Quality is Personal

In the spirit of New Year resolutions and getting myself organized for 2010, I remembered that I have a book that set the foundation for much of how I organize my life now. It's called Quality is Personal and is an excellent manual for applying total quality management approaches to one's own life. Based on the concepts of continuous improvement and centered around checklists the book is a mine of useful ideas on how to keep yourself focused and improving.

My own checklists have evolved over the years in line with interests, workload, and so on – and now are very different from the ones I first set up in 1995. (I was able to look at the first ones as I still have them on my computer which was fun as it brought back the various preoccupations and interests I had then).

One of the tenets of the book is the adaptation and application of Deming's 14 principles into personal life. So, for example, principle 13 "Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement" is obviously relevant to an individual. What a 'vigorous program' looks like I am not sure – it sounds physical rather than mental – but in my case I have on my current checklist 'learn something about China each day' – because I am visiting China later this year for the first time. The book I started on (on January 1 obviously!) is the Little Red Book of China Business which already has taught me more than I previously knew. It opens with a short introduction to Chairman Mao stressing the point that "If you are going to begin understanding the China of today – and tomorrow – you had best start with Mao Zedong".

Going back to the checklists. I recently watched a documentary film (movie) on Charles A. Lindbergh the first man to fly across the Atlantic (New York to Paris in The Spirit of St. Louis May 21, 1927). He was a fanatical keeper of checklists – providing a prototype for the pilot checklist in use today. His success seems to suggest that the checklist approach to life could well be a good formula to follow – but in line with organization design principles keeping it flexible rather than a rigid adherence to.

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