Invest in Yourself
A practical and spiritual guide to personal and professional development
By Stephen C. Deas III
II. The Process for Improvement
III. Step One: Change Your Thought Process
A. Our Thought Process
B. SIPOC Diagram
IV. Step Two: Develop a Plan
A. Using the SIPOC Diagram to Start Planning
1. Create a Current State SIPOC
2. Create a Future State SIPOC
2.1 Change the Priority Order of Your Process
V. Step Three: Start Doing
A. Doers of the Bible: Abraham, Joseph, and Moses
B. Start Doing
VI. Step Four: Check Where You Are
A. Managing Variation
B. Check Where You Are
C. The Need for Standards
VII. Step Five: Take Action
VIII. Appendix A: Example of Current State SIPOC Diagram
IX. Appendix B: Form for Current State SIPOC Diagram
X. Appendix C: Example of Future State SIPOC Diagram
XI. Appendix D: Form for Future State SIPOC Diagram
XII. Appendix E: A Career or Job
XIII. About the Author
At points in our lives, each of us wants something badly-a different job, a
promotion, a new car, a bigger house, or more money. There are numerous resources in
the economy claiming to have methods to get what you want. According to sources on
the web, $4.7 billion in self help products were sold in 2001-these included books,
DVDs, websites, infomercials, and newsletters. This strongly suggests a healthy market
full of needful customers.
But if you need help, how do you know where to go in a billion dollar industry
when so many choices come at you via direct mail, email, and the web?
I’ll make it simple. The best self help book of all is the Bible. Reading and
talking about God’s instructions help us figure out the process for life. It gets confusing
and even depressing at times but the answers and standards for living are in the great
book. You’ll find people just like us- working, married, parenting, and dealing with
family issues. Some make good choices and others make wrong choices. Some follow
God and others ignore him.
I know enough to assert the Bible is the “How to” for our lives. If you open your
mind and heart and positively approach it, you’ll find wonderful tales and lessons on
every page. You’ll associate with and see yourself in various people. Start at the
beginning with the book of Genesis and treat it like any educational or self help book. In
my Bible, Genesis is ninety three pages long. Read at least three pages a day, take notes,
and you finish in one month.
I grew up in a small, Southern town, the son of a business owner who later
became an ordained minister. Raised in the church, I was a teenager when my parents
joined the Pentecostal/Charismatic Christian movement which included (in an extreme
form) the Jim Bakers and Jimmy Swaggarts of the world. My parents were sincere in
their religion as they uprooted me and my siblings to attend a start up church led by my
high school football coach. No Sunday school. No structured service. Just people
meeting in a one room, old wooden church to worship. There was church on Sunday
morning, a drive to Atlanta Sunday night for worship, and Wednesday night back at my
church. The adults could not get enough. They wanted to be fed. They were looking for
answers to their problems at work and home. Relief from the societal stresses that
children did not know.
The sermons were full of condemnation designed to result in an altar full of
repenting sinners. When the call was made and you stood firm, the guilty stares from
others would jab your back repeatedly trying to push you into the aisle and to the feet of
the minister. For a fifteen year old boy, it did not take long for this to distort my view of
religion. Within a year, life went from attending Sunday school and sitting on the same
church pew with my family to hearing if I did not get my soul right with God, heaven
was not an option.
I saw false religion in my day. Certain people were masters at Charismatic basics.
They were the first to speak in tongues when everyone in the congregation knew they
were faking. They clapped their hands during song and raised their hands during prayer.
I admired them and the barrage of condemnation had me envious of their spirituality but
my dose of reality would come on the ride home as my parents giggled through
recounting of the facade.
There was the time a great evangelist came to town. He stood in the pulpit and
waived his Bible back and forth hypnotizing everyone with his message of
condemnation. He probably preached the same sermon every day of his evangelical life.
But he was successful and the congregation was lapping it up. I often thought that
preachers measured success according to how many people came to the altar at the end of
a service. Well, this preacher was laying it on hard. As the big finish approached, you
knew that the altar call would be special. This guy would not tolerate a bad turnout. Sure
enough, his call yielded everyone, yes everyone to the altar. A 100% turnout!
A member of our congregation was the wealthiest man in town. He owned a
factory that employed many men of the church. A man of God, he practically built the
church with his resources. To us, he was a model for following God. Well, as he stood
amongst his brethren, the preacher starting claiming everyone would be healed and slain
in the spirit. The latter meant you were overwhelmed with the spirit of God so much so
you lost your footing and needed assistance to stand. You’ve probably seen it on
television. I believe it is real and have seen people sincerely experience it. The
technique is typically the touching of a person’s forehead during diligent prayer with at
least one person standing behind the prayee for assistance. At the conclusion of the
prayer, the preacher emphatically presses the person’s forehead to literally push spirit
into the soul. At this point, people will usually stumble and be slain in the spirit.
When nothing happens at all, it always seemed to be the person’s fault. They did
not believe and were not right with God. On this occasion, the preacher decided to do a
mass slaying of the spirit as there were too many people to handle individually. He
raised his hands and talked about all the afflictions at the altar. He went on with passion
in his voice and fire in his belly. He stated that when the prayer ended, everyone would
be slain in the spirit. On cue, people crumbled to the floor; all except one man-the
aforementioned pillar of the community. The man who arguably followed God closer
than any person in town. The preacher stared at him in disbelief. Surely something was
not right with this man who remained standing. A few of the supine men were told to
take him in back for ministry for surely he needed help.
The men stood there like teenagers caught in a wrong act. They did not know
what to do or say. The evangelist questioned their commitment. As if total interest was
lost, parishioners starting standing and returning to their seats. It was not clear what
really happened. I’m sure some people experienced help while others followed the
Because of such times, I sadly grew cynical of the church and wary of organized
religion. This attitude led me to think I could control my life. Well, years later, I’ll tell
you we can’t control our lives. But most of us think we do. I now realize we are merely
traveling down a path laid by God. Everything we do and all that happens make us
stronger, wiser, better people, and hopefully committed to living our lives according to
When we leave home, there is excitement and trepidation. Our parents, teachers,
and coaches give us advice which we hear but don’t totally absorb. If there is one
concept young men and women should know it’s that a wonderful path lies ahead. All
they need to do is develop a relationship with God and expect to realize the plan he has
Wherever you are, please invest in yourself. Don’t accept your lot in life. You
don’t have to feel bad or sad. There is joy and happiness waiting for you. Seek both.
Start developing yourself to improve personally and professionally.
The dictionary definition of genesis is “the coming into being of something; the
origin”. I hope this book is your genesis.
The Process for Improving
I know it sounds cliché but the world is changing at an incredibly fast rate.
Business is more competitive than ever. More and more countries are starting to carve
out their piece of the economic pie. America can’t rest on its laurels anymore and must
pay closer attention to the competition.
In the late eighties, the motivating force for improvement was the ascension of
Japan as an economic power. They snuck up on us in the automotive world and we
responded with a quality revolution that is still in progress. But now, quality is said to be
a given (though in most cases it is not) and the focus is on producing as fast as you can
and getting it to the customer when he needs it. To be quicker, your systems must be
lean. To be lean is to shun waste. To shun waste, you must first know where the waste
exists. Easier said than done.
Every organization has systems. There is a system for production. There is a
system for quality. By definition, a system is a collection of processes. So, to improve a
system, you must improve the processes within the system. Examples of processes could
include training, hiring, accounts payable, and management review of performance. In
aggregate, these processes will define the long term success of the business.
Lean manufacturing is a popular word right now. I searched for “lean
manufacturing” on the web and received 2,146,000 results. But lean can be called
different things. I am a big proponent of process improvement as a rallying cry. Because
processes contain people and if people don’t improve, processes will not improve.
A primary tool for process improvement is the plan, do, check, act cycle (see
figure one) of continuous improvement. Around since the early 1900’s, its brilliance is
the simplicity of use and success rate for results. In the business world, it is ideal for
solving problems, improving processes, and managing projects. It is a thought process
which can govern the culture of an organization. Very non-technical, the tool can be
used by any organization or individual.
Figure One: The PDCA Cycle of Continuous Improvement
Always start with a plan. Many people are only doers. God bless them but
sometimes they do the wrong things and must start over with the right way. At
Christmas, I always read the directions (a form of planning) for anything that must be
assembled. I’ve tried it the other way (just start putting things together) only to get to the
end and realize something was wrong. Take time to plan. Formulate what you will do or
Plans are great but at some point must be put into action. This is the second phase
of the cycle. (Do) Excessive planners love to sit, think, write reports, make graphs,
debate, and brainstorm. But a plan without action is like a ball team without a game.
The plan or game plan must be put in motion to work.
In practical terms, you should always start (Do) small. If you have a plan for
changing a business practice, first walk in baby steps. You don’t know if it will work and
will not know until you try. But remember, you have a good plan. You are putting your
best foot forward so relax and try.
In the third phase (Check), the output of the Do phase is measured. The
measurement method should be determined in the Plan phase. As you enter the Check
phase, ask what happened and did it work? What does the data or information tell you?
What did you learn from the Do phase?
Take what you learned from the Checking and decide on the next course of action
(Act). You can adopt the change as is or decide to go back to the drawing board. You
may like the results but want to try it on a larger scale. If so, go back to the planning
phase and develop a new plan.
God used the cycle to create the universe. He planned it, carried out the plan, and
later checked the results. Examples of his checks are detailed in the stories of Adam and
Eve, Noah, and Sodom and Gomorrah. In each case, he collected the evidence and took
action which included making Adam and Eve exit the Garden of Eden, flooding the Earth
(and starting over with Noah), and destroying Sodom and Gomorrah to eliminate evil.
His plan for delivering the Israelites from Egypt is a wonderful example of the
cycle. God planned to free the Israelites from slavery and move them to their own land.
He communicated this plan to Moses and commanded him to start the Do phase. Moses
went to Pharaoh and told him to let the Israelis go into the wilderness to worship their
God. What ensues is a series of Checks and Acts. (the plagues) Moses did, Pharaoh did,
the results were checked, and action taken. Early on, Pharaoh would flat refuse to
consider Moses’ requests. As the plagues progressed, Pharaoh would at first say yes but
then reconsider and say no. Each plague moved the process and all involved closer to the
final objective of freeing the Israeli people.
Let’s make it personal. When you finish this book, you will realize that it is
nothing but application of the PDCA cycle to our lives within the context of God’s plan
and will for us. So, as a preview of what is to come, consider the personal model of the
cycle exhibited in figure two.
Figure Two: A Personal Application of the PDCA Cycle
If you truly want to improve your life, I submit the only way to do so is through God. So
as the process for improvement begins, your plan must be focused on God. Ask God for
something through prayer. But you can’t just sit still and expect it to happen. Faith
without works is dead and so will your plan be if you don’t start acting in accordance to
what you asked of God. After doing, you must stop at some point and check your life.
How are you living? Are you living according to God’s standards (the contents of the
Bible) or are you living in sin while professing to follow God? Once you answer such
questions, you must take action. If you are drowning in sin, you must decide to run from
sin. Yes, run and run to God.
Free of charge, the PDCA cycle is a great tool for continuously improving
personal and professional lives with a slight modification: TPDCA. We must start with
our thoughts (T). They must be correct before the four step cycle can be used.
Step One in Development: Change Your Thought Process
Before we begin to walk the process, I want you to know something. You may or
may not already know it but it is the piece of information you need to start living- God
loves you. Yes, that’s it. But trust me; there is more to it than just these words. His love
for us is unconditional and the Bible is one big summary of God’s love for us.
Remember, he loves us so much that he sacrificed his son for us to have true life. I tell
you this because I know how hard it is to think positively when faced with the weight of
the world. It was not until I truly began to understand God’s love for me that I could
even begin to get my life in real order. My thoughts were always of the world and of
material things. Knowledge of God’s love flips the world for us from negative to
positive. From the glass being half empty to the glass being half full.
It is difficult to improve if you aren’t thinking correctly. Search on the web for
“thoughts” and you find sights stating the average human has twelve thousand thoughts
per day. With that said, ponder the contents of table one:
Table One: Approximate Number of Positive and Negative Thoughts We Have Per Day
Type Thought 25% Positive 50% Positive 75% Positive 99% Positive
Thought Rate Thought Rate Thought Rate Thought Rate
Positive 3000 thoughts 6000 thoughts 9000 thoughts 11,800 thoughts
per day per day per day per day
Negative 9000 thoughts 6000 thoughts 3000 thoughts 120 thoughts
per day per day per day per day
For the sake of discussion, let’s focus on the less than fifty percent positive
thought rate. We know these people. In that it takes one to know one, I often find myself
in that quadrant and struggle every day to stay above the fifty percent rate. These six
thousand to nine thousand negative thoughts are ball and chain to our attitude dragging us
into a bitter, inescapable quagmire. They close our minds and hearts to wonderful
opportunities in life.
If you think negative, you will feel negative and negative things may happen to
you. A great example is Pharaoh. God’s plan was to deliver the Israelis from the rule of
Pharaoh. These people were Pharaoh’s laborers building his kingdom’s infrastructure.
He could not afford to lose them. Each time Moses went before Pharaoh, he succinctly
asked that God’s people be allowed to worship him away from work for a period of time.
God knew that Pharaoh would say no (and Moses would be hesitant) so he included the
plagues as part of the plan.
An objective of the plagues was to give Pharaoh a chance to see the power of
God. Instead, Pharaoh resisted and only worried about his kingdom and what he would
lose if these people were freed. He could not look at this chain of events from any other
angle; including what he could gain by listening to this God who clearly loved his people.
Pharaoh’s negative thinking led to seven horrible plagues with the final one being the
death of firstborn children. (including his own)
How do you change your way of thinking? Well, the first step is deciding that
you want to change and committing to change. And remember, God loves you!
To create a positive thought process, you must eliminate inputs that are feeding
you negatively. Before Moses started his journey, God almost killed him. Yes, that’s
right; God was going to kill Moses. Why? Moses had not circumcised his son which
clearly violated God’s covenant. So, before Moses could do this task for God, he had to
perform the circumcision. He had to completely align himself with God before assuming
this important responsibility.
For two years, I’ve dealt with severe back pain. When the pain first intensified, a
neurosurgeon told me there were disk problems. I lived in modest discomfort for a while
but last year, for whatever reason, the pain worsened. I went back to the doctor and heard
it was time for surgery. Before exercising that option, he gave me several others to
consider including medication and shots of cortisone. I partook of both and gained some
relief but the pain persisted. I was at the point where this would be my life and I was
preparing to live my life in pain. It affected me as an employee, a father, and husband.
The pain was always on my mind and a constant reminder of what my life would be like.
I did not want surgery. Perhaps God knew I did not need it but something kept
telling me not to go under the knife. Yet, I kept hurting and feeling sorry for myself. As
a last resort (and after prodding from my wife), I went to a chiropractor. Previously, I
had refused to see one not believing in their service and ruling in advance they could not
help me. Looking back, my negative thinking kept me from even considering the option.
I went and for the first time received hope. He x-rayed my back and walked me
through the cause of my pain. This appealed to my engineering side because he told me
why I was hurting. I could see it on the screen. The good news was the problem was
fixable. What did I have to lose? After a series of visits, the pain subsided (it did not go
away). I quit popping pain medicine and my life returned to normalcy.
This experience taught me there is always a better way to look at something. You
may physically hurt but don’t let your thoughts of dismay and pain overwhelm you and
push you into the low percentage positive thought area. If you do, you’ll never get out of
the funk. You will miss opportunities that float into your life. I will say it again. God
loves you and has a plan for you. He has blessed you with talents and skills. Instead of
focusing on what troubles you, focus on trying to discern God’s will for your life. More
on that later.
Thinking is important when managing people. How do you see your employees?
Do you see them as husbands, fathers, and ambitious singles that come to work everyday
wanting to excel and do good work? Or, do you see them as a person who can’t seem to
get things done? A person that can’t keep his or her work prioritized? A person that has
a messy desk?
I have worked for the latter and tried to be the former. We are often quick to see
what a person is not doing. We dwell on it. We step in to try to make them do better.
We complain (internally and externally) about their inabilities. The only thing this
accomplishes is closing our eyes and ears to what they do well. No one will argue that
each person has strengths and weaknesses. If you can’t sit and honestly write down your
employees’ strengths and weaknesses, shame on you. The effective manager tries hard to
put an employee in a position to use their strengths. Sure you can (and probably should)
try to fix a weakness but focus more on using his/her assets, strengths, and passions for
the betterment of the company.
If a manager thinks negatively, the department thinks negatively. Sometimes
called a micromanager, they truly don’t trust their employees to do good work. They will
give tasks but stay on top of the employee to make sure it gets done. Well, what message
does this give to the employee?
Part of what we learn from Moses is God calls some to be leaders. Moses went
into exile to learn, in part, the thought process of a leader. God planned for him to lead
the people (a population of shepherds) and without this time away, he certainly could not
have understood a shepherd’s lifestyle. Working like them gave him confidence and
credibility to lead. Effective managers know they should not ask or expect of their
employees what they can’t do themselves. You have to spend time with your employees
and have worked the same as them (as Moses) to really understand their needs and what
is important to them.
When you start thinking positively, you are energized to develop a plan. You get
excited about accomplishing a task and reaching a goal.
1. God loves you!
2. Start improving your thought process!
The SIPOC Diagram
Another business tool for process improvement is the SIPOC diagram. A
process (P) converts inputs into outputs. Business processes create products or services.
To remain competitive and keep customers satisfied, business processes must
Inputs (I) are the ingredients used in a process or what the process needs to
succeed: People. Documentation. Equipment. Support. Specifications. God used love
as the sole input (ingredient) to create the universe. In turn, we are expected to live our
lives with love in our hearts and minds. Love for others, our neighbors, and most
importantly ourselves. To love yourself means taking care of your mind and body and
caring about the type person you are and want to be. It means using your God given
talents to reach your full potential. It means glorifying God in all you do. You can’t
drown in a dreary job and say you love yourself. You can’t talk about others behind their
backs and say you love yourself.
Have you seen the movie Facing the Giants? In a nutshell, the movie is about a
man who is miserable in his job. He is having little to no success in his profession. He
can’t motivate others. The work environment is one of accepting a losing attitude. His
life starts to unravel as personal issues mount on his shoulders. He eventually learns that
there is a movement to have him dismissed. He is poised to lose much. But he turns to
God in prayer. He reads the Bible for answers. The conclusion he draws is to glorify
God in all he does. Whether his job succeeds or fails, he will work extremely hard to be
the best he can be. Along the way, he vows to give God thanks for every experience
whether good or bad. Quickly, his life begins to change. People can see that he is
different. He doesn’t preach but people can see God in the man. So, his actions lead
others to make changes in their lives. Oh, by the way, his business began to thrive as he
improved his relationship with God.
Outputs (O) are sent to a customer. In business, they must be of high quality,
delivered on time at a competitive price.
The customer (C) writes the checks and is why you are in business. You must
understand their requirements and know your process is capable of consistently meeting
Each input has a supplier. (S) They must understand the requirements of your
customers and your process. If they provide you bad inputs, your process may not be
able to produce good output.
A thought process converts inputs into actions and feelings. It is the series of
steps we take to make decisions and choices. Some of us deliberate while others act
hastily. Either way, there is a process for thoughts.
If a thought process creates bad feelings, it is being fed bad inputs. Gossip from
colleagues. Rumors that have been spread. Negative stories on television and in the
newspaper. Jealousy from watching a peer get promoted or congratulated for good work.
Envy in watching a parent rejoice as their child makes a team or scores more baskets than
your child. These inputs want to enter your thought process. They want to consume you
because they know they are hard to resist.
Try hard to only accept positive inputs. Know the suppliers of your inputs:
Peers, Co-workers, Bosses, Spouses, Etc. If you are receiving a bad input, look no
further than the supplier. To change to positive inputs, change or improve suppliers.
The output of your thought process is thoughts which are measured with feelings.
Feelings put you in good or bad moods. They affect your day at work and home. They
influence you as a spouse, parent, and Christian. In business, process owners should
constantly check the performance of outputs. In life, keep a check on your feelings. Do
you feel good most of the time? All the time? Or do you often feel bitter and in bad
moods? Are you tired when you leave work everyday? If the output is not what it should
be, your thought process must improve.
We all have customers. In business, they are the entities or individuals that
purchase products or services. Keep them happy and they will come back. They must
trust and have faith in you to deliver a quality product or service on time, all the time.
When customers doubt you, the relationship will start to deteriorate and re-gaining a
customer’s trust and confidence is an arduous task.
In life, our customers are our employers, friends, family, congregations, and
communities. Our thought process provides output that serves these customers. Not just
the nine to five group but all we come in contact with. (see figure three)
Figure Three: SIPOC Diagram for Our Thought Process
Supplier Inputs Process Outputs Customers
Work/Home/Church People Sense Thoughts Family
TV/Newspaper/Rumors News Assimilate Community
Family/Hometown/Career Experiences Generate Friends
You Attitudes Congregation
We think in a three step process. We sense with our eyes, nose, hands, or ears.
The sensation creates energy within the brain. Assimilation is tossing the sensation
around to really understand what it means. Do I ignore it or will I take action? Once
assimilated, thoughts are generated-positive or negative. Our feelings quantify the
output- we feel good or bad.
There are many inputs for our thought process. People tell us jokes, good news,
bad news, and rumors. People do to us or for us. We observe people do things that we
condemn or respect. We often judge people by their actions whether we know them or
not. News incessantly comes at us. Turn on the television during the day and you will
see a news report. In the paper I read today, sixty percent of articles in the front section
were purely negative while eighty percent were either negative or neutral. Our
experiences can strongly govern our thoughts. If we dwell on past mistakes, we are
inviting more of the same. It boils down to what experiences you are allowing as input.
Lessons learned or mistakes made. We decide what attitude to have everyday and every
second. If we have, on average, twelve thousand thoughts per day and we stay awake, on
average, seventeen hours each day, we have, on average, eleven thoughts per minute. If
we bring a wrong attitude to the table, we waste approximately eleven thoughts each
minute. Think about the lost opportunities in the squandered thoughts-great ideas for a
business, another way to reach out to a friend in need, a different way to deal with a
“difficult” employee. All missed because the wrong attitude was used as input.
Adam and Eve initially knew nothing of their nakedness. They lived life
according to God's instructions. Eating the fruit (an input) changed their thought process.
Suddenly, being naked was an issue and they were embarrassed. They hid from God.
Their attitudes completely changed.
The Bible states multiple times that man came from dust. Thus, we are merely
spiritual beings, created from love, free to think and squeeze the joy out of life. We were
not created to be negative. Our spirits walk a path laid by God. Only he knows where
we are going and when we will get there. Along the way, we choose to think negatively
or positively. We choose the inputs to our thought process.
In business, a critical skill for any work culture is problem solving. There are
numerous techniques, but in its basic form, problem solving is finding a cause that led to
an undesirable effect. If you accept negative inputs, you are altering (or causing) your
thought process to produce negative feelings. (the effect). See figure four for examples
of cause and effect as they pertain to thinking.
Figure Four: The 5Ds of Negative Thinking
Thinking (Cause) Effect
Doubt Makes you question God’s word and his
Discouragement Makes you look at your problems rather
than at God
Diversion Makes the wrong things seem attractive so
that you will want them more than the right
Defeat Makes you feel like a failure so that you
don’t even try
Delay Makes you put off doing something so that
if never gets done
Historically, businesses focused solely on output. This bottom line approach is
yielding to a process oriented way of management. If you take care of processes, good
output is all but guaranteed. Processes should be consistently audited to make sure
instructions are followed and standards are up to date. Develop a method for auditing
your thought process. In The Secret, one person talked of carrying a rock to remind him
to critique his thoughts. This probably sounds silly and maybe impossible but like any
other skill, the only way to get good at it is to practice. When you feel bad, tell yourself
what you are thinking and get away from it. Start thinking about a positive aspect of your
life or a goal that you set for yourself. Go talk to someone you know is a positive person.
Do something good for yourself or others. When negative thoughts eat at me, I try to
turn them in to prayers. For example, often when I pray for other people, a particular
person may pop into my thoughts in a negative way. This person may have wronged me
in the past or done something that I did not agree with. If not careful, my prayer would
degenerate into disdain for this person. To combat this temptation, I simply change my
prayer to that person. I pray for my relationship with him or her and ask God for his help
in how we relate to one another.
Sometimes we need objective evidence to spur action. We think something is
important but can’t seem to act because of a lack of complete credibility. A distrust of
our own thoughts can stagnate progress. There is ample evidence to validate your
thoughts. The Bible lays out life in specific detail. Every thought we have and every
experience we live exists somewhere in the great book.
If you want another measure for your thoughts, take a personality test. Search
online for “personality test” and get numerous returns including several free tests.
There are multiple questions on the test designed to indicate your personality
type. When done, you’ll get a four letter personality profile that explains who you are.
For example, the first letter defines you as an introvert (I) or an extrovert (E). You
probably know what you are without taking the test but it is comforting to get the
confirmation. Take different tests over time to see if the profile repeats. If you take at
least three tests over a one month period and get the same profile, consider it locked in
Much research has been done on the relationship between careers and personality
types. You’ll also find this on the web.
These tests, in my opinion, are nothing more than a data point to help you get
your thoughts in order.
Step Two in Development: Develop a Plan
Whether you are trying to solve a problem at work or deciding to attend graduate
school, start with a plan. It does not have to be perfect but there must be a strong point of
embarkation. God’s plan for creating the universe had an order to the steps and
verification of his work in the end.
Your plan is between you and God. Don’t worry about someone else’s plan.
Jacob constantly compared himself to his brother, Esau. Jacob’s thirst to have more than
Esau caused him to lie to his father. Focus on what God has in store for you.
The main step in developing a plan is you don’t have to create a grand and
elaborate plan. God has it for you. You need to start finding out what your plan entails.
I heard an interview on the radio with a football player who just announced his
retirement. I spent several hours that morning writing about following God’s plan and
staying positive and hours later, this famous athlete said football was never his ultimate
goal. He always wanted to own a team and football was a step in the overall process to
reach that goal. He did not say God told him he would own a team but the way he
confidently stated this sounded very spiritual. He knew in his heart and had a visceral
vision. The host asked why he never celebrated after scoring touchdowns or engaged in
self promotion. He replied that such behavior would not have been in line with the goal
of owning a team. He mentioned temptations came his way but he seemed to make good
choices. As a parting question, he was asked to give advice to youngsters: “Invest in
yourself. Have a vision. Set goals within that vision and work towards the vision”.
Is there an idea that tugs on your heart? When you think of it, your temperament
defrosts and morphs into hope and joy. Well, this is the start of your vision.
Managers serve their employees, in part, by providing a vision- something in front
for them to chase. It can be a goal for the department reachable only if everyone does his
and her part. An increase in pay or a nice promotion if a certification is achieved.
Leaders believing in the vision and knowing it is unequivocally the right thing to do will
have a steely look in their eyes and conviction in their voices.
One of the greatest plans ever developed was God’s deliverance of the Israelites
from Egypt. We’ve all seen the Hollywood version in The Ten Commandments but the
big picture illustrates the breadth of God’s plan and makes the point that everything
happens according to God’s will. Joseph was taken to Egypt as a slave. At the end of his
life, he was a powerful, Egyptian ruler held in such high regard, his fellow foreigners (the
Israeli people) were given land and freedom to socialize and practice commerce. Joseph
dies and a new Pharaoh assumes the throne. Four hundred years pass and the Israelites
had grown to over two million. The new Egyptian ruler saw this large number and feared
a rise against him. In a xenophobic moment of panic, he decided to make them slaves-
only because they were from a different land and had different customs. Never mind they
had been there hundreds of years under good relations. This Pharaoh decided to change
the way. So, the people suffered. You can imagine the prayers to God. Some probably
turned from God thinking he had left them. Others remained true to God and believed all
would work out in the end. Well, we know it did. God chose Moses to deliver the
At the time of Moses’ birth, Pharaoh ordered all newborn Hebrew males to be
killed. Moses’ mother defied the order and hid him. Pharaoh’s daughter found Moses
and her maternal instincts superceded her adherence to the king’s deadly mandate. She
loved Moses and bestowed upon him the life of a prince. As Moses aged, he saw and
understood the afflictions of his people. Imagine what he went through. He never got his
hands dirty and lived the life of royalty but he knew where he came from and empathized
with the bonded Israelis.
One day, he saw an Israeli man harshly treated by an Egyptian guard. In a
moment of rage, Moses killed the guard. He made a choice. There were witnesses to the
murder so Moses left Egypt to live in exile. During the time away, he lived as a shepherd
which was the life of his ancestors.
After returning from exile, Moses told the Israeli elders of God’s vision of hope
and freedom from bondage. It is not clear if they, in turn, disseminated the news to the
masses. We do know after the initial conference with Pharaoh, the workload increased
and the people became confused and frustrated. Why were they working more? What
did they do wrong? Like most organizations, the complaints went up the chain of
command to the supervisors who, in turn, approached the Pharaoh with the pleas of the
people. Their complaints fell on his deaf ears.
Maybe this sounds familiar to you. A new plan or vision comes from the top. At
some point, the communication breaks and the commitment starts to dilute. When the
rubber hits the road, not all stay with the plan. When Pharaoh increased the work, people
forgot about a plan from God and quickly focused on the immediate discomfort. This
suggests there was less than widespread belief in God’s plan. Perhaps the leadership did
not inform everyone. Maybe they did but were not very convincing.
God charged Moses to be a leader. Moses did not necessarily want the job and,
at first, wondered why him? God sent him to Egypt (where he was wanted for murder) to
inform the people they would be delivered from Egypt’s rule. I’m sure his first thoughts
were “No way” or “They will never listen to me” But he listened to God and followed
through on the command. I can imagine the first meeting between Moses and the leaders
of Israel. If Moses walked into that meeting timid and unsure of himself, they would
have thrown him from the room and totally dismissed the message. But I am sure he
stood in front of the group with conviction in his voice and steely look in his eyes. His
life in exile had prepared him for that moment. They had no choice but to listen to him.
He was laying out a plan they knew came from God. One that probably seemed
ridiculous but was a symbol of hope to all; a vision they had not received to that point.
The point: Everything Moses experienced to that day prepared him for this
milestone task. It was all part of God’s plan for Moses.
When you develop a vision/plan, keep your thoughts on what your life will be
when it is realized. Don’t waller in what it is or was but look to what it will become.
After Pharaoh’s initial rejection, Moses went to God and complained that no one was
listening. God was very specific in his plan. He would deliver his people from Egypt.
He was telling the people how to do this through Moses and Aaron. At the first
roadblock, everyone bailed on the plan, even Moses. But Moses was faithful and stayed
true to God.
Be process oriented versus result oriented. Results are important but if you only
concern yourself with the bottom line, this is your only basis of measurement. You will
judge on whether or not the result was achieved. The process is how God wants us to
conduct our lives. As we work toward a vision, we must listen to God and continuously
ask for his guidance and seek his wisdom. If you are oriented and receptive to God’s
process, you will notice little things. The number of meetings you have with clients. The
number of inquiries to your service. The great day you had with your family. A fantastic
lunch with former students. The successes of your children at school or on the playing
field. If you start tithing more (part of God’s process), you feel better knowing you have
given to the church for consecutive weeks. If you pray every day, you know that a trend
of talking to God is being established. In aggregate, these positives accumulate over time
and end in a positive result. You knew it would come because you used the right process
to achieve the result.
To this point, you have committed to a change in your thought process. You also
have a vision of what you want for your life. Now, it is time to be more specific.
1. God has a plan for you!
2. God loves you!
Using the SIPOC Diagram to Plan
You want to improve your life. Something is motivating you to become a
better person or employee. I am offering you a detailed process for improvement but will
say up front that there is power in simply sitting down and putting your thoughts to paper.
From this documentation comes the beginning of your plan.
Step One: Create a Current State SIPOC Diagram of Your Life
The diagram depicts the current state of your life. Starting with life process (P),
list in order of priority: Work, Family, Play (self), and God. The priority should reflect
where each stands in your life. Where are you spending your time and thoughts? Your
day rises and falls with what occurs in these arenas. See Appendix A for an example of a
Current State SIPOC Diagram.
Be honest in the prioritization. If you are taking time to do this, you want to
change so make this an honest effort.
The output of this life process is your feelings. Give yourself two and one half
minutes to write down (in the output column) the negative feelings you have and the
same amount of time to write down your positive feelings. These are your emotions
during the course of a day. Think about this week and things you encountered at work
and away from work. When you are done, add up the total amount of feelings and
calculate a percent positive and a percent negative. Write the percentages in the third row
Your customers are the recipients of your feelings. They receive them free of
charge in their daily interactions with you. They see the good and bad in you. They
know you (some better than others) as a person. In general terms, use the 3F3C format:
First (you), Friends, Family, Colleagues, Clients, Congregation. First (you) signifies
yourself as a customer. To be good to others, we must be good to ourselves. Friends are
the people you enjoy being with and need to interact (with) for your well being. Family
is your immediate family and extended family. Colleagues are the people you work with.
You spend a significant amount of time with them so it is important to treat them as
customers. Clients are the workplace; the recipients of your skill and work tasks. They
can be internal to your company or external to the company. Congregation is your
church. Write the categories in descending order according to the current priority in your
Study your life process, output, and customers. What does this self reflection
mean to you? Hopefully, this allowed you to organize your thoughts.
Write down the current inputs to your life process. I suggest two sources:
Physical condition and thought process. The concept is sound mind and sound body. In
the S column, list the suppliers of your physical condition. What suppliers are shaping
your thought process? Think of what you are bombarded with every day. A distribution
of your time should help with this.
Go to the third row and summarize each section of the SIPOC diagram.
Step Two: Create a Future State SIPOC Diagram of Your Life
Becoming lean means systematically eliminating waste from processes to deliver
products and services quicker to your customers (always on time) with exceptional
quality. A leading tool in lean is a value stream map. In general terms, value stream
mapping creates a current picture of a key business process including areas of waste and
creates a future state map of the process minus waste. Your life is no different. The
current state SIPOC diagram shows where you are now. This should organize your
thoughts and help you understand what is coming into and going out of your life. The
future state SIPOC diagram is the vision of what your life will be minus waste (sin, etc.).
God already knows the answer but you are starting (with this diagram) to learn what his
plans are for you.
Change the Priority Order of Your Life Process (P)
Critique the order in your current state diagram. Does the list reflect the correct
priority order? If not, put them in descending order (on the future state diagram) from
most important to least important. Often, my high school football coach told us to keep
priorities in order. His order was God, Football, Family, School, and all Else. This
reordering of priority is your first step towards change. See Appendix C for a future state
Focus now on the suppliers of your inputs. To improve or change your physical
condition and thought process, you must improve or change suppliers. In the supplier
column, write a list of suppliers you will allow in your life. The list may contain current
suppliers and/or new suppliers.
This activity is done with the belief that God is pleased with your action. He
loves the fact you are excited to discover what he has planned for you. What you put on
paper does not have to be correct. There is no right or wrong. The significance is you
are putting your innermost thoughts to paper. You are opening your heart and mind and
documenting both for you and God to see.
God knows the output. All you have to do in the output column is write down
what you want the output to be. What do you want in life? Think about this using
everything you have done to this point. You are poised to ask God for something. He
anxiously awaits the question and is eager to help you. In the form of a question starting
with “God, I ask for/that,etc.”, write down what you are asking God to do in your life.
In the customer column, prioritize the list of customers from your current state
diagram. Who should be you number one customer?
In the third row, write down actions (part of the Do phase) you want to take to
better serve your customers and actions you will take for each supplier.
Using the forms in appendix B and D, create a current and future state SIPOC
diagram for your life.
1. Put your thoughts to paper
2. Be mindful of the inputs to your life and the suppliers of the inputs
3. What are your priorities?
Step Three in Development: Start Doing
Doing involves a degree of change and can be scary. Fear, an effect of negative
thought, can keep us from doing. The Israelis were scared of leaving Egypt. Some saw
staying as a better option.
Plans must be put into action. Doing involves, as my grandfather used to say,
hard work and perseverance. As you start to do, you open to God’s plan. You start to see
opportunities and the road to your plan is paved. In lean, there is a term “Learning to
See”. If you work hard with perseverance to become lean, you will readily notice
wasteful activity and develop intolerance for wasteful work. Your perspective will
mature and you will assume a new context for your surroundings.
There was a good, Christian man in my hometown. He was a pillar of the
community and respected by many. He loved his family and provided well for them with
a furniture store shared with his father. For fifty years, the store stood on a main corner
of town and kept many middle class families supplied with appliances and furniture.
This man was my father. After college, I learned my father was in financial
trouble and had been for years. By then, he left the store and became an ordained
minister. He had a rural church whose congregation was senior citizens that could not
drive into town. Looking back, this probably kept him alive as the financial pressure
mounted to the point of bankruptcy. He passed away not too long ago and going through
his belongings, I found a diary full of prayers for God to help in his mess.
My heart broke as I read the pleas of this great man. Years later I realized the
point of it all. Prayer after prayer asked God for deliverance from the burden. The
lesson is God will help but you must do something to show your trust in him. My father
repeatedly asked but did not receive. He did not act as if God had lifted the burden from
He eventually became depressed to the point of needing help. I tell you this (my
father is hopefully not screaming at me from above) to emphasize the point of doing
something. Ask God for it. Believe it will happen and start acting as if it already has
happened. You will stub your toe along the way. The 5Ds will stand up inside your head
but you must stay focused, positive, and not let go of God’s helpful hand.
In 2001, I was thirty seven years old with a wife, three children, a mortgage, and a
good job. My routine was simple. I crawled out of bed, got to work on time, left on
time, and started over the next day. In a period of self reflection, I decided to attend
graduate school. I had every reason not to but took this as a goal. Most of my classes
were taken by satellite which meant I could leave work and go watch class live on a
television screen. As graduation neared, there was one semester of classes not offered via
satellite. The college told me the classes would not be available (via satellite) for another
two years. I couldn’t wait that long and the thought made me sick to my stomach. I
could have fallen into one of the 5Ds but I did something that to this day amazes me
because it was so out of my character.
I turned in my resignation to attend school full time. I had no idea how we would
live. But I had to finish school. I was acting as if I would finish. Well, my boss did not
let me resign and worked out a way for me to go to school and remain employed. I know
now this was part of God’s plan for me. By actively doing, I allowed God to help me.
Another lesson I learned: Managers are in business to develop people. A
manager should look for ways to help their people succeed and grow. It should make a
leader joyful to see an employee go back to school, get promoted, or become certified.
Many have plans but a large percentage doesn’t do anything. Faith without works
is dead! By putting yourself “out there”, you are quot;flushingquot; God's plan for you. In the
spirit of doing, you will encounter other doers in the world. You will learn from them
and help them. They will give you perspective and make you think of things you
previously did not know.
In my spirit of doing, I recently had lunch with two people. I did not pick them
for a particular reason other than trying to stay connected to my customer base. These
just happened to be the first two. We had good meals but more importantly, great
conversations. I talked to them and learned more about them. I learned much about
doing and staying committed to God while doing. One had recently passed a certification
exam. I’ve known her for years and she had unsuccessfully taken the exam several times.
She never quit trying. I always knew her as a spiritual person that carried a positive
outlook on life. I was so proud of her for passing the exam because she could easily have
quit years ago but kept believing she would succeed. Her hard work and perseverance
paid off. As we lunched, she taught me more than I ever taught her. I was discussing this
book and a seminar that I planned to conduct. As I described the concepts, she nodded
approvingly as if she already knew what I was learning.
From the other, I heard the story of Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-Fil-A.
Most of us know Chick-Fil-A restaurants do not open on Sundays. The company started
in malls which are relatively high rent spaces. Mr. Cathy was thought to be crazy when
he opened restaurants in such spaces for six days a week. But, he was a principled man
who walked with God and knew that God had a plan for him. It was important to operate
according to God’s word. He carried out the plan and the rest is history. God richly
Doers of the Bible: Abraham, Joseph, and Moses
Abraham teaches us faith and how to follow God. He made mistakes in his walk
with God but never stopped following the holy instructions. He kept his family moving
forward and stayed in a doing mode.
In one point of his life, Abraham claims Sarah (his wife) as his sister to save his
skin. In such moments, you wonder why he is the model for faith. But his inadequacies
bring him back to us. He has a family. He deals with issues every day sometimes
deciding correctly and sometimes incorrectly. God wants us to learn. If we make a
mistake while doing, we must learn from it and become closer to God, as did Abraham.
God put Abraham through an incredible test when he told him to sacrifice his son,
Isaac. Abraham never quivered and traveled fifty miles to the spot God told him to seek.
It is not clear if Abraham was sad, the reading suggests he was strongly connected to God
and did not question the command. At the point of no return, God told Abraham to stop.
This shows Abraham was growing in his faith. His thought process was maturing. In the
past, he would hem and haw about serving God but now there was no question. He was
willing to give up his son for God.
The story of Joseph teaches us faith and how to be a strong doer. Joseph was a
direct descendant of Abraham. His twelve brothers were very envious of Joseph and
eventually plotted to kill him.
If you think you have it bad, consider what happened to Joseph before his thirtieth
a. His brothers threw him in a pit and left him for dead
b. His brothers sold him into slavery
c. He was falsely accused of sleeping with his slave master’s wife. This landed him in
prison for two years.
But in the midst of mass negativity, Joseph never felt sorry for himself, never
stopped trusting God, and kept doing good deeds for others. He kept moving in life and
positioned himself for God’s blessings. He did not know when things would get better
but knew they would and the way he carried himself influenced others.
One of the men he helped in prison was the Pharaoh’s butler. The butler had a
dream and asked Joseph for an interpretation. Joseph told the butler he would be released
from prison in three days and returned to his post. The man was thankful and Joseph
politely asked him to remember him upon his release. Well, the man was released but
forgot Joseph. Two years later, the Pharaoh had two disturbing dreams. None of his wise
men could interpret the dreams. The butler remembered Joseph, told the Pharaoh of
Joseph, and soon, Joseph was before the Pharaoh. This was his chance. This was an
opportunity to change his life. He came to this position, in part, by helping the butler two
years ago. This one good deed helped change his life.
Joseph interpreted the Pharaoh’s dreams and quickly offered a solution to the
disturbing news. Why did he believe Joseph? Because Joseph was believable. He
emitted positive energy. This was his chance (provided by God) and he seized it. His
years of doing prepared him for this moment. Pharaoh accepted the interpretation,
greatly appreciated the solution, and immediately released Joseph from prison and placed
him in a position of authority.
God told Moses to return to Egypt and confront the Pharaoh. Moses’ first
reaction was to rule out success in advance. He saw himself as being unable to do the
task. He was defeating himself before starting. God gave him a pep talk and made him
feel better but Moses stressed about his lack of speaking ability. He fully believed he
could not articulate God’s message to Pharaoh. God relented and coupled Aaron, a great
public speaker, with Moses. If we are called to do something, it may seem ridiculous and
run counter to what we believe in or enjoy doing. Human nature is to rule it out in
advance. This is negative thinking. You must see yourself following God’s plan and
accomplishing every task. You may not know how but must believe God will give the
ability and clarity of mind.
As you poise to do something, remember two things. First, God has a unique plan
for you. Second, God’s will will be executed in your life.
Take your future state SIPOC diagram and decide what you will Do. What will
you try? Look at the output column and pose the question to God. It is important to
convey what you want to God. Ask with conviction in your voice and resolve in your
heart. Take a deep breath and believe God will provide this to you. You don’t know
when or how but believe he wants you to be happy with a successful life.
Believing transitions you through the Do phase. God doesn’t give us anything.
He wants us to work for the things we want. We can’t just idle and expect him to bless
us. We must move and act as if we already have what we want. All your actions in the
Do phase are based on your belief that God will provide what you asked. You don’t
know when but you look forward to the day of receipt.
Joseph sat in prison for two years until God blessed him with success. Joseph
never doubted and kept acting as if good things would happen to him. His good deeds
never ceased and he carried on as a free man. Along the way he certainly grew as a
person and Christian. That’s what God wants for us. The length of time in the Do phase
is what God feels we need to develop as people and Christians. We may make mistakes.
But we can’t take our focus from God and what he has planned for us.
If you want one hundred clients by end of the year start acting as if you have
them. Advertise. Go to lunch with people. Spend money. Put yourself out there for
people to see. You can’t sit and hope it will happen. You asked for it and believe it.
Now let your actions speak louder than words. God told Noah to build the ark. Noah
never questioned God and started building. God told Noah about the arrangements for
animals to come on the ark. Noah never asked how the animals would get to the ark. He
could have agonized over the logistics for such an incredible task but he didn’t and kept
building. He knew God would take care of bringing the animals to him.
1. Hard work and perseverance
2. Faith without works is dead
Step Four in Development: Check Where You Are
At this point, the process has inspired and fueled you with a new found
enthusiasm. While continuing to Do, you may struggle with your thoughts and voices
may say you can’t. This is normal and you should take comfort in the fact you are not the
first person to experience this and you will not be the last. Read the stories of Abraham
and Moses and find men given incredible tasks by God. They obeyed and did but along
the way frequently questioned if anything would happen. We learn from these men that
when negative inputs try to pierce our souls, we can’t fight alone. As a lone soldier, your
ammunition is laughed at by a very crafty and experienced enemy who knows the battle
is one soul at a time turned from God.
If careless, I will sit passively as these cancerous thoughts engulf my brain and
govern my feelings. It is tough for me as an introvert (I) as I spend considerable time
alone with my thoughts. A horrible, lone soldier, my combative strategy is to try
anything to change my thought frequency. Far from an expert, it is a struggle (for me) to
maintain positive thoughts. I don’t know why but it seems easier for people to think
negatively than positively. It really defies logic.
With all said, you are transitioning to the Check phase.
Processes vary over time. Business processes. Thought processes. There is an
ebb and flow to every process’ behavior. One day, it will yield wonderful output. The
next day it may reverse and spit out poisonous output.
Long term success in business depends, in part, on the management of process
variation. Proper management is rooted in understanding the difference between
common cause and special cause variation. Learning and embracing this concept helps
you make better decisions in business and life.
Statisticians will get the credit for defining the two types of variation but I know
the concept to be spiritual. You reach a point in maturation where the boundary between
common cause and special cause variation is easily sensed and wired into your biological
circuitry. Everywhere you go, you see behavior and comment internally on what seems
normal and abnormal. You critique public decisions according to whether or not the
scenario involved common cause or special cause variation.
For example, a recent hot, news story involved defective imports from China
(food, toys, automotive tires, toothpaste) passing through to American consumers.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) administers the inspection process for
imports. The graph in figure five summarizes the monthly results of inspections
conducted by the Food and Drug Administration on Chinese imports.
What do you see in the plot of black dots? I see a nice, smooth up and down
movement over time. In other words, the number of refused shipments has been
consistent from June 2006 to March 2007. Nothing about this picture seems unusual,
abnormal, or special other than it involves defective products paid for by American
companies and meant for American consumption. This ebb and flow to the data
represents common cause variation of China’s export system. Say one thing about the
system, it is very predictable. If I am a FDA inspector, I expect to refuse approximately
147 Chinese shipments each month.
This data shows what the FDA catches. I’ve read where they only inspect
approximately one percent of all imports. The horror stories we read about lead paint in
toys and vegetables tainted with salmonella are the shipments either not inspected by the
FDA or not detected in an inspection. These seem special and abnormal but are just part
of the common cause variation of this incapable exporting system.
I will argue we are experiencing common cause variation from China’s export
system. This represents the current flux state of their economy. The data tells me until
they change their system; we should expect to see more refusals. There is nothing special
or abnormal about it. It is what it is and remains so until improvements are implemented.
Figure Five: Chinese Imports Refused by Month
F o o d a n d D r u g A d m in is t r a t io n M o n t h ly R e f u s a ls o f C h in e s e I m p o r t s
Number of Shipments Refused in Month
U C L= 2 3 5 .1
150 X = 1 4 7 .3
LC L= 5 9 .5
Ju n Ju l Aug Sep O ct Nov Dec Ja n Feb M ar
M onths of 2006 to M arch 2007
A simpler explanation of common and special variation involves normal, human
body temperature which we know to be 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Does this mean our
temperature will always measure 98.6? No, it means over time, our mean body
temperature should be at or near 98.6. There is a normal range a few degrees below to a
few degrees higher that doctors know to expect. If measured within that range, the doctor
concludes temperature is normal and exhibiting common cause variation or expected
variation. Now, if temperature spikes to 103 degrees Fahrenheit, this is not normal.
Something special elevated the thermometer. In most cases, a virus serves as a special
Closer to home, teenagers will be teenagers and do things that teenagers have
always done. As parents, we can’t scream at them every time they make a mistake or act
ugly. We certainly feel like it but must realize that teenagers have a normal pattern of
behavior defined, in part, by their hormones, peers, etc. They will be emotional and do
crazy things. I’m not saying let them get away with all things because they are teenagers,
I’m saying we must understand when their behavior is typical teenage behavior (common
cause) and deserving of a good dose of advice and when their behavior is abnormal
(special cause) and deserving of punishment.
The famous bell curve (see figure six) is an example of common cause variation.
A bell curve is a graphical representation of some characteristic measured in large
Figure Six: The Bell Curve
What lies within the bell curve represents the common cause or normal variation.
Whether you are at the left or right, both are expected to happen over time. Occurrences
or measurements outside the curve are due to special causes or out of the ordinary things
that happen. They should be easily detectable and relatively easy to eliminate.
If you systematically remove the special causes of variation, at some point you
will reach a level of control, meaning your process is governed by common cause
This is an important concept for decision making. If something happens (that is
due to common cause variation) and you treat it as special cause, you may take action
that is not necessary. Remember, common cause variation is what we expect to happen
whether we like it or not. Special cause variation is not expected to happen and should be
addressed. Table two offers guidance on decision making in terms of common cause and
special cause variation.
Table Two: Guide to Decision Making Using Knowledge of Variation
Process/Behavior is Process/Behavior is
Governed by Common Governed by Special Cause
Cause Variation Variation
A Decision/Choice is Made A state of control and Ignoring problems and
based on Common Cause continuous improvement eventual disaster
A Decision/Choice is Made Variation increases and Variation reduces and
based on Special Cause continuous chaos problems are solved
If a process or behavior is being governed by common cause variation and
choices and decisions are made in that context, in business, processes will continuously
improve and stay in a stable mode of control. The output will improve over time and
customers will reap the rewards. In life, you have an inner peace that helps you see the
world in the correct perspective. You keep events in context and don’t overreact when
the world begs you to. You constantly consult with God to help you understand and see
the boundaries between common and special.
If a process or behavior is governed by special cause variation and choices and
decisions are made in the context of common cause variation, in business, problems are
being ignored. Special causes are occurring and the signals are there for your benefit. If
you ignore the red flags, performance may degrade to the point of disaster. Stop, look,
and listen to these special events and systematically pull them by the roots from your
processes. In life, many people feel we get signals (special causes) from God. My wife
is a believer in signals and never dismisses one without much thought and discussion.
They can be opportunities provided by God or warnings to stop sinning or help someone
else stop sinning. If these signs are absorbed without action, they just become part of our
ebb and flow and affect our life process as negative inputs. By not acting, opportunities
for growth are missed and chances for discipleship squandered. So, how do you know
when a special cause is present and worthy of action? The only answer I can give you is
ask God (pray) and read the Bible to seek answers.
If the process or behavior is governed by common cause variation and decisions
and choices are made based on special cause variation, in business, process variation will
increase. Your process was performing as expected. It was doing nothing wrong and
was only responding to the common causes of variation. Any action (a change in
specification, adjustment to people or machinery) will unnecessarily alter the process’
ebb and flow. It will start behaving differently and you will quickly fall into a reactive
mode trying to figure what went wrong. In life, this quadrant represents the
consequences of wrong choices. Something happens that evokes strong emotion from us.
We hear a rumor. Our child yells at us. A boss questions our work. If not careful, the
emotion may dictate the immediate response. We scream. We tell a lie. If the choices
are not right, the ripple effect is analogous to the increased process variation. A lie
begets a lie. If we forward a rumor to others, we hurt an innocent person.
If the process or behavior is governed by special cause variation and decisions
and choices are made within that context, in business, process variation reduces over
time. You clearly see the boundary between common and special and systematically start
to remove the special causes from your process. In life, this means getting your life in
line with God’s instructions. If you are floating in life according to what you think is
best, things may seem fine but in actuality, life is not in control and is full of special
causes. Too much drinking. Never going to church. Adulterous activity. At some
point, these special causes must be treated as such and removed from lives to achieve the
ebb and flow instructed by God.
There are multiple examples of special causes in the Bible and the associated
choices and/or decisions that were made. God checked the world, saw too much sin, and
decided to flood the world and start over. Cain and Able made sacrifices to God. God
was pleased with Able's but not as pleased with Cain's. Cain was angry and jealous. He
took emotion (special cause) and killed his brother. After the destruction of Sodom and
Gomorrah, Lot's daughters got him drunk and slept with him. They were desperate to
have children. (special cause) They made a choice that yielded negative consequences-
their sons were cursed in the eyes of God and turned out to be bad people. David lusted
(special cause) for another man’s wife. His response to this special cause caused him to
have the man killed in order to be with the woman.
Time is a greater healer and an effective reaction to special causes. As these
special and abnormal bogies come at you, stop, look, and listen to God before you react.
Give him time to help you make the right choice. Esau disliked his brother to the point
of planning bodily harm to Jacob. Jacob left home before Esau could act and did not
return for twenty years. Upon his return, Esau hugged his brother for time had washed
away the hate. Often, we let rage and anger dictate our actions. We do something
irrational that we later regret. If we let it work magic, we see from Esau and Jacob that
time can heal all wounds.
A Point of Balance
The bell curve is symmetrical about a middle point. There is equal weight on the
right and left. If you measure a large quantity of your process’ output and a graph of the
data is bell shaped, the expectation, over time, is the process will be balanced at this
middle point. For life, we need this point of balance. Without it, we drift too far right or
left. These drifts can be disastrous or hazardous to health. They may affect or destroy
families. God’s first commandment is “You shall have no other gods before Me”. The
other gods are anything we put before God: money, selfishness, work. If we break this
commandment, we lack a balance point. We let a source pull us too far right or left and
soon, our priorities are not in the correct order.
The balance point for life is God. Life means there are good and less than good
days. The good can’t be too good (everything in moderation) and the less than good
should not be extreme. If we feel pulled in either direction, the balance point brings us
back to equilibrium. We grab the balance point by reading the Bible, consistently
praying, and Doing.
Check Where You Are
Occasionally, you must check where you are. God did. He grew tired of the sin
ridden world and decided to flood it and start over with descendants of Noah. He
allowed Israel to be destroyed and his people to be taken into exile. I believe as we ask
God for something, believe he will provide it, and start acting as if we already have it, we
will make necessary adjustments along the way with God’s help. We don’t know when
the adjustments are needed but must trust and believe God will guide the way.
As we move along the trend of our life process, we experience variation. No two
days are exactly the same. God wants us to have good days. To him, our life process
should be incredibly good to very good days. But I’ll be realistic and say that by thinking
positively, asking God for things, and Doing as if we have things, life will change but
there will be bumps along the road or variation in life. In God’s eyes, the bumps are
opportunities to grow as people, parents, professionals, and Christians. We must know
what bumps are part of the common variation of our life process and which ones are due
to special causes. The later represent pits we can fall into. The choices we make around
the special causes are important. Too often, we irrationally react to a displeasing event
by yelling at someone, talking behind someone’s back, breaking a law, doing something
unethical or immoral, or lying. When you take this negative route, you are actually
creating more variation in your life. When these events (special causes) come at you,
consult God before choosing.
We’ve seen the bracelets WWJD standing for What Would Jesus Do. They exist
for those moments where a choice must be made. The bracelet is there as a reminder to
consult God before making choices. Their popularity was rooted in the fact that Jesus is
the model by which we check ourselves. Though he was the son of God, he lived as a
man and experienced the worldly issues that overcome many men. Yet, Jesus was
without sin. His purpose for being among us was to teach of God’s love and the salvation
his love offers to us. He lived life as a servant to those in need.
The Need for Standards
Checking a business process involves frequently comparing actual practice to a
standard which is typically a work instruction detailing what must be done to convert
inputs to outputs. If the practice deviates from the standard, corrective actions should be
Read the books of Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus and you will be awed with
God’s emphasis on standards for his people. Minus standards in the workplace, people
will be free to do as they please which means, over time, inconsistent work and excessive
process variation. Minus standards for life, we would flail uncontrollably and desultorily
move from day to day.
The book of Exodus begins with Israelis as Pharaoh’s slaves and ends with them
free from bondage, in the wilderness, and building a tabernacle in which to worship God.
If left to move on their own, there is no telling what they would have become as a
community. From the moment they ventured into this unknown, God began issuing
standards for living. He started with the Ten Commandments. He gave them very
specific instructions for building the tabernacle and for worshipping in the same. Before
approaching him, the people had to meticulously make sacrifices according to God’s
The point (of it all) was to create standard behavior in the people and a culture of
adhering to God’s instructions.
The Check phase of life is comparing our behavior and activities to the standards
set forth by God. These standards are in the Bible and consistent reading of the word will
reveal them to us. If our Check has us deviating from these standards, we must take
corrective action to “fix” our lives.
Jesus is the standard by which we should live. Why? Because he lived among us.
He sensed what we sensed. He ate what we ate. He saw what we saw. Any good
manager will have worked as his people worked. This buys them credibility. Jesus lived
as we lived but did so without sin. So his life was beyond reproach. His every action
should be studied, copied, and pasted into our lives.
1. God is our balance point!
2. Jesus is the standard by which we should live!
Step Five in Development: Take Action
To this point, you have accomplished much. You changed your thought process
and asked God for something. You started living your life as if you already received
what you asked for. Tough times and negative thoughts came at you but you consulted
God and he guided you to where you are now.
As you exit the Check phase, the question to answer is: Are you living according
to your rules or God's standards? Are you Doing according to your plan or God’s plan?
Is Jesus your model for living?
How do you know if you are obeying God’s rules and learning his plan? At a
minimum, frequently pray (to God) to stay connected and consistently read the Bible to
learn. As you talk to God and learn the written word, changes (needed in your life)
should become apparent. It is analogous to changing from negative thinking to positive
thinking. With a positive thought process, you see the world differently and become
more aware of opportunities to help others and yourself.
In lean manufacturing, 5s is a technique for organizing the workplace. Over time,
workplaces take on personalities. Desks become cluttered and items are stored wherever
space is found. Disorganization is not obvious because it is part of the scenery. After a
good 5s exercise, people see the workplace in a completely different manner. They find
items thought to be lost. They throw away hundreds of pounds of junk. They start to
take pride in the way things look and vow to keep it that way.
If you have lived the majority of your life disconnected from God and ignorant of
the Bible’s content, to start connecting and reading give you a refreshing perspective. If
you stay connected to God and keep Doing according to what you asked for, the actions
will fall upon your heart.
Noah did not know how the animals would come to him but they did. Joseph did
not know how God would bless him. His life was a running plan, do, check, act cycle.
His actions were to always do good deeds and to stay positive in the face of all the
negative things that happened to him. God started his journey with Abraham by telling
him he would be the father of a great nation. He did not tell him how. It did not happen
over night. Abraham persisted and made good and bad choices. He always closed every
cycle by getting back to God. David found himself in a cave hiding from those who
wanted him dead. If anyone had a reason to give up, it was David yet he took the
opportunity to grow closer to God. His actions did not change with the new
As you ask God for something, believe it will happen and start doing and
receiving, you will always need to regroup and make sure you and God are on the same
page. This is the Act phase. I call it exercising a constancy of purpose. In Out of the
Crisis, Dr. Edwards Demings presented his 14 points for management. These golden
rules were intended to be a blueprint for successful management practices. One of the
points was to have a constancy of purpose. In short, this means sticking to what you
believe. Have a mission and an identity for the organization. If management does not
walk the talk, the employees can’t be expected to.
A constancy of purpose keeps us calibrated with God. We stay calibrated to God
1. Praying consistently: Jacob had a place (called a pillar) where he talked to God. We
all need that place. As kids, we said our prayers before we went to bed. As adults, this
might not be so easy. I don’t know about you but when my head hits the pillow, my eyes
shut soon thereafter. So, find the time and place to have one on one time with God. I
find my mind is clearest when I walk which I try to do at least three times each week.
When I walk, I talk to God. The topics of conversation are ordered according to my
customers as they appear on the future state SIPOC diagram.
To be a good prayer, you must practice and be sincere. I equate prayer to control
charts. Control charts are tools used in industry to monitor the performance of a
characteristic over time. After enough data exists, you can calculate control limits which
are boundaries between normal and abnormal behavior. Figure seven gives the general
look of a control chart.
Figure Seven Control Chart Analogy for Prayer
In industry, when a data point plots above or below a control limit, it is called an
out of control condition meaning that something abnormal occurred. The cause of the
action must be found and eliminated. In terms of prayer, we travel a path in life
(represented by the green line). At times, we experience extreme highs. A job promotion
or the birth of a child. Hopefully, we give thanks to God for these wonderful things.
Perhaps they are answers to prayers. At the other end of the spectrum are the lows we
run into. The loss of a job. Missing a loved one. For the lack of a better expression, it is
easy to pray in these low times because we truly need God’s help to cope.
A constancy of purpose has us praying consistently along the green line. I call it
common cause praying. Not just in extreme circumstances but every step of the way. In
doing so, we develop a relationship with God which is what he desires for us. As the
relationship strengthens, we will gradually discern his will for our life.
2. Read and learn the Bible: Reading the Bible accomplishes at least two things for us.
First, it helps us understand the nature of God’s love for us. Second, the more we
understand, the more we gain the wisdom of Jesus. If preparing for a big exam, you
would establish a routine for studying. You can wait until the end to cram, but adults
know this is not the correct approach for learning. Think of the times you studied late
into the night for a subject of no interest to you. Surely we can devote a portion of our
day to reading and studying the Bible to understand what it means for us.
3. Have a thankful heart: Sarah died while she and Abraham were in a foreign land.
Abraham asked the locals if he could bury her there and offered to pay for the burial site.
Abraham had a reputation as a good and honest man who served God. The locals were
willing to sell the land to Abraham because of his good name. Abraham does not seem
sad in the story. Perhaps it is because he and Sarah led full lives, had followed God with
pleasing and correct actions, and had been constantly rewarded by God for their devotion
and thankful hearts.
4. Be grateful for what you have: David is arguably the greatest figure in the Bible
besides Jesus. David’s life ran the full gamut of experience. His highs included being
king and slaying Goliath while his lows had him committing adultery and living in a cave
to escape people wanting him dead. Through it all, David lived with a grateful heart.
The book of Psalms is full of David’s gratitude to God. Most of us would have crumbled
in the path David walked but he teaches us to stay connected to God and always be
grateful. I don’t think God ever says his plan for us will be easy to achieve. In fact, I
think plans are purposely difficult because we learn and grow as people along the way.
We become wiser, more empathetic, and more mature. Our perspective changes and we
see the world differently. We can’t go negative at the first sign of danger or impediment.
We need to remain grateful for his plan and exercise patience as we stay connected to
2. Read the Bible
3. Be thankful and grateful for God’s blessings
It is my hope this book inspires you to invest in yourself. The old Army ad said
“Be all that you can be”. There is a reason why the military used this for many years.
The underlying message is personal and professional development-reaching your full
potential to squeeze every ounce of joy from life.
God’s pleasure comes in seeing his children be all that they can be.
1. Take stock of your life
2. Know that God loves you! Let this understanding drive your way of thinking.
3. Have faith that God has a plan for you
4. Start a relationship with God and use the PDCA cycle to strengthen it.
Write the Question from the Output Column of the Future State SIPOC Diagram
Appendix A Example Current State SIPOC Diagram
Supplier Inputs Process Output Customer
Alcohol Physical Condition Work Positive: Pride, Family
Exercise Family Comfort, First (me)
Family History Play(Self) Accomplishment, Clients
Diet Church Energetic, Friends
Euphoria, Eagerness, Congregation
Newspaper Thought Process Cynicism, Anger,
Talk Radio Despair, Fatigue,
Other parents Hopelessness,
Colleagues Boredom, Lack of
Bosses Direction, Pain,
Bills to pay
I don’t drink a lot but I can be in better Priorities are not in the Nineteen Feelings I don’t serve my
when I do, I feel physical condition. I right order 53% negative customer well enough.
sluggish. I try to walk have occasional back 47% positive I need to do a better job
every day but don’t pain. of taking care of myself
always get to do it. I My thought process is so I can better serve
can lose about fifteen one of accepting where others.
pounds. I try not to eat I was in life. No real
fried foods but goals or strong vision.
Paying bills depresses
me and puts me in an ill
mood. I let the actions
of other parents throw
my thought process off.
I can be judgmental of
colleagues and others
Appendix B Form for Current State SIPOC Diagram
Suppliers Inputs Process Outputs Customers