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A QualitEvolution is intended to capture positions and experiences as a participant in the evolution of the Quality profession into the 21st century. From its origins as the brainchild of Corporate Industrial Statisticians, our profession has transformed and evolved to incorporate and adapt to the demands and expectations of our modern existence.

The scope of the subject matter within A QualitEvolution extends to the furthest ranges of quality, business transformation, management science, and quality issues especially pertinent to the members of ASQ in Canada.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Speak The Language That Connects

I enjoyed the recent posting on A View from the Q at http://asq.org/blog/, which profiled the opinion of Mr. Prashant Hoskote.  I had the pleasure and privilege of meeting this esteemed practitioner at the recent World Conference in May 2012 at Anaheim.  Prashant is very highly regarded and active in the Quality Management Division as a Technical Committee leader, so his perspective should be received with considerable interest.

Quality practitioners have emerged from many distinct sources and origins.  One of the most impressive is Sr. Mary Jean Ryan, who is currently the Chair of the International Academy for Quality and has recently been recognized with an ASQ Medal for her illustrious and superlative contributions to our profession.  As a member of a religious order who operates a significant entity, Sr. Mary Jean not only speaks the languages of quality and business, but also the words of Scripture and Wisdom.

The most appropriate quote for this context appears multiple times in the Bible, and is translated as "He who exalts himself will be humbled, while he who humbles himself will be exalted".  The wisdom in this message is that when communicating or persuading, it is essential to place less emphasis on personal credentials and capabilities and instead devote the attention to the facts and merits of the proposal or decision.

Prashant is correct in his high-level overview that there are distinctions in the languages of quality and business.  However, business is not a constant category, but can be segmented.  For the purpose of this example, I will create four distinct viewpoints: finance, marketing, engineering, and operations.  These perspectives would be reflective of the competing viewpoints within a company.  The example is for amusement and addresses an area of personal interest for me.

Here is the communication challenge: Convince your CEO, who has never played the casino game, Craps, to place a Pass Line bet.  This scenario is suitable because it can demonstrate (to the extent of being an overdramatic farce) the distinct communication approaches of each group, and how they would portray the relative merits of this bet.  (Warning: If you lack a sense of humor, please stop reading any further)


There would be an emphasis on credentials and standards: "I have a Lean Six Sigma Purple Belt in Hospitality and Gaming, and have adhered to the ISO 7011 standards for international Craps"

A guru would need to be quoted: "Juran found flaws in the roulette table which he capitalized into a personal profit, but the dice guru, Bumpy Johnson of Harlem, had a flawless method outlined in 14 key principles"

A display of statistical prowess would need to be demonstrated: "By following the conditional probability scales, over a sequence of 100 rolls, the odds could be tabulated in this manner.  A Design of Experiments hypothesis could observe the relative differences between left-handed and right-handed dice rollers.  This would be plotted in a hybrid control chart"

Finally, when the CEO went against the odds and rolled consecutive snake eyes (2) followed by consecutive boxcars (12) and lost the bets, the weaseling and backpedaling would occur: "This is operating outside of our control, and we will need to conduct a quality audit and corrective action investigation to find the root cause.  This is a good thing as it provides an opportunity for improvement".

After this approach, the CEO would be inclined to swear off gambling permanently.  From the examples below, other disciplines would be more amusing, concise, and effective.


The Finance expert would calmly point out that all gambling comes with an expected loss, and is therefore not recommended as a money-making enterprise, solely as entertainment.

The Pass Line bet in Craps possesses one of the lowest rates of loss per bet (1.5% compared to 5% for Roulette or 10% for Slot Machines), and the risk of losing all money is lower.  Due to the nature of the bet, there is caution making it suitable for a frugal gamer.

If the Casino provides free amenities (i.e. complimentary drinks and snacks), then the true challenge is to eat and drink more than your gambling losses, thus profiting from your presence.


Before providing advice, the Marketing executive would protest their inability to think while thirsty or on an empty stomach.  Following a 3 martini lunch at the steakhouse, the creative ideas would be flowing.

Marketing would advise to "go with the flow" and "fake it until you make it".  Find the person with the most chips and bet in an identical manner.  Tip the pit bosses and listen to their recommendations.


The art and science of Engineering is to find innovations and breakthroughs.   The Engineering expert would study the Craps table and propose alternate ways to roll the dice, position the thrower, bounce off the table, and "game the system" to increase predictability.

Additional tricks would be applied discreetly to hopefully change the outcomes in favor of the bet.  This might result in eviction or an unpleasant encounter with casino security involving sledgehammers.


Operations are about simplification and clear choices.  The Operations expert would calmly gain the confidence of the CEO by taking away complexity and fear, and making the outcomes seem logical and reasonable.

Shooter: person rolling the dice

Placing the bet:  The Craps table can be confusing, but to make the Pass Line bet, place the chip on the block with the word "Pass Line".

Potential outcomes:  There are four possible outcomes when a Pass Bet is made and the dice is rolled
Immediate win:  If a 7 or 11 is rolled, the Pass Bet wins and you double your money
Immediate loss: if a 2, 3, or 12 is rolled, the Pass Bet loses, and you lose your money
Delayed win: if a 4,5,6,8,9, or 10 is rolled, the Pass bet is frozen.  When the Shooter rolls that same number again before rolling a 7, the Pass Bet wins and you double your money.
Delayed loss:   if a 4,5,6,8,9, or 10 is rolled, the Pass bet is frozen.  When the Shooter rolls a 7 before that same number appears again, the Pass Bet loses and you lose your money.

The terms Delayed Win and Delayed Loss are simplifications.  The Craps terminology is "establishing the point" and the visual indicator is a disc called a "Puck" which flips between On and Off, depending on whether the Pass Line bet is active (4,5,6,8,9, or 10 have been rolled and waiting for a repeat or 7) or inactive.

Now let's say the CEO rolls consecutive Snake Eyes (1 and 1) and Boxcars (6 and 6) and loses his Pass Line bets.  The Operations resource won't panic, but calmly point to the "Don't Pass" square on the Craps table and politely suggest that betting in the opposite manner, similar to switching from heads to tails in a coin flip, may change the luck and return some wins.

Do I feel lucky - well do you CEO?
The Operations expert will first get the confidence, and then incrementally suggest extensions to the approach.  For example, when the Point is established (waiting for Shooter to roll a 4,5,6,8,9, or 10 to win the Pass Line Bet or roll a 7 to lose), the Pass Line bet can be expanded by placing an "Odds" bet.  This type of bet contains NO EXPECTED LOSS.  If the CEO believes that the Shooter can avoid rolling a 7, then the Odds bet will reward the lucky hunch with additional windfall.  If the bet is wrong, the bet will be lost, but the casino will not profit from the transaction.  This is why seasoned gamblers look for casinos with 10X or even 100X odds, which permits high-stakes gambling without diverting commission or percentages to the casino, making this the best bet for the gambler.


Here endeth the lesson of winning Craps strategy.  But the real lesson is that in communicating, strip away those elements that exist solely to flaunt knowledge.  Emphasize wisdom and simplicity, and communicate to create comfort and confidence.

When Quality people function in practical and empathetic styles, and follow the examples of Covey to Seek First to Understand, then the messaging and communication will flow naturally.  The approach of Dr. Covey has been proven effective and is widely accepted  Dr. Stephen Covey

To test your ability to communicate, attempt to explain simple but obscure concepts to novices.  If your explanations are confusing or discourage others, then a change in approach is needed.   Energy and enthusiasm will stimulate interest, but the connection is the most important.  Whether it is quality, finance, marketing, engineering, or operations, it is critical to success to speak the language that effectively connects with the recipient.

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