Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Troubling Conversation

Recently, I had a very troubling conversation with a friend. However, the ramifications of what were shared are so prevalent today that I should not have been so shocked.

In summary, she was told that her work was “just a job.”

However, this person does not view her work as “just a job.” In fact, she views her work as her mission, perhaps I might even be bold enough to suggest her calling.

I share her desire for work to be more than “just a job.” Work and mission should go together. The challenge is to make this a reality each day. It is very difficult and I fail at this probably more than I succeed. However, in the depth of my heart, I have a longing for work and mission to dance together hand in hand.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Defending Mediocrity

I have slowly been reading Seth Godin’s Tribes. This is a short book so I’m not sure why it is taking so long to read. However, it will be a focus in the next month during this break from class. Early in the book, Godin writes about the status quo. Interestingly enough, this has been on my mind as evidenced by some earlier blog posts. In his discussion on the status quo, Godin writes about mediocrity: “Defending mediocrity is exhausting.”

Defending mediocrity is exhausting.

What does this look like?

Well, whenever anyone presents data for dashboards such as up-time, productity, quality, or cost-to-produce, there has to be some kind of response:

“Oh, we just don’t have enough time.”

“Our people are too busy.”

“We don’t have the needed resources.”

Another example: Lately, many businesses are adjusting health insurance benefits to reflect health data from key measures (e.g., BMI, diabetes risk, heart health).

Again, there has to be some kind of defense:

“We don’t have time to exercise.”

“It is in my genes!”

What would happen if all of the hours defending mediocrity or the status quo were captured and used to change the world for the better?

Monday, September 28, 2009

"Jesus Lives Here"

Saturday was Homecoming at Saint Joseph’s. It was an amazing day that started with a 5K and ended with a cook-out. However, the most important part of Homecoming is the opportunity to renew relationships. True friendships withstand distance and time. Conversations begin again almost from the same point that they end. These are the people that you think about and pray for even when the distance seems so far and the time seems so long.

This Homecoming was also special because my parents came. Earlier in the week, it became apparent that I needed help. I needed a bed and some furniture but was really struggling to figure out how to get these items. So I called Mom and explained the situation. It is so difficult for me to ask for help sometimes. However, on Friday Dad called and said that he was going to bring the bed. Mom ended up getting off call at the hospital and they both came. It was a special time to eat lunch together with Jenn, Dad, Mom, and Troy.

At Mass, Fr. Tim shared an anecdote from working in the grotto. One morning he was working in the grotto and overhead a conversation. Apparently, a younger sibling was with his brother or sister in the grotto. They were walking by the cave and the younger sibling said that he liked coming to St. Joseph’s because "Jesus lives here." He was referring to the statue of Jesus in the cave.

As I reflected upon the weekend, this is one image that stayed in my mind. Jesus does live here. One way I sensed his presence this weekend was in the renewal of relationships and the action of my parents.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Earlier this week, I was in a bit of a crisis situation.

Yes, a serious crisis.

I had toothpaste but didn't have a toothbrush.

What a sinking sensation to be getting ready for bed and then all the sudden realize, because of a series of events, no toothbrush.

Ironically, I had a spare toothbrush in my car just a few days earlier. (It was from my recent visit to the dentist) But my brother, Troy, needed a toothbrush. (That is another story in itself.) So when I forgot my normal toothbrush, I didn't have a back-up.

Well, it was not going to be possible to sleep without brushing my teeth.

So the only option was to use my finger.

Let me tell you that the finger does not work. My mouth felt pretty nasty.

This little situation taught me about all the things that we take for granted.

When was the last time you even thought about your toothbrush and its importance?

I never did until this week.

I can definitely say that I'm thankful for toothbrushes and am trying to be more conscious of the little things.

Take care,


Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Yesterday, I had an interesting conversation with my boss about change. In an almost surreal way, I heard these words come out of my mouth, “I’m starting to think that changing positions in an organization is a good thing.” At the end of the conversation, it seemed that we both had reached this conclusion. In my own observations (and experience, for that matter), it is very easy to get into a rut. What might this rut look like? Well, maybe work that used to seem exciting is now boring. Maybe there is a conflict in personalities that makes it very difficult for either individual to grow. Maybe sometimes it is necessary to step out of the picture and let a fresh set of eyes have the chance to problem-solve and improve. Imagine the increase in value of the individual within the firm as he or she has the chance to move into other disciplines or locations. Often, it seems that these changes occur out of necessity – either on behalf of the company or the employee. However, what if changes like this occur intentionally or even strategically?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

New Job Monday

Tomorrow is new job Monday. It has been almost 2 months since the decision was made on the shore of Lake Superior. Honestly, it would certainly be a lie to say that the last few weeks have not been challenging. They have been pretty much a mixed bag of emotions that have left me fried. Yet, tomorrow is a new day, a new page.

Over the past few weeks, one experience that has been most enjoyable is having the chance to pass the rein to Matt and his team that now includes Dylan. Matt and Dylan take ideas and concepts and run with them. I have sincerely appreciated their enthusiasm during this transition and look forward to having a summit with them and others within the next few weeks. Working with these guys gave me a glimpse at what it looks like to work in collaboration with others. My hope is that collaboration becomes an integral part of the new job.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Going to the Dentist: A Matter of Perspective

It is probably safe to say that most people do not like going to the dentist. However, I can honestly say that I enjoy my two trips to the dentist each year. First, the staff at Dr. Tolle's are extremely friendly. I only see some of them two times a year but it is like the conversations just continues seamlessly from the previous visit. Second, my normal hygienist has a daughter that graduated in my high school class. Consequently, she is kind of in the know when it comes to others from our class. It is always great to hear what classmates are doing. Third, it is just great to have about an hour to just kind of rest.

Today, I walked into the waiting room and was surprised to see my brother, Troy, waiting there, too. The crazy thing is that this was actually a rescheduled appointment for me because I couldn't make one earlier in the week and Troy is home from school for our brother's wedding. We ended up being in adjacent rooms and talked across the wall. Jessica, my hygienist for this visit and Chad's future wife's cousin, and I talked about the upcoming wedding and accompanying events. It was quite clear to me that this trip to the dentist really had more to do about people than teeth!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Well it is already Tuesday evening and I really should be focusing on a myriad of other things right now. However, the last two days have pretty much worn me out so a break time is needed. At class last Thursday, we discussed the parable of the talents (Mt: 25:14-30). I have been thinking about this story since class. I guess that this story has always been kind of strange to me because of the word talents. According to Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary, a talent in the context of the story is:

1 a : any of several ancient units of weight b : a unit of value equal to the value of a talent of gold or silver

Of course, we are used to our more modern definitions:

3 : the natural endowments of a person
4 a : a special often athletic, creative, or artistic aptitude b : general intelligence or mental power : ability

So the typical sermon over the years has either dealt with investments of money or abilities. And, of course, this story certainly applies to both money and abilities. However, at class, something became more became apparent:

A question.

For whom are they doing the investing?

The Master.

What kind of investing does the Master do?

Well, He invests in the lives of others.

This story really hit me because this is what I have always wanted to do - invest in the lives of others - only maybe I never had the words to understand it. Growing up I always wanted to be a teacher or a pastor. Chad and Troy can attest to that because they used to come to my school in the closet. We had a microphone on the 8-track tape player that I used to use for the "sermons." As far as I was concerned, these were pretty much the only two professions that invested in others. Now, I'm starting to realize that this is a pretty narrow focus and should not be reality and in many cases is not reality. In fact this summer, I witnessed the wonder of someone investing in another person. It was one of the most amazing events that I have ever witnessed.

However, there is one small issue:

Fear (Mt 25:5).

Friday, September 11, 2009

Faith, Learning, and Work?

My favorite part of the management class that I'm taking right now is the faith and learning section. At Saint Joe, I became intimately aware that faith and learning go hand and hand. I recently pulled out some of my old papers and scanned through them. It was awesome to see the integration of faith and learning. As a future chemistry teacher (or so I thought at the time), I also integrated faith into teaching - at least in writing. For me, they seemed to fit together so readily. However, six years later, I am not a chemistry teacher, and I find it extremely difficult to live out my faith in the manufacturing environment. Consequently, this class is beginning to open my mind to the reality that God is present - even in manufacturing. As I embark on this new phase in my career, my hope is to remember that God is present and that there is purpose and meaning in work.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Organizational Culture

Tonight, as I was completing my management midterm, I needed to read part of the textbook (Robbins and Coulter's Management Today) to get some ideas for a response regarding ethical culture. However, two other sub-headings drew my attention: creating an innovative culture and spirituality and organizational culture.

These sub-headings highlight highlight a few ideas.

First, an innovative culture does not happen on its own. It has to be created and fostered. I suspect, though, that it is difficult to create an innovative culture out of an unimaginative, uncreative culture.


One simple word:


Innovation is risky. New ideas are risky. Debates and conflicts are risky.

Change is...


Second, I encounter many people who are dissatisfied with their work. One of the things that I long for is to find some kind of meaning in my work. Apparently, other people share these sentiments. Hey, the topic even made the textbook as part of this idea, workplace spirituality. I wonder, though, what it looks like to actively foster a culture with workplace spirituality.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Nehemiah and the Status Quo

As part of our mid-term, we are supposed to read the first few chapters of Nehemiah and the accompanying commentary from John C. Maxwell. As Maxwell points out, these chapters are absolutely loaded with leadership and management qualities. The great thing is that these characteristics are relevant and even taught today in classes - just maybe under different names. For example, when earning my Six Sigma black belt, we talked quite a bit about stakeholder analysis. The need for this step in the define phase of project management is highlighted in 2:1-9 when Nehemiah approaches King Artaxerxes and in 2:18 when he gets buy-in from the people.

Tonight, while painting under the carport, it occurred to me that Nehemiah is also a prime advocate of my latest mantra: SQS. When Nehemiah learned that the walls of Jerusalem were in ruins (1:3), he "sat down and wept, and mourned for many days" (1:4). Nehemiah recognized a problem and he was pretty upset about it. When I see problems, I also tend to get pretty upset - maybe not weeping and mourning on a normal basis but there are certainly emotions. Then, I quickly try to rectify the situation - oftentimes without analyzing broader implications. Nehemiah, though, does something different.

He prays.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

SQS on Overdrive

Well, it is now 11:14 PM on Thursday evening. I should be in bed. I am extremely tired. Yet, I am also extremely excited. In the previous post, I discussed this thing called SQS. After doing some follow-up research, it appears that this concept originated at Bremen Castings. Their lean team created the name to distinguish themselves from others.

I've been sharing some of my thoughts on this with others over the last few days. I was hoping to record some tonight and also share some experience, but my eyes are getting extremely droopy. However, I can tell you that the last two days have probably been the most fun in my career.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My New Favorite Acronym

Well, tonight, I took off for a run after getting back from the management team meeting. However, I somehow felt light compared to any of the other times that I have run this summer. In fact, this summer I have thought many times that I just felt heavy. However, the scale sure didn't seem to indicate that this was the case. Tonight, though, I felt light after reading a blog post by Mr. Trent Miles. Kind of like a weight had been lifted. In his post, he shared 3 letters that eloquently summarized the Thinking Big Manifesto.


No, SQS does not stand for any of the acronyms found at

Simple Queue Service (Amazon)
Sector Qualifications Strategy (UK)
Spatial Query Server
Sediment Quality Standards (WA State)
Supplemental Qualifications Statement
Service Quality System
Supplier Quality Surveillance
Shuqun Secondary School (Singapore)
Standing Quad Stretch (stretching exercise)
Software Quality Standard
Sales, Quality and Service
Skill Qualification Score
Systems Qualification Specification
Separable Quantum State
Single Queueing Station

Well, actually it stands for all of these. But this list is missing one final three-word phrase:

Status Quo Sucks

That's it. I never knew three letters - three words - could capture so much.

Today, on a whim, I drove down by the former Grace United Methodist Church to see if my brother was there. His car was not there, but I saw Josh's truck so I stopped in to see how the renovation was progressing to create the Bremen United Methodist Church Student Center. Well, at first, honestly, I was taken aback. The sanctuary that had hosted weddings (including three aunts), funerals (including my dear Grandma), baptisms, and confirmations, was radically changed. Yet, taking a break in the middle of the new student center were Josh and... a student - kind of a novel concept, huh? I only know so much of the story, so I certainly apologize if there has been any misrepresentation, but this new facility came out of a merger of two churches - a recognition that the status quo of decades could no longer exist. Out of the ashes of what once were two churches emerges a single church and something totally new... a student center. Wow, that is pretty awesome.

Later, I happened to be a part of a conversation involving friends trying to help friends. These people see a serious need. They see that the status quo is literally wiping the life out of some friends and they are willing to take the risk...

One conversation from this summer is enblazoned in my mind. The family (including Meg and Jenn), Lois, and Grandpa were all eating at the BHOP (Bremen Pancake House). Grandpa made a comment that I may never forget. I'm paraphrasing a bit but he said that you have to move on from suffering a loss. Coming from him, this meant a great deal and it will be something that I will remember forever. There is certainly a time for mourning but it can't become the status quo, because there also is a time for dancing!

Earlier today, even, I had a conversation with an employee in Lafayette. She was asking about the decision to work in Lafayette. I shared that change is good. It is really easy to get stuck in a rut (a.k.a., the status quo). Of course, the proximity to Jenn is great, too!

Finally, I reflected on Jesus some tonight and think that he might even agree with this acronym. Although, I can come up with several reasons to support this conclusion, I'll share two. First, Jesus came and taught in an entirely new way. In fact, Jesus distinguished himself from other teachers of his time by teaching in parables. Most of the scholars and teachers of Jesus' time quoted and interpreted scribal law to teach the people. This was very formal, lofty language. Yet, Jesus bases his parables and teachings on everday experiences. They are down-to-earth. Second, Jesus performed miracles. He understood pain and healed people. He did not leave people where they were. He asked them to stand up. He told them to walk. He made their eyes to see. The Gospels are filled with such miraculous events. Not too much of the status quo going on there!