Quality Transformation: Celebrating the light

David SchwinnDavid brags about his daughter and her transformation from high school senior to organizational development professional.

“First, let me say how impressed I am by your fantastic imagination, the richness of detail in this story, the command you have of a complicated but engrossing story, and the strong, beautiful writing…I also want to say that I’ve read numerous fiction theses as a committee member, and even in draft yours is the most sophisticated and well-rounded I’ve encountered.” These words are part of a most recent of a long history of accolades our daughter Lisa typically receives for her work. These came from her advisor in a Master of Fine Arts program in which Lisa is enrolled. Let me tell you the rest of the story.

Many years ago, Lisa and her mother, now my wife, Carole, took me in. After trying to keep my first marriage together while helping raise three boys, my first wife and I agreed that we should separate…and I found myself homeless. Living with a girl, (Carole’s daughter) better described as a young woman, was new to me. Lisa was then a senior in high school and clearly ran this new home for me–at least from my perspective. I remember her asking and receiving notes from her mother excusing her from school because she had something “more important to do.” She was a delight to be around, although she was very busy with school and her extracurricular activities. I treasure a couple of memories of those days.

She would express her pleasure at me being around by asking her mother, “Who is this guy?” While I was puzzled at the question, I, in fact, was probably very different from my former self and, perhaps, different from other males Lisa had known at that time. You see, I had just been through eight years of visiting seemingly every shrink in southeast Michigan and reading every self-help book ever written in an attempt to keep my first marriage together.

The second memory was of Lisa coming home very late one night, loudly slamming the door and yelling, “Jake (not his real name) just dumped me, my life is over, and you two don’t even care!” We obviously did care and got up to talk with Lisa about this new trauma in her life. That was a very important step in my wonderful journey of becoming Lisa’s “adopted” father. It also punctuated for me the difference between raising sons and daughters.

Her high school years also gave me my first glimpse of Lisa as a “professional.” She had a role in the senior class play. She was brilliant. She was then off to Michigan State.

At Michigan State, Lisa studied interior design. During that time, she continued being not only my daughter but my teacher. She easily got her first job out of school because she had engaged, while in school, in what is now called “informational interviewing.” I had never heard of it at the time and now encourage all my students to engage in it.

Her employment as an interior designer in an office furniture manufacturer led her to be asked to lead a new company-wide initiative in continuous quality improvement. That continued our joy in being able to work professionally with this amazing young woman. Given that by that time, Carole and I were both deeply involved in training and consulting continual improvement, Lisa asked for our advice and we learned how to apply continual improvement to her industry.

From there, Lisa went out on her own into the broader arena of organizational development (OD) training and consulting. Needless to say, being able to learn and work with your child has been a joy beyond description to both Carole and me. We even got to work together on the Jackson Community Transformation Project, the Berkana Institute’s From the Four Directions initiative, and have done several presentations together in the same conferences. Most recently, Lisa and I did back-to-back sessions at the OD Network’s Annual Conference. Several years ago, we three visited China together as part of the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce Discovery and Connection Tour.

She has taken a leadership role in this whole area of OD by inviting a particularly strong group of OD consultants together. We have come to call ourselves the Macaronis. It has become a loving community of people dedicated to the development and support of each one of us.

And all the time, Lisa remains the artist. She is an excellent photographer, a fine illustrator, and, as you can see above, an outstanding writer. She is a joy to be near.

I could have written similar stories celebrating all six of our children and their mates. I could have even written somewhat briefer stories celebrating my grandchildren, my colleagues, my students, my friends, and my extended family.

This idea of celebrations that comes from appreciation and wonder is one of the fundamental things that make us happy. Not only does it make the one who appreciates, but it makes happy the one who is appreciated. We know that happiness is one of the emergent properties of quality. Not a day goes by that we couldn’t celebrate someone we touch. Sounds like quality transformation to me.

As always, I treasure your comments and questions.