Ran Out of Gas

“Why do you think your Quality Circles program eventually ran out of gas?” I asked. Jamie and I had been talking about how to bring people to perform at their highest level of capability.

“I don’t know,” Jamie explained, “people just sort of lost interest, I guess.”

“And why did they lose interest?”

“Well, at first, there was this gung-ho enthusiasm, you know. It was new, but eventually the newness wore off.”

“When you look at the Quality Circles program that your company developed, what did you design in to sustain the program?”

Jamie almost chortled. “Designed? We figured if it got started, it would just keep going.”

“Jamie, if you could, think back. Exactly how long did it take for the Quality Circles behavior to die off?”

“I remember, pretty clearly, we started right after the new year, but by Saint Patrick’s Day, it was over.”

“So, it took two and half months for the behavior to die off.” Jamie nodded. “And you spent a bunch of money on a consultant to show you how to do this?”

“Oh, yeah, we had a couple of books that we had to read, and we had meetings, planning sessions. It was a big production, right down to the costumes.”


“Well, yeah, we all had these shirts we were supposed to wear. It was okay, at first, but after a while, people started making fun of the people who wore the shirts.”

“So, there was all kind of activity and planning and thinking about this beforehand, but not much thinking about what happened after. Jamie, I want you to think long and hard about this sequence. A lot of activity before the behavior, then the behavior, then the behavior died off.”

Jamie squinted her eyes, clearly imagining the sequence. “So, we did a lot of stuff up front, but didn’t do much on the back end.”

“Yes, so what do you think was missing?” -TF

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