An Exercise in Futility

Most of you are well familiar with the feeling the Quality Assurance engineer/manager/person has in the majority of organizations: all this effort, overcoming all the resistance and then, upon leaving it unattended for a little while – everything just whams back into nothing, as if you have never done anything at all.

Great are the frustration and the weariness, the begetters of wear down. You’ve got to be kidding me, do it all over again? Why? Why can’t someone else make an effort, for a change, and keep up the results we have achieved? Why must it be your intervention to set the wandering off the path straight?

The answer is, in fact, simple.

Most people do not understand why they need to do what they were instructed to do. I mean, not really understand; they are not personally invested in the issue, do not see the benefit of the effort for them, which, therefore, manifests in resistance.

And then the Quality Assurance people resemble those plate spinners in a circus act: at first there is but one plate, and it works beautifully. Two plates – not bad at all; we get results, fill with enthusiasm. Three – quite fine, still working. Four – hmm, a bit of an effort is required here, but it’s not as if it’s going to kills, right? Five, six, seven – start to sweat, running about; just turned these last ones and the first ones are already all wobbly, about to fall, need another spin to get them back up nicely… Eight, nine, ten – what’s going on here? Can none work on their own?

That’s precisely the point.

The circus plates are only spinning thanks to the (external) push of the plate spinner. They cannot spin themselves, and need an additional push to continue spinning and to keep from falling.

Had they had a small personal motor to steadily supply spinning energy, they would have continued to spin all on their own, upon stabilizing.

It is the same with people.

What motivates a person to action? What makes a person work on his own, without being told?

Knowing what the benefit is. And I do not mean his paycheck. As surprising as it may sound to some of you, it has been proven that salary does not constitute a motivational factor. On the other hand, being actively and consciously involved in the process, being personally committed to the process – is. Personal commitment motivates one from within, lie a personal motor; whereas your instructions without such commitment are external. Just like the plate spinner.

As long as the people are not personally committed to the process, the motivation is not theirs. It is not a part of them, it is external. Therefore, without the push from without they would not budge forward, and would even slide backward.

So what do we do? Just sing “…here we go again”? Continue with the exercise in futility?

Not at all. It is counterproductive. In fact, it may just make you slide backward and kill your motivation to continue with your work.

As I said, the answer to this question is simple (though the implementation is anything but easy): create personal commitment and active involvement of all workers. Connect a small motor to each plate to spin with without requiring your gargantuan efforts.

For, between us, how many of these can you keep up in the air at once?

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Quality Assurance Engineer ICQE since 1996, Aerospace Engineer B.Sc., Technion graduate. Lecturer in Quality Assurance Engineering for ICQE qualification and in QA since 1996; first at the Kinneret Academic Colledge, the external studies department, then also at other colledge up North (Krayot, Shelomi). Since 2008 - self employed at Maof Dvora: consulting, holding seminars and lectures at plants in the North of Israel. Involved in a wide range of activities and work: education, website design, art, coaching, Judaism and more.

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