H. James Harrington Responds:
Look at your son and imagine how
you would feel if he was not there. Then look at your
next promotion and imagine how you would feel if you did
not get it. Whichever feeling has the most negative
impact upon you is a good indication of which option you
should spend most of your time with.
You need to design your life so that it fits into
what I call the "Arena of Life." There are four parts to
this arena. They are: work; family; self and
Theoretically, these four parts should be in balance.
Practically, that is extremely difficult. I suggest that
you and your husband do the following together because
you are partners in life, and it is the combined impact
that is important.
1. Prioritize the four parts (work,
family, self, religion).
2. Collect data to see how many hours the two
of you spend a week on each of the four parts. Together
you have a total of 224 waking hours per week, if you
both sleep eight hours per night. The "work" part of the
arena includes things such as working around the house,
paying bills and your business activities. The "self"
part of the arena many include getting dressed, social
activities, watching TV, reading a book, going out with
friends, professional activities, school, surfing the
net, etc. The "family" part of the arena includes talking
with your family members, family dinners, family picnics,
family outings, games with family members, helping with
3. Compare priorities with how you spend your
4. Develop a plan to align priorities and the time
you spend on each part of the "Arena of Life."
Too often parents try to buy their
children's love with gifts because they feel guilty about
spending too much time per week on themselves. This does
not work! In large families, children get love and
support from their brothers and sisters as well as from
their parents. Parents need to devote much more time to
the family if they have only one child.
Based upon your comments, your family will be your
number one priority. As such, you should treat them as
your most important customer. Schedule meetings with your
family members just as you would with a client, and never
show up late or cancel these meetings. For example,
schedule one hour just before your son goes to sleep each
night to give him a bath and lay down beside him to talk
about his day's activities.
I am the worst person in the world you can ask to
give you advice on this subject. I failed in doing the
right thing myself, but I hope you can learn from my
mistakes. When our children are young (0-15 years of
age), they need much more of our time than they will need
later on. One of the two of you needs to free up this
time. I spent more time on ASQC activities than I did
with my son. Today I am very sorry. There's an old saying
that says it all; "I have never heard a person on their
deathbed say, 'I wish I had spent more time at
H. JAMES HARRINGTON has
written seven books including the best-selling
"The Improvement Process," "Business
Process Improvement," and
"Total Improvement Management:
The Next Generation in Performance Management."
Harrington is the CEO of The
Performance Improvement Network in Los Gatos, Calif. He
is considered a leading authority in process
Question for the
August 2000 NFC