For today’s blog, in response to the December 2014 View from the Q post, I’m going to borrow my all time favorite Mafalda comic strip (or at least part of it). For those of you who don’t know her, Mafalda, by the great Argentinian cartoonist Quino, maybe the most influential cartoon ever in the Spanish language. Despite the fact that Quino only draw it from 1964 to 1973, it is still read by millions of readers all over the world. In this particular strip a couple of middle age, very successful executives chat about the time when they were young and wanted to change the world. “Fortunately”, in their view, they abandoned their wishes to change things and became content with the status quo, thus their current “success”. Six-year-old Mafalda is walking behind these two gentlemen listening with a kind of shocked face that only Quino could draw. She then runs to her friends Miguelito, Manolito and Felipe and warns them “we are in trouble guys, if we don’t rush to change the world, the world will change us”.
In ASQ’s “post within a post” Brooks Carder becomes Mafalda and he asks all quality professionals (yes we are the Miguelitos, Manolitos and Felipes of the story) not to become those comfortable executives.
In the early years of Quality Management, Juran introduced us to the “small q – Big Q” definition of quality. The concept of “small q” referred to quality control, while “Big Q” denoted broader quality management practices. What if we are confortable with “small q” quality, things like quality control, the mere following of standards and procedures? What if all we care about is compliance? Then we are in trouble. If this is the case we are not being ambitious enough and we forgot the true meaning of “Big Q”.
“Big Q”? Become discontent with your company’s “truth”, improve everything and once you have done just that, improve everything again.
Make sure you stamp your signature in everything you do, make sure you create a “before and after” vibe around you (for good of course). Don’t be afraid to improve the quality of life of those around you because by doing so you will improve your own.
Never stop learning, practicing and sharing all the wonderful tools we quality professionals use. Very early in my career I taught basic quality tools to a group of mechanics in an Italian company in Cartago, Costa Rica. At the end of the training Ramón, a skillful welder, addressed his colleagues this way: “before this training we all had a physical tool box that made our jobs easier, after this training we now have a new set of tools that not only makes our jobs but our lives easier and more productive”. All through my professional life I have tried to create this exact same reaction as manager, trainer, college professor, consultant and entrepreneur. And it doesn’t matter if I’m interacting with operators, engineers, technicians, top executives, actors, nurses, doctors, politicians, musicians, scientists, the “before and after” urge is the same.
“PROBLEMOLOGISTS” OR “SOLUTIONOLOGISTS”?
Back to Mafalda.
In April 2014 an itinerant exhibition, celebrating Mafalda’s 50th anniversary visited Costa Rica. One of my daughters took this picture of me (below) next to the “problemologist – solutionologist” sign. Both made-up words are self explanatory, our ambition as quality professionals should be a combination of both. Find problems, create enough discomfort with the status quo so it becomes a problem, thus we are “problemologists”, and then find solutions where no one else saw them before, therefore we are “solutionologists”.