Six Sigma and more: Being and doing

David SchwinnDavid Schwinn’s research offers food for thinking about values and actions in organizations and in the world.

This month’s column was prompted by an especially thoughtful commencement address by Michael Ward reproduced in the May/June 2015 issue of Imprimis (Hillsdale College). Dr. Ward, of course, encouraged the students to strive for success, but interestingly predicted that failure is inevitable and is to be engaged in with courage and reflection. His encouragement to be reflective took me to the story of our friend Tom Inui and other observations in the last chapter in our recently released book, The Transformative Workplace.

We first met Tom when he served as a senior scholar at the Fetzer Institute, where my wife, Carole, and I acted as learning advisors for the Institute’s Fellows and Scholars Program. The intention of the program was to engage emerging and established leaders in a long-term circle of transformation aimed at connecting the inner life of spirit with their outer action in the world. During that time, we developed deep affection and admiration for Tom as a humble, always humorous, and brilliant human and leader. What we have come to most admire about Tom over the years is his embodiment of a deeply internalized set of personal values, and his ability to use those values to influence transformation in individuals and large institutions in the medical field.

Tom stands out in our minds for both his doing in the world and his being in the world. He currently plays a number of roles at Indiana University School of Medicine, including (a) professor and director of research for the university’s Center for Global Health Research, (b) research scientist in the Indiana University Center for Health Services and Outcomes Research, and the Regenstrief Institute Center for Health Services Research, and (c) director of the AMPATH Research Network, which focuses on improving the health of the Kenyan people. Tom’s prior accomplishments are too numerous to mention here, but they include teaching positions at Johns Hopkins University, the University of Washington, and Harvard Medical School, as well as recognition by numerous professional awards.

What reminded me of Tom in this context, however, was a summary he provided us when we interviewed him for the book. He said, “You have to wear your values on your forehead.”

The doing I have spoken about above are what New York Times columnist David Brooks would call “resume virtues,” or those skills one brings to the marketplace. He distinguishes those virtues from “eulogy virtues,” which are “deeper, who you are in your depth, what is the nature of your relationships, are you bold, loving, dependable, consistency.” In a TEDtalk, delivered in 2014, Brooks refers to The Lonely Man of Faith, a 1996 book written by the esteemed Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, in which he refers to the two sides of our natures, which he called Adam I and Adam II. Brooks describes Adam I as the worldly, ambitious, external side of our nature. He wants to build, create, create companies, create innovation. Adam II is the humble side of our nature. Adam II wants not only to do good, but to be good, to live in a way internally that honors God, creation, and our possibilities. Adam I wants to conquer the world: Adam II wants to hear a calling and obey the world. Adam I savors accomplishment: Adam II savors internal consistency and strength. Adam I asks how things work: Adam II asks why we’re here. Adam I’s motto is success: Adam II’s motto is love, redemption and return. (Watch the TEDtalk.) Rabbi Soloveitchik believed that these two sides of our nature were in a constant state of tension, and that it is our work to integrate them in the way we live our lives.

Our generous friend, teacher, and colleague, Meg Wheatley, nicely summarized this idea of being and doing with her endorsement of our book:

What is inspiring, different, and refreshing about the Schwinns’ work is that they’ve put people at the center of their journey.  We meet many inspiring and exemplary leaders, but after reading their stories, what I remember most about them is who they are, not what they did.  For far too long, we’ve ignored the fact that the most powerful leadership skill is “Know Thyself”–the truth expressed in ancient Greece at the Temple of Delphi.  Carole and David skillfully guide us into the perspectives and practices that create true self-awareness; from such awareness, transformation at all levels naturally occurs.

Dr. Margaret Wheatley

We believe that if we spent a little more time on being instead of doing, our Six Sigma efforts, as well as our other efforts and our own well-being would be enhanced. I treasure your comments and questions.