then they assembled their presentation and did a practice run and found the places it didn’t flow properly and adjusted them.  Then when they were finished,  they invited me to hear the revised practice which went very well.  

“Have you ever heard of a guy named Deming or a process called PDSA before?” I queried, only to get a very blank look in response.  I pushed a little harder.  “What you just did is a really good example of what Quality folks call Planning – Doing- Studying - and Acting.  It’s kind of the cornerstone tool of Quality Management”.  Again I got the same “that’s interesting” response, but I knew that what they were really saying was “whatever!!”

Students tend to gather into two types; those that instinctively get the concept of PDSA and those that do not.  So much so, that in my mind I am tempted to think that it is an X-chromosome linked genetic trait.  Girls are more likely to organize their way through a problem, while guys are more likely to be of the “shoot from the hip” disposition.  I suspect it had something to do with survival of the fittest 50,000 years ago.

But there are clearly more environmental factors at play as well.  Think Nature-Nurture.   There are lots of guys who figure out that being burned from rapid-fire problem solving is not a good way to go forward in many (most?) modern life challenges.  Mature learners who start getting really busy in life and no longer have the time to recover from dumb and repeated mistakes figure out the P and S are real time savers.  

I know from my own personal experience that if I was borne with the PDSA gene, it was very very recessive.  It took me a long time to realize that making the same mistake over and over and over was not a good strategy.  But even I was able to figure it out and start some Quality learning.  Fortunately both of my sons inherited a more potent version of the gene from their mother who clearly has a double dose carrying PDSA on both her X chromosomes.  

Bottom line, the concept of quality may be inherent in some people and you will see “PDSAers” all over the place.  That is a good thing.

PS:    To be clear, there are lots of girls in this world who appear to be PDSA gene deficient.  Some of them go on and learn the concept later in life, but many don’t.  Just like guys.
PPS:  To be equally clear, I don’t know if PDSA is a genetic trait of not.  This falls into the category of evidence and proof known as speculative conjecture or a “hunch”.

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