Vol. 10, No. 10

October 2008

PQ Systems

Pareto: The Ferrari of charts

Quality Quiz: With a video!

Data in everyday life

Six Sigma

Bytes and pieces

FYI: Current releases


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Six Sigma and more:
George Carlin’s wisdom

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from a good friend and colleague, LaMont Williams. LaMont forwarded an essay attributed to the late George Carlin titled, "Worth a Minute of your Time." As you know, Carlin recently died. He was a stand-up comedian, actor, and author who won four Grammy Awards for his comedy albums. He was, perhaps, best known for his focus on the flaws in modern-day America.

I’m not much into stand-up comics, but when LaMont sends me something, I read it. LaMont is smart, insightful, and sees the world in ways that usually inform me. So I read the piece. It is fun, provocative, and full of ideas. I thought a few of them might help your Six Sigma effort.

The first theme I noticed in the piece was that technology frequently leads our ability to deal with the ethical implications of the new technology’s capabilities. "We have ...more medicine, but less wellness... conquered outer space not inner space," wrote Carlin. I was reminded of our recent visit to the President Truman Library and the still debated decision about our dropping the atomic bombs on Japan. My wife, Carole, also reminded me of two things:

  1. Technology is everywhere.
  2. Just because we can do it doesn’t mean we should do it.

Technology has given us the ability to do many things that maybe we shouldn’t be doing. We can:

  • Automatically phone, fax, text message, and email people who aren’t interested in being our customers
  • Use corn to supplement our vehicle fuel
  • Monitor our employees’ emails
  • Genetically test potential and current employees
  • Ship jobs overseas
  • Employ illegal immigrants
  • Import goods from overseas

There is pretty good evidence that thinking through the ethical implications of what new technology permits us to do before we do it, benefits us in the long run. That takes us to the second theme I noticed.

The second theme Carlin discussed was our tendency to focus on growth rather than development. Carlin wrote, "These are the times of... steep profits and shallow relationships... multiplied possessions, but reduced... values." My dictionary describes development as bringing out our capabilities or possibilities or becoming more advanced or effective. I think this theme goes squarely to a fundamental part of Six Sigma… measurement. Forgive me for repeating this idea again, but Dr. Deming said "the most important figures…are unknown and unknowable." (Out of the Crisis. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Advanced Engineering Study, Cambridge, Mass: 1986). One of the reasons I think we focus on growth is that growth is easy to measure and development is more difficult.

One more time, let me ask you to take a step back and figure out what you are trying to accomplish before you put numbers to it. Don’t settle for numbers that are simple and easy to gather. Go after the ones that mean something. If, for example, reduced variation of something doesn’t contribute to improved profitability and improving profitability is essential, find a better metric to work on.

These first two themes were merely my impressions of a couple of Carlin’s themes. I will finish with what he actually asks us to remember in his short piece. He asks us to remember to love, in our thoughts, words, actions, and especially in our touch our loved ones, people who look up to us, and whoever is next to us. The rest of what he had to say pales in comparison.

After all this, I must make a confession. I was not able to verify the authenticity of "Worth a Minute of your Time." Maybe George Carlin didn’t write it. Maybe he did. But whoever did, shared, I believe, some wise thoughts.

This month, I’d like you to consider:

  • Continually examining the ethical implications of your Six Sigma effort
  • Making sure you’re using the best metrics
  • Reading “Worth a Minute of your Time” yourself. I’ll email you a copy if you ask.

And finally, please do this one thing right away. Show someone you love them. As always, I treasure your comments and questions. I’m at support@pqsystems.com.


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