On June 15, 2011, Canadians all over the world were ashamed of and embarrassed by the wonton destruction and hooliganism broadcast into our living rooms and all over the globe via the internet. Loosing the Stanley Cup to the Boston Bruins after 7 hard fought games, disappointed Vancouver Canucks fans rioted through the streets of downtown Vancouver in contract to the moment of pride where less than 16 months before the same streets hosted the peaceful and jubilant crowns following Team Canada’s win in the 2010 Winter Olympics. More disappointing is the revelation that perhaps much of this could have been avoided had the Vancouver Police implemented the more than 100 recommendations from the B.C. Police commissioned report by Bob Whitelaw after a similar riot following the Canucks’ loss to the New York Rangers in 1994.
Adopting Lao Tzu’s “A Journey of a Thousand Li begins with a Single Step”, one would like to think that had the Vancouver Police Department adopted one recommendation a month since the report was released in 1994, by June of 2011, there should have been sufficient time to develop the processes and procedures to implement at least 165 initiatives to prevent a repeat of the 1994 riots.
In parallel to the above incident, I have observed that In the course of my career as a quality professional, on numerous occasions I encountered similar situations where my client organizations found themselves facing a long list of non-compliant findings after being audited by a client, a potential client or a regulator that had to be addressed immediately. As is often the case, many of these findings were previously identified in their own internal audits. The most common reason given for having ignored these findings is “I don’t have the time or resources to implemented any of these corrective actions”. Yet when faced with the prospect of the imminent cancellation of an order, loss of a potential contract or regulatory action, the same organizations suddenly finds the resources to deploy a team of experts at several times the cost in order to remedy the situation. The real tragedy is that so many organizations fail to understand the most significant phrase in Lao Tzu’s proverb is not the “Journey of a Thousand Li” but the “Single Step”. In Quality Management philosophy, taking that single step involves the implementation of a process for proactively identifying areas of improvements, ensuring that they are diligently acted on and followed-up to ensure that there are no recurrences. Hence, regardless of the complexity or magnitude of the task at hand, i.e. the proverbial “Thousand Li” (360 miles), the emphasis is on the “Single Step”.