I know this may come as a shock to everyone, but I love Quality. I love the concepts of Quality and I love taking those concepts and applying them to our everyday work life.
At a recent all-staff meeting, we played the Butterfly Activty. I hadn’t played this one before, and I thought, what an odd name. I didn’t see any connection between butterflies and how this could be an example for us. I was happily anticipating how this would play out.
The task was simple. Each one of us was asked to silently choose two people. We all then went out to the Lobby and were told to always maintain an equal distance from our two chosen folks. As we all stepped out, there was one brief moment where we all stood still and everyone scanned the room to find our two choices. In a blink of an eye, one person moved and then everyone moved. And moved. And moved. And moved. Soon, I began to feel like a butterfly flitting from one spot to the next with random abandon. Aha!
The “lessons” were becoming apparent. After about 10 minutes of attempting to complete the task of standing equidistant from our two people, our group seemed to form in to two circles, one inside the other, going in opposite directions. As I deciphered the moral of the story, I gathered that since one person made one move, the ripple effect created was non-stopping and made it difficult for everyone to then accomplish the goal.
I noticed that moves were exponential as well. A small step for one caused the ripple of moving several feet for another. It was crazy! So a very small move on my part might make someone down the line have to work way out of their efficient boundaries to correct or compensate in ways that I might not have foreseen.
While as a company we can’t always swoop like an eagle — in one straight line — to accomplish the goal of snatching that fish right out of water, we can strive to remember that our “work paths” are all very interdependent, and strive to ensure that all team members are able to achieve success, no matter where they are in the path. So it is with managing quality in an organization. We can all develop blinders when it comes to our own job and tasks we are responsible for completing, but if we decide, independently of others, to change our work path, or skip steps that might be personally deemed unnecessary, it can cause the same type of ripple effect with others. Someone else may have to add steps to their workload to compensate, they may have to rework that which was done incompletely.
Communication is the key. If something seems out of place, ask! If efficiency appears to be lacking, tell! If steps are skipped, question! It is only with communicating that problem areas are identified, solutions can be discussed and plans can be made to improve.
If you want to facilitate the Butterfly Effect activity, or simply present it to your team, the complete description, including facilitator notes, is available for download below.