The rearranging of rooms and organizing of bookshelves yields. among several lost 'treasures,' a small stack of books to read or revisit. On top is Thinking About Quality -Progress, Wisdom, and the Deming Philosophy by Lloyd Dobyns and Clare Crawford-Mason.
I grab it on the way to an appointment, knowing I'd have a few minutes to wait and that waiting wants a book. True enough, my first 'serious' job (after the morgue) was writing standard operating procedure manuals. This book sounds both right up my nerdy, nerdy, alley and dry as dust to boot. But it's not, really. It's a philosophy by a man born in the year 1900.
The waiting is outside and, this being one of the first real winter-like days this year, I'm glad for my wool coat and scarf and hoping the wait won't be too short because it looks to be a somewhat revolutionary philosophy and might be exactly what I'm wanting.
It's the New Year and I've been thinking about that--the what I'm wanting. I've been off too, these last couple of days. I'm a little off and the work is a little off and try as I might to force one or the other...forget it. But when I cracked this book and smelled the dust (it's a second hand book from a thrift store) I immediately felt a little better.
W. Edwards Deming was born on October 16, 1900, "the same year the Paris Metro opened and ground was broken for the New York subway system, the first Zeppelin trial flights were held and two birds--the passenger pigeon and the Caracara hawk--became extinct. About 2000 foreigners died in the Boxer Rebellion in China in 1900 and about six thousand Texans died in a hurricane at Galveston that September, still the worst natural disaster in American history."
Deming saw the world change completely in his lifetime. He didn't watch television, but it was television that made him famous, in 1980 when NBC News aired a documentary about why Japan was doing better economically than the US. Deming understood the importance of systems. He saw things in a larger context. He taught his quality system to the Japanese.
I'm just getting into the book and don't want to speak out of turn, but so far, Deming seems to have anticipated the state we're in now, we humans. A couple of things really struck me as important and relevant to today, this day, this January 1, 2011.
One is that the Deming method requires the distinction between continual and continuous. I bring this up because I find the confusion of the two words to be problematic in regards to any sort of self-improvement, including New Years Resolutions.
Continuous means 'unbroken, never-ending.' Continual means 'occurring on a frequent or regular basis.' Improvement must be continual. It's never a straight, unbroken line, a perfect score. It's a process. It's never continuous. If we expect that, we're bound to be disappointed and likely to give up. Let's not.
So to clear this up-- Whatever it is you resolve to do, or not do, or change, your improvement will occur on a regular basis. If you slip on Jan 5th, so what? Just keep swimming.
I've decided that this year I'm not making a list of goals. Forget it. I have a direction. It follows that if I know where I'm going ,what I want to do, the kind of human being I want to be, the details will adjust themselves accordingly. The hard part will be to keep these things in focus. We all know that this is a tall order in the midst of daily human demands, minutiae, chaos and the occasional monkey-outta-nowhere.
My effort will be continual. This, I can live with.
I wish each and every one of you happiness and health in the coming year. Thank you so much for being part of mine.