Monday, November 12, 2012

Sink or Swim

If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are? -T.S. Eliot

Part of the challenge of the quality profession is being on the hook for answers.  Quality managers are often the ones who have to coordinate answers to customer problems, performance improvement facilitators often have to guide a team to an unknown destination.  When we become good at these, we are branded for life. Many a time in the last year I have been asked personally to facilitate a session because "Scott, you get us to a solution" and "they aren't ready like you are to herd the team in the right direction."  Up until now, I could hide behind the fact that I could walk away from implementing something because my role was to act as a guide, cattle prod, flashlight, etc. 

Well, now the shoe is on the other foot and I have to get up and walk.  Last week I took the reins of one of the larger Navy calibration centers.  Just to catch people up, I am not an engineer, have not repaired precision instruments, and I only knew calibration from the customer perspective when I had contract out for services. Talk about being thrown in at the deep end of the pool. Last year the center touched 45,000 pieces of equipment.  The center is a full service production shop and reference standards lab. There are 100 sailors and 60 civilians that now call me boss. Thinking about those things make me forget how to tread water. 

Yet, I am excited, scared, and confident.  In the past 30 years I have made so many mistakes and reflected on what I could do better and that I feel I am ready to tackle this challenge. I started my Army career in a military repair operation. There are a lot of similarities between then and what I am doing now.  I still have to work with teams and guide them towards a goal. For them the goal is pretty simple; get the equipment calibrated in a timely manner. For me, it is to provide that future goal that keeps those sailors and civilians employed. 

A little over two years ago I was asked to move away from something I thought was the best job I ever had, teaching the Lean Six Sigma skill set. I had no idea where it would take me but I trusted the person who asked me to take the Master Black Belt role that I would be valued and my skill sets were needed.  The past two years have been very different. I have been challenged more than what I would have done if I remained an instructor.

Lastly, yesterday was Veteran's Day.  To all those who serve I salute you for your dedicated service to this great country.  To all those service members who are leaving the military service family, I empathize with your pain and trepidation.  You are going to a different world where folks do not understand the experiences  you have had and how they are valued in your next area of life.  I leave you with this video.  I hope it gives you the strength to leave a comfortable situation and explore the unknown. 

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