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DATA SANITY: A Quantum Leap to Unprecedented Results

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ABSTRACT: Davis’s abstract of the article: “Confessions of a shot messenger,” by Jonathon Andell

“The success of a quality effort depends solely and completely upon how thoroughly top management commits itself. It hinges upon the tremendous difference between asking others to change, and imposing changes upon the person in the mirror.”

There are three common mistakes change agents make in work cultures loaded with hidden “land mines,” which is virtually all of them.

Mistake 1:
Finding fault is a virtue–a means of demonstrating one’s insights,

Pointing out flaws is a form of brainstorming, which will lead ultimately to a better way of doing things.

Lessons learned:

1. People are entitled to commendation for the good in their efforts–even when there is plenty of room to improve;
2. People deserve credit for recognizing these flaws without help, i.e., as a consultant, don’t be so anxious to do your job;
3. An expert is “merely” a resource whose ego allows them to make sure that the organization gets the lion’s share of credit for their excellent work.

(Alternative: Improvements are accepted only when jammed down throats).

Mistake 2:
Credentials alone lead to acceptance,

Success stories are effective in gaining acceptance for unfamiliar statistical tools,

People will respond to assurances that an accomplished practitioner is at their disposal.

Lessons learned:

1. People are very threatened by their own very human limitations, especially when their careers have made them the ones to whom others turn for answers. Do not flaunt your expertise.
2. Intimidated people will fiercely resist even well-intentioned help. Since they can’t marshall actual facts to account for their resistance, negative campaign tactics will emerge that will contain enough whiffs of truth to be effective. Any natural, inevitable mistakes by the consultant naturally become fodder for this tactic.
3. If management does not “walk the talk”, people will climb on the bandwagon in (2) “like rats boarding Noah’s Ark.”
4. In such an atmosphere, mellower persuasion may help, but people will always create yet another red herring.

Mistake 3:
Go for it all or nothing!

Lessons learned:

1. No one will dispute the big opportunities identified…for other people. They will, however, dispute issues regarding details to show you how it doesn’t apply to them,
2. Don’t fall for the rationalization that each “win” might persuade management to wade just an inch deeper into the sea of total quality because…
3. Phrases like “mortgage payments” and “medical insurance” make one tend to ignore the sage advice offered in (2),
4. Without top management commitment, the consultant will ultimately be faced with one of two choices–either “Take what you can get” or “Bail out.”

The best advice may be from Ghandi: “The only form in which democracy dare appear before the peasant is as food.”

Good “gut” barometers for monitoring progress: Current levels of waste, time buffers, vast variation in employee morale, customer frustration with recurring problems.

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