Reaching the Quixotic Quotient – When You Must Raise the Voice of Non-Conformance

Per the online version of the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary…

Quixotic

foolishly impractical – especially in the pursuit of ideals; especially : marked by rash lofty romantic ideas or extravagantly chivalrous action

That might be me. But first some background…

An online colleague was recently posting Tweets – laments – about his issues with some quality issues from a quality/performance improvement affinity organization – and a recent book that they had just published – and it’s lack of quality as a publication.

It’s sometimes more than ironic when those of us in quality/performance excellence professions find our professional affinity groups lacking – not practicing what they preach – it’s highly embarrassing.

He had highly recommended this book – pre-publication – to some students – that they should purchase THIS book – and now he is slightly embarrassed – and also more than a little upset. In an email the other day he wrote:

It is not unreasonable to expect that the source provides error-free typo-free well described and discussed concepts. I am thoroughly disappointed in the quality of the material. At this point, I would not recommend (and perhaps actively discourage) students use xxx Handbooks just so I can head them off of confusion, frustration and wasting time tracking down what is correct and what is incorrect.

He had sent numerous emails previously about the book published before this one – about the errors and lack of references, etc., etc. He thought that that should help the publishers realize that their process wasn’t working very well – and that a book about quality was itself lacking it.

I feel his pain and frustration – for I too often have that Quixotic urge – to point out issues (problems and opportunities) so that things can be fixed – and avoided in the future. Even if I distrust any positive results forthcoming for providing such feedback.

For I have been burned and have learned.

But still I tilt at that windmill. Some call it feedback for continuous improvement.

I continuously tilt toward continuous improvement of products and processes. I’ve been doing so for decades.

But too often – the feedback and/or other inputs are given – but nothing is learned, nothing is improved and the errors of the past become the next errors of the present. And “the circle is not unbroken.” These of course are not isolated incidents. They are common incidents. They are not special cause incidents – they are common cause incidents – IMO.

In another Blog Posting from another online colleague – he writes:

Don’t tolerate poor quality…raise your voice.

That resonates with me.

That clarion call is something I’ve heard in one form or another for over 30 years from my main professional organization – but just this past week I was chastised by someone in that group for feeling and acting in that manner – for doing what I tend to do – tilt at their windmill. I got a scolding for not tolerating poor quality – for raising my voice.

Which sadly was in fact modeled for me by folks from this same group for over 3 decades – albeit less so in these more recent years.

But I am guessing that the person who chastised me (see below) is too new to this particular affinity group to have heard such a call – a demand – for almost perfection.

Those who did model this for me – and passed that particular gauntlet to me and others – certainly THEY did not tolerate poor performance – that when continuous reflects incompetence – and they certainly NEVER defended it. They said thanks for the feedback You are right. We messed up. We will fix it.

What my chastiser wrote to me – edited to protect them, and me from their continuous “corrections” for my behavior – where they seem to be both tolerating and defending the poor quality – resulted in this – after a prior email exchange:

Guy, This message is between you and me. My official XXX hat is off.

Is this really worth all of this effort and why are you so angry? Or, is this just the weird misconception that email conveys at times?

I guess you needed to know why we didn’t wait a year to release the new criteria. I think that we did so because our stakeholders had no objection. Also, if we waited a year, there would be new chapter board members and would it really make a difference given that you are not required to satisfy all criteria?

And, can you tell me who XXX is, please? Is he on the board of the XXX XXX? If so, are you modeling the communication style that you feel is respectful, constructive and appropriate? Or maybe his presence on the email thread is why you continue to defend?

Lastly, if we really want to pull out evidenced-based, XXX references, does this type of feedback actually motivate improved performance?

Respectfully…but with sadness regarding what has become of the communication style within our community.

XXX

Maybe I should take their free lesson and do as they do – tolerate the poor performance as they seem to be doing – which to me BTW is not a best practice but is a poor practice – and should not be modeled – or followed. So I cannot take their lead or their advice – or their counseling.

They in fact – in my view – doing more than just tolerating that poor performance – they are defending that poor performance – and suggesting directly and indirectly to me and to others – that we should follow their lead. Go along to get along.

Perhaps their resistance to the feedback and their defense of the excuses offered up (but never really answering the challenge of “why” was previous feedback on this very issue now ignored?) is due to their prior role that last time this came up. They were involved – or should have been – and should have recalled that this issue is indeed one repeated from last year’s cycle – one that caused me and others to object to it then. We, others tilt too, took serious note of it then – and now again. But I guess we were not in the Stakeholder group – per their comments about that then.

Yes – I am modeling what I feel is appropriate: to not tolerate poor performance, poor quality.

And when poor performance/ poor quality is repeated – and nothing is learned from the feedback provided earlier – it is necessary to raise your voice in both volume and tone – and add redundancy to that mix – especially when the responses to feedback are all about the process employed – which gave others a chance to weigh in – so there – what we did should have worked even if it didn’t – so there – back off – and just accept our (feeble) explanation. Please “go away.”

When you get push back to your feedback – you need to push back again – even when others might perceive that push is leading to shove.  Otherwise you’ve wasted your time and efforts to provide feedback. And certainly nothing will change and the circle will be unbroken.

In my emails prior to this I did Raise My e-Voice – and when their rationale for “how it is/was” came back – I did not back down and answered their rebuttals. My take is that not only are they (the writer of the above chastisement) tolerating and defending something they should not – they are acting as a junior psychologist and patronizing me:

  • “why am I angry?”
  • is this “modeling the communication style that you feel is respectful, constructive and appropriate?

But the “kicker” for me is what preceded that: 

Is this really worth all of this effort…? 

I guess the answer to THAT all depends on your perspective – and the value you place on quality/ performance improvement/ feedback/ inputs and Stakeholders’ Requirements.

For me it is.

My father (RIP) taught me that when I was growing up – through his words and deeds with others – and in his direct advice to me – to not give up so easily. And while he didn’t teach me to tilt at windmills – I believe my take-away was to not be so easily dissuaded by others – and to fight for what I believe is right.

He did that quite deliberately  – even when I resisted – as that’s when he raised his Voice of Quality.

Re: the first graphic:

Either the sun is setting on improvement – and it’s almost over – or the sun is rising and a new day of quality improvement can begin anew.

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