Six Sigma and more: Thanks

David SchwinnDavid Schwinn reflects on kindness, appreciation, happiness, even in our Six Sigma efforts.

Shortly after the death of the brilliant comedian and actor Robin Williams, his daughter Zelda quit Twitter and Instagram following online harassment over his death. How sad. We seem to somehow like to see the dark side of the world.

Even my three tennis buddies seem unable to keep from trash talking each other, even when the victim is their doubles partner! Their unbridled criticism goes far beyond each other’s game. They love to criticize other tennis players, the school system, the community, all levels of government, and all the people who receive government entitlements except for themselves, who, of course, have earned their share of them. They are not the only ones who tend to find in others offending behavior.

We see Shia against Sunni, Democrats against Republicans, straights against gays, management against labor, and even today, whites against blacks. We seem to see differences everywhere and find the “other” offensive and even dangerous.

Even in our workplaces, we frequently find this kind of conflict. Our customers are unreasonable, our bosses tend to overburden us with minutiae and criticize our every move while providing us with fewer and fewer resources to do the job, and our employees hardly ever do a fair day’s work.

Yet, from time to time, we are taken aback by kindness, appreciation, and thankfulness. Just yesterday, our relatively new provost noticed that our frequently fractured community is coming together through acts of employee care that he was delighted to share with the academic side of our college. A couple of weeks ago, our oldest granddaughter, Claire, brought a couple of her friends out for a campout. Besides their being just astonishingly cute, my wife, Carole, and I could not help but notice that these three young women were just plain nice to each other. We heard enough thank yous for a lifetime and when the rain drove them inside for dinner, we found these young women all inclined to speak about their sensitivities to the world and, each in her own way, aspiring to make the world a little kinder.

Finally, let’s go back to my tennis example. We recently watched the American doubles champions, the Bryan brothers, play a match in Cincinnati. After every point they expressed appreciation to each other even when they lost the point. During a break, one of them even went to the other side of the court to congratulate an opponent on a particularly good shot.

In our workplaces, we sometimes find the resources, training, and culture to pleasantly surprise our customers, both external and internal. Sometimes, we may even receive or give a thank you. Although it may be a bit of a shock, that interaction nearly always feels good to both sender and receiver.

It turns out that being grateful, including both appreciation and thankfulness, is pretty tightly connected to happiness. There is so much evidence that I’ll let you Google it. It also turns out that happiness is pretty important. Aristotle, for example noted that “Happiness is the whole aim and end of human existence” (The Nicomachean Ethics, New York. Oxford University Press, 2009). If happiness is not part of our Six Sigma intentions, maybe it should be.

Assuming, then, that happiness has become a part of the goals for your Six Sigma effort, try to find something and someone to appreciate. Then thank them. A little handwritten note would be nice. Finally, you might want to share their story with others. Just sayin’…

I always treasure your comments and questions.

2 thoughts on “Six Sigma and more: Thanks

  1. It is fantastic that you contributed that great piece of insight. It should be high in our aspirations. Thanks.

    That goes hand-in-hand to carry on our lives caring for others, for its own sake, not to expect some returns.

    If either of these two aspects of life could be measured, I wonder how different cultures compare.

    If we do not know how to measure it, this goes to indicate that perhaps the most important things in life and wellbeing may not be quantifiable.

    Best regards, Carlos W. Moreno

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