Sameness or Difference?

Improvement Insights Blog

Sameness or Difference?

How you look at things can make all the difference in the results you achieve in the world. Here’s why:

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

“I just got back from a whirlwind cruise of Scandinavia: Norway, Finland, Sweden, Copenhagen, Germany, St. Petersburg in Russia, Estonia… and one of the things that struck me about this is as you go around, how similar we all are. We all want to make a good living doing meaningful work, we want to raise successful children, we want to have our own home, all of these things we’re similar, right? It doesn’t matter if we speak different languages or have different alphabets, maybe our skin color’s different, maybe we pray to different gods in different houses of worship, but we’re still praying, right?

“So if you look at how we’re the same as opposed to how we’re different, I think that might really change the world. Now I think if you focus on this – how we’re similar – that can make life easy, and if you focus on how we’re different, that can make life hard because that creates boundaries. There was no greater image of that than what remains of the Berlin Wall in Berlin.

“There’s this little bit of art project that still lives out there in Berlin about where the wall was, how it was a dividing thing between countries: between communism and capitalism, and all this other stuff. I think if you look at that, there’s a way to start thinking about things as being similar.

“Now many people will say to me, “Jay, well there’s these exceptions…” Well, yeah, there’s always going to be exceptions, but they don’t disprove the similarities, they don’t disprove the generalities, they don’t disprove all of that. In fact, I think if there weren’t exceptions we’d be wondering what was going on. I see exceptions as a type of commonality; a similar thing. Almost everything has exceptions but they don’t disprove the rule.

“I also see this in Lean and Six Sigma. To a lot of people if I say Six Sigma, they’ll say, “Well, that’s just for manufacturing, isn’t it?” No. My short answer is no; why is that? Because everybody everywhere is working on a process. There’s people, they’re working on a process to deliver a product or service; that’s all the same. Now the thing going through the process might be different – it might be patients, it might be pistons, it might be software, it might be soft goods… it’s the thing going through the process that’s different but the processes are the same. If you look at any company they’ll have marketing, sales, purchasing, procurement, payments, billing, invoicing, collections… they’re all doing the same thing. Even my little software company does the same thing that General Mills does, they just do it on a big scale, all right? So the processes are the same, the thing going through the process is different.

“People often ask me, “Jay, how can you work with healthcare when you were in telephony?” Pretty easy, right? They just have patients going through the processes, and I see the processes are the same, the patient is the difference.

“When you start to think about how can we focus on the similarities rather than differences, I think that can make life a lot easier for all of us, create more connection, right? Because even if our languages are different we’re still talking – we’re still communicating. We may not understand each other, but we can figure out how to understand each other.

“Anyway, that’s my Improvement Insight for this week. Let’s create a hassle-free America, a hassle-free world that’s connected and likes each other. I think it’s entirely possible, but we’ve got to want it. So let’s go out and improve something this week.”