Acting on the Ridiculous

An eBook published by the American Society for Quality in 2010 and written by Matthew Maio came my way recently. It has the engaging title Quality Improvement Made Simple…and Fast!”. The book is all of 46 pdf pages and is a fast read. It is also an engaging primer of the Plan – Do – Study – Act model for understanding what customers (clients – internal or external) want and need and making simple and quick improvements that align with those needs.

Wondering if you should read this book? The answer is captured in the first paragraph of the introduction:

It is simple—all of us have experienced some service or product that has caused us to say, “This is ridiculous!” Our frustration could have been spurred by one too many confirmations, too many mouse clicks, too many forms to fill out, redundant information being requested, excessive packaging, long waits, poor service, a broken item, receiving the wrong item, poor or botched handoffs, etc. Although our frustration is usually summed up in “ridiculous,” it is more important to be able to answer questions like “How did this happen?” or “How can this happen?” These simple questions demonstrate our interest in and commitment to quality and improvement.

Robert MacKay’s post last week about Quality in Legal and Professional Publishing covered the idea of content quality so well that I won’t address that aspect of quality here, but rather I ask you to think about frustrations in processes and how quality improvement may apply.

1. Is it ridiculous that your first print job of the day requires walking to the printer or copier to wake it up? 2. Is it ridiculous that you book two adjacent meeting rooms with a folding wall between them separately for large gatherings? 3. Is it ridiculous that you have to consciously choose to spell check your time entries rather than having spell checking as a default? What is happening in your daily work life that is a minor but constant irritation?

Identifying where improvements can be made is a good step, but the best step is action. Who in your organization is responsible for addressing the irritants? Is someone tasked with looking at quality issues? Each of the scenarios in my example are irritants at the operational level where there is a hint about who might be able to work on a solution: 1. IT, 2. Reception/Central Booking, 3. Accounting. Understand that for an improvement to be sustainable the voice of both the customer and the process need to be heard. The voice of the process is most audible to the people responsible for performing it.

When something seems ridiculous – ask the question: Why? Maio’s book offers a very quick and engaging read that will offer a template for thinking about quality improvement and a template for acting on the ridiculous.


  1. Shaunna

    I very much enjoyed and valued this post.

    Very many thanks for your comment on my recent column. Much appreciated.