We Shouldn’t Take Ourselves Too Seriously

While I was caught off guard by the August 2004 cover of QP, I found it to be a humorous, tongue in cheek attempt to capture quality in our everyday lives. I have noticed there is a subtle, underlying humor in QP that says we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously, and I like that. Quality involves care and attention, but when too much are paid we miss the problems, issues and reality of the situation.

Thanks for a midsummer smile.

Minneapolis, MN

Am I a Quality Control Freak?

I would like to finish the sentence, “You know you’re a (quality) control freak when ...” with this family tribal story (Debbie Phillips-Donaldson, “Up Front: Getting Personal,” August 2004, p. 6).

When our first son reached first grade, he began bringing home his scored test papers. Before long, Rich had amassed a considerable number of test papers, most of which showed counts of as many wrong answers as were right. As a parent, I found this bewildering, to say the least, and it was ego deflating to a Garrison Keillor disciple who accepted his premise that, “All our children are above average.” Looking back, I think Rich just wanted to get this stuff over with so he could get to the parts of education he enjoyed more.

So, we had our first traumatic (for me, not Rich) tête-à-tête to see if root cause analysis was in the offing. We shuffled a recent stack of typical papers that had the same bleak results I had been observing. I asked him what he thought of them. He said they were OK. I asked him what percentage correct was a good score, and he replied that “80% was a good result.”

I converted eight correct out of 10 questions, five out of eight, three out of nine and so on into percentages. Rich’s eyes got bigger as he saw many were below “OK.” Next, I put the papers in chronological order, oldest to newest. Then I pulled out a page of graph paper and marked from zero to 100 in tens on the left axis and drew a horizontal line at the 80% mark.

As I reviewed each of his class papers, I marked the date at the bottom, on the x-axis, and began plotting accordingly. Now Rich got real interested, seeing he had not reached his OK target very often. Oh, the miseries of being the first child!

The rest is history. The majority of Rich’s scores soon reached above 80%, and with time, they crowded around the 100% mark.

We still laugh about this episode of raising a child without an owner’s manual. And people Rich has told about this terrible triage thrust upon him react as aghast people will. Needless to say, his trauma, if any, was not lasting. The process possibly created an educational entrenchment for Rich, preparing him for the battles yet to come.

The happy ending is that he was very successful academically. He went from being high school valedictorian to receiving Bronze Tablet recognition at the University of Illinois to earning a master’s degree at MIT.

Thanks for motivating me to reach back into our family archives for this tribal story that’s hopefully comparable to and worthy of Jeff Foxworthy’s “You might be a redneck …” stories.

Consultants in Quality
Iowa City, IA

A Case of Extreme Stats Syndrome

It was great to see a bit of humor about how to apply quality to our personal lives. I must admit I was a bit of a quality control freak during the early years of my statistical training.

I received extensive training in statistical analysis during the ’80s. I hated fire fighting and loved fire prevention, so the training was an inspiration to me, and I quickly caught extreme stats syndrome. I took the principles well beyond my work environment.

In one instance, a close friend of mine who was also involved in statistical process control (SPC) applications invited me to his wedding. I decided to write and perform a skit at the wedding reception depicting how he found his wife using SPC (strategic partner choosing). I wrote the script and acted it out with my sister-in-law.

I demonstrated how he monitored her reactions to life situations during their dating years and plotted the results through time, without her knowing. She quickly demonstrated control of her reaction process. He then introduced some dating process changes from time to time to see if she reflected a robust process to high incoming variability. She remained stable and passed the first test.

He then defined the marriage relationship specifications and performed statistical analysis to determine if she reflected a capable process. She met all the requirements, and so he proposed. By then she knew he had used his SPC knowledge to help him determine she was the one. She thought it was cute but emphasized she didn’t want to become a statistic in their marriage. She was afraid he might over tweak their process.

The closing scene of the skit showed them driving to their honeymoon destination. She knew what city they were headed to but didn’t know the name of the hotel because he wanted to keep it a surprise.

“What hotel are we staying at?” she asked.

“Why, the Quality Inn, of course,” he responded.

Another time, I spontaneously decided to take my wife and four kids out to dinner at a restaurant that was far from home so we could spend some quality time together. Soon after we ordered, one of my wife’s brothers arrived with his family. And within the next half hour, one of my wife’s sisters arrived with her husband. It was unbelievable! We had not told anyone we were going out.

I leaned over and said to my wife, “Sharon, what’s the probability you and one of your brothers and sisters would come to the same restaurant at the same time?”

“Bruce, not one more statistic at dinner, otherwise I will go out of control,” she answered.

Time has passed, and I have mellowed out. Wisdom has set in, and discretion now dictates when and where personal quality principles will be applied. Nevertheless, it’s been a blast!

Blount Canada
Fergus, Ontario

Quality Tools Are Sometimes Unnecessary

I just read Bernard F. Sergesketter’s article “Create a Better Life With Quality Tools” (August 2004, p. 25). It was interesting to see how quality tools can be used in our daily lives.

However, I could not help shaking my head at the young father who worked with his sons to design a checklist to monitor the quality time he spent with them. Giving a child a bath, reading a book or telling a story should be part of each parent’s basic offerings. There’s no need to open the box of quality tools.

I wonder if the kids rated their dad as well? I hope he made the grade. Instead of wasting time keeping the checklist up-to-date, he should read another story.

Keep up the good work. I enjoy every issue of the magazine.

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
Cogema Resources

Root Cause Analysis Helpful in Healthcare

I just finished reading “Root Cause Analysis for Beginners” in the July 2004 issue (James J. Rooney and Lee N. Vanden Heuvel, p. 45). I work in the healthcare industry in IT process management and reengineering, and know I will begin using these tools to perform root cause analysis within my organization. The article was very well written and included excellent examples. It was full of information that can actually be used on the job.

Thanks so much, and keep up the good work!

Providence Health System
Portland, OR

Quality Checklist Will Be Useful

The article “Create a Better Life With Quality Tools” was enjoyable and informative. Sergesketter has motivaed me to develop a professional and personal quality checklist.

Strongsville, OH


  • Section 308, Thames Valley, CT, was incorrectly identified as Section 308, Thames Valley, NY, in “Sections and Divisions Honored at AQC in Toronto” (“Keeping Current,” August 2004, p. 14).
  • Live Simply in the City by Jonathan Allan was published by Ardea Press, not Andrea Press (“Control Charts and Your Real Hourly Wage,” August 2004, p. 34).

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