QUALITY IN THE FIRST PERSON
Pursuit of Happiness
Quality tools help achieve dreams, improve quality of life
by Rai Chowdhary
There’s an old proverb that says, "The journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step." It doesn’t tell you that if your first step has an error of just one degree, you’ll be off course by more than 17 miles and won’t arrive at your destination.
We all have dreams and aspirations. Whether we miss the mark or achieve those dreams can determine our quality of life. A 2013 Harris poll showed only one in three Americans is happy.1 I’ll share two of many personal experiences that brought this statistic to life for me.
Many years ago, one of my mentees came to me in tears. The stress of her freshmen year of college had put her on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She felt that her parents pushed her into pursuing an engineering degree and it was not the right career for her. Disheartened, she felt there was no direction in her life.
Another example came from my late uncle. Before he died, I’d met with him on several occasions. He regretted not pursuing his dreams and said, "I only followed part of what Gandhi said: ‘Live as if you were to die tomorrow.’ But I ignored the second part: ‘Learn as if you will live forever.’"2
I asked myself: "How can I apply the principles of quality to help myself and others lead more fulfilled lives?" I understood how better quality delivered better products and outcomes in a business setting. Now, I wanted to experiment with applying quality concepts in personal life.
Inspired by the plan-do-check-act cycle and define, measure, analyze, improve and control, I developed a framework that combines the power of human psychology, neuroscience, lean, the theory of constraints, project management and Six Sigma. Captured in the acronym DO-MAGIC, this framework helped me and others lead an immensely enriched life. DO-MAGIC stands for: dream, observe, mindset, analyze, generate, implement and check.
Dream: Have a dream or you might drift aimlessly, and this can waste years of your life (creating muda), which leads to regret later in life. Discover your dream, and define and document it. Illustrate it with vivid graphics to aid in visual management—a principle in lean. View yourself as the customer, and understand that the dream you create is the voice of the customer.
Observe: Try to be objective, and ask yourself, "Who has achieved this dream before? Can they mentor me, or can I learn from their mistakes?" Determine whether your dream is realistic or wishful thinking. For example, riding a bike to the moon is a dream but not realistic. You may need to redefine your dream. You may go through the dream and observe steps a few times. When you’ve solidified your dream, ensure you have a clear vision (specifications), end state (knowing what "good" looks like), estimated cost and expected timeframe to reach it (a completion date).
Mindset: Adopt and live by the motto, "Move forward." Consider recruiting individuals who have done this before as your mentors. Establish milestones and measures of success for your journey. Understand that the right mindset unleashes your full potential: this will help when you face challenges or your progress slows. When milestones are properly aligned with your destination, they help keep you on track and prevent you from going off course. Even if you don’t have a mentor, press ahead and ask questions of knowledgeable individuals as you go.
Analyze: Analysis uncovers the gaps between your current state and your milestones. It defines the work that lies ahead, and it helps determine required actions that can put you on the shortest path to reach your milestones. It also helps to estimate costs and create a timeline.
Generate a roadmap: You must map out your actions and milestones. Simply listing them is not enough. You also must find links and dependencies between those actions. Identifying these can reveal other linear or parallel paths you can take in moving toward your milestones.
This creates a detailed roadmap, showing how everything fits together within the completion date you identified earlier. It’s similar to using methods such as critical path analysis (analyzing networks in complex projects) and program evaluation and review technique (a tool from project management). After you have a clear roadmap of what actions must be taken and when, you can perform risk analysis or failure mode and effects analysis by asking, "What can go wrong?" for each milestone.
Implement: Start implementing the actions listed on the roadmap and crossing your milestones. You’ll run into new challenges and obstacles, but don’t be discouraged. Keep a well of inspiration filled by talking to your mentor, or taking pride in the many small wins you accomplish as you go.
Check: As you progress toward your dream, a feedback loop will be required to check your progress and make course corrections. Make sure you also celebrate as you cross each milestone, inspiring yourself to keep the momentum going. After you’ve crossed a milestone, put controls in place to hold your gains.
You can DO-MAGIC with your life, and succeed by choice, not chance. There also is one more secret C that enables you to make your success repeatable: commit. Come up with more dreams, and commit yourself to this process. Teach others how to DO-MAGIC, realize their dreams and find a better quality of life.
- "Are You Happy? It May Depend on Age, Race/Ethnicity and Other Factors," Harrisinteractive.com, http://tinyurl.com/harrishappy.
- "Mahatma Gandhi Quotes," Brainyquote.com, http://tinyurl.com/o2u2ybb.
Rai Chowdhary is founder and CEO of The KPI System in Salt Lake City. He has a master’s degree in materials science from Arizona State University in Tempe. A senior member, Chowdhary is an ASQ-certified quality auditor, Six Sigma Black Belt, quality engineer and manager of quality/organizational excellence.