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Thoughts on Sailing and Quality Management Systems

No Comments | by Sonja Hughes |

My husband and I participate in sailboat racing with our local sailing club.  We are always looking for ways to improve our racing skills, so an article in the latest Sailing World magazine called "Three Simple Go-Fast Rules" by Steve Hunt, caught my attention.  While reading the article, I realized that the three simple rules could be applied (with a little imagination) to quality management systems.

Rule 1 - Sail in more wind   When you're racing, it's important to know where the wind is on the race course since it often fluctuates.  You have to be alert and watch for the darker patches on the water that indicate where the wind is stronger and be in a position to change your course to get to the better wind.  Applying this rule to quality management systems - you should be constantly monitoring your processes to know that you are getting the best performance possible and be willing to make changes if the process results are not meeting your expectations.  With the increased focus on process effectiveness, it is important to know how to "find the best wind" to improve process performance.   

Rule 2 - Sail to the mark   For non-sailors, marks define the course and you have to sail around the marks in a designated pattern.  Sailing to the mark involves a series of tacks to the upwind mark and usually a series of jibes to the downwind mark.  If the course is not perfectly square, which happens frequently, one direction or "tack" will have your boat heading more directly to the mark than the other.  This is the tack you want to stay on as long as possible.  When the winds are shifting you need to continually monitor your progress to make sure you know which tack allows you to keep heading toward the mark.  This rule is easy to apply to your quality management system.  You need to establish clear goals and objectives and make sure everyone is making progress toward those goals.  If you are not heading towards the goal, you need to tack (or jibe) and start heading in the right direction.  The longer you are heading away from your goal, the more difficult it will be to recover and stay competitive in the "race" to improve.

Rule 3 - Keep it simple   Keeping it simple in sailboat racing means avoiding crowds, and minimizing tacks and jibes as much as possible.  Tacks and jibes slow you down, so doing fewer of them keeps you moving faster.  Avoiding crowds as much as possible also keeps you moving faster.  Watch a pack of boats in a race and they are usually jockeying for position and engaging in "right-of-way" confrontations which means more tacks or jibes.  Additionally, boats crowded together can disturb the wind or may steal your wind, so sailing in a clear lane allows you to keep moving faster.   Keeping it simple should be a standard practice for all quality management systems.   No one wants to read long complex procedures, they are hard to follow and slow you down, so keep them simple.  Not everything you do has to be documented so minimize the number of procedures and work instructions and keep only those that are necessary and add value to your processes.  Just as too many tacks and jibes slow your sailboat down, too many non-value adding activities makes your processes ineffective, so simplify them by removing as many non value adding steps as possible. 

Even if you're not a sailor, you can apply these three simple "go-fast" rules to improve your quality management systems.  If you are a sailor, you can use these rules to help you improve your racing skills.  If you are interested in the complete article, see the July/August edition of Sailing World, pgs. 62 &63.  Remember, "sail straight and sail fast".3


Tags: excellence, processes, quality management systems, sailing


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