Quality Improvement Insight from Mark Twain

Improvement Insights Blog

Quality Improvement Insight from Mark Twain

When asked how he tackled writing books, Twain replied with his simple secret to success. Here’s how it applies to quality improvement:

“Hi, I’m Jay Arthur, author of “Lean Six Sigma Demystified” and QI Macros [software].

Mark Twain said the secret to being successful is to get started, and to get started you have to take your huge, potentially impossibly unmanageable thing – a project – and break it down into smaller chunks, and then you start on the first one. You just chunk it down, start on the first one and work your way through.

“Many people, when they first get started in quality, they’re looking at their whole corporation and [thinking], “Oh my gosh, where do I start?” Chunk it down, find one terrible thing that needs fixing, work on that one terrible thing.

“Start with the worst first. When you start with the worst first, guess what? You can make massive progress… massive progress. And if you get stuck and you don’t know what… you’re not sure what to do with certain kinds of data, send it to me and I will help you think it through; if it gets too expensive, I will I will ask you to pay for some help, but initially just… you know, get going, right? Chunk it down, find something important to work on and fix it.

“That’s the secret to success with Quality Improvement. Too many people get flummoxed by all the possible opportunities in their company. Nope, pick one that’s nasty, fix that, right? That’s how I started. When I finally got it figured out I started working on things that work: problems, big problems that nobody seemed to know how to solve. I’d get a little data, do a little analysis and pinpoint where it was going wrong, get people together to do root cause analysis based on what I found, and bada-bing bada-boom we found ways to make things better.

“So that’s my Improvement Insight for this week: Chunk it down. Let’s go out and improve something this week.”

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