My position as director of quality for Van der Stähl Scientific means I start each day as a chronic cynic. I am the Grim Reaper of sorts as the news I typically deliver is bad, which by the way, is good. In order for us to have forward progress, we need to develop a mindset that looks for what’s wrong rather than basking in what’s right.


For over a decade I had a huge weight problem, I’m talking 80 pounds overweight kind of weight problem. But for my wife and kids, I was just perfect. They were the deliverers of the good news. Although certainly, their hearts were in the right place, this did not forge change for me. This was a clear case of receiving feedback in the wrong place; in other words, never ask a barber if you need a haircut. Not only do we need to vigorously seek out the bad news, when doing so we need to always consider the source of the data. This is why we don’t ask the teenager about their schoolwork, we asked the teacher.


External audits through independent consultants or regulatory bodies can have great value to our companies, as internal feedback loops can easily create data pollution. We must always have an outside looking in mindset that keeps us cynical about our own operation. When we look at our organization and cuddle up to the sycophantic yes men and women, we are doing our companies a great disservice. It’s important to remember all of the psychodynamics that comes into play when we’re asking employees if problems exist within our firms. Obviously, it’s not in the interest of the employee to reveal problems that exist under the department that they head, so you are likely to receive collated feedback that ameliorates the hard facts. Like a good detective, we must preserve our suspicious nature in order for us to navigate towards the hard realities of our quality issues.


In quality control, we may not be the most popular people in our firms but it is our job to turn over stones. Look for what Tony Robbins calls pre-problems and develop solutions with a team that does not resent your effort. Sweating the small stuff is what we do to make a better tomorrow. Let’s just hope your airline pilot or cardiologist shares your vision of mistake proofing.


By all means, take a moment to bask in the sun of a quality problem solved, but leave the party quickly and get back to work, sweating the small stuff.