ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

Online Edition — December 2002

In this Issue
Customer-Supplier Communication Systems: 360° Communications Loops
Get Off the Island!
Bridging the Gap at Work
From Our Readers
Letter to the Editor
FISH! The Book and the Video: A Review
Chapter News


Book Nook
Our Readers Say...
Editorial: From Our Perspective
What's Up?

December 2002 News for a Change—Home Page

NFC Index

AQP Home



From Our Perspective

The VCR was playing in the News for a Change newsroom. Bits and pieces of an argument between Abbott and Costello were drifting down the hall.

Costello: Look Abbott, if you’re the coach, you must know all the players.

Abbott: Right, certainly do…. We have Who’s on first, What’s on second, I Don’t Know’s on third.

Costello: Are you the manager?

Abbott: Yes.

Costello: You going to be the coach too?

Abbott: Yes.

Costello: And you don’t know the fellows’ names?

Abbott: Well I should.

Costello: Well then who is on first?

Abbott: Yes.

Costello: I mean the fellow’s name.

Abbott: Who.

Costello: The guy on first.

Abbott: Who.

Costello: The first baseman.

Abbott: Who!

Costello: The guy playing first base.

Abbott: Who is on first.

Costello: I’m asking you who’s on first!

Abbott: That’s the man’s name.

Costello: That’s whose name?

Abbott: Yeah.

Costello: Well go ahead and tell me.

Abbott: That’s it.

Costello: That’s who?

Abbott: Yeah.

Costello: Look, you got a first baseman?

Abbott: Certainly.

Costello: Who’s playing first?

Abbott: That’s right.

Costello: When you pay off the first baseman every month, who gets the money?

Abbott: Every dollar of it.

JR: I’m sure glad we had the chance to watch this video again. Every time I think about the challenge of communications, I remember this dialogue.

DH: It sure is funny! Isn’t it a good thing that real-life communications go more smoothly than this conversation did?

JR: Well, it is hard to imagine any conversation getting as confused as this one, but I don’t know if I can agree that most everyday conversations go smoothly.

DH: You can’t?

JR: No, if we ever stopped to measure the effectiveness of our communications, I’m sure the results would be nothing to brag about.

DH: Measure the effectiveness of our communications? Why would we want to do that?

JR: If we think about communicating as one of the most frequently used processes in our work and personal lives, why wouldn’t we want to measure its effectiveness? After all, we’re always preaching that process performance should be evaluated based on the results it gets.

DH: That’s true. I think I’ve heard that Einstein said, “Every process is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.”

JR: In fact, I’m somewhat amazed at how rarely we stop to measure the results obtained from our communications’ processes.

DH: Maybe that’s because we don’t know how to measure them?

JR: Oh, the age-old dilemma! How to measure! But really, measuring the effectiveness of the communication process isn’t that tough of a task.

DH: It isn’t?

JR: No, it isn’t. We just need to have a clearly defined purpose for every communication and specific outcomes we expect to obtain from communicating. Those outcomes should be described as specific responses we expect to occur, such as actions that should be taken.

DH: I don’t think I get what you’re saying.

JR: Well, if I communicate to you that this building is on fire, I expect you to leave quickly. If you stay in your chair and don’t move toward the door, I know my communication wasn’t effective. My purpose was to keep you safe, and I expected you to take appropriate actions to get away from the fire. When you didn’t do that, I know that the communication wasn’t effective.

DH: So, if I didn’t leave the room, you’d know that you were a poor communicator.

JR: No! I wouldn’t know why the communication process had failed, and I wouldn’t begin to assign blame. But I would know that I needed to investigate the root cause of the process failure and fix it.

DH: So, to achieve effective communications, we need to improve our process and eliminate the root causes of performance gaps.

JR: That’s right.

DH: It always comes back to processes and results and our tools for quality improvement, doesn’t it?

JR: Yes, and that’s News for a Change.


Quotes for the Month

“The presence of humans, in a system containing high-speed electronic computers and high-speed, accurate communications, is quite inhibiting.”
—Stuart Luman Seaton

“Words differently arranged have a different meaning, and meanings differently arranged have different effects.”
—Blaise Pascal

“Who’s on First,” excerpted from

Return to top

  • Print this page
  • Save this page

Average Rating


Out of 0 Ratings
Rate this item

View comments
Add comments
Comments FAQ

ASQ News