A Midsummer Night’s Dream

My wife and I have been blessed with 3 kid’s ages 4, 2, and 8 months. One of things we have always done is read to them – a lot. We read to them before bed and many times before naps. Today, before naps my 4 year old asked me to read her a book. She normally doesn’t take naps these days but since she was up half the previous night she needed one.She picked “Poems for Little Ones” which is part of the baby einstein series. I must admit, with as much humility as possible, I am usually a pretty darn good reader. I do an excellent “Papa Bear” when reading Goldilocks (one of my personal favorites by the way). So today I was moving through these poems with no problem. Then came the following:

“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine,
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lulled in these flowers with dances and delight…”

This is from A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare. If you can read this poem aloud with no hesitation the first time through you are a far superior reader than I.

While reading this, and stumbling over my tongue a bit, I wondered what it was about this poem that caused me trouble. I had no problem with the other poems in the book. After thinking about it I realized Shakespeare simply writes on a different level as compared to most. His words are meant to challenge and inspire.

What, you may ask, does this have to do with Lean Manufacturing or Six Sigma? Let me offer my two cents.

Both Lean and Six Sigma lay heavy emphasis on ensuring others know how to do their work. In Lean we speak about Standard Work documents and in Six Sigma we speak about things like Control Plans and other work instructions. Of course pictures are the best way to explain things… but in most cases words of some type will be required.

In my experience, the worst work instructions are written by engineers. I am an engineer by training so I am allowed to make fun of them. We tend to think we are so smart and that everyone should take note of our brilliance by our Shakespearian like work instructions.

If there are work instructions in your work place go and check for yourself. Are they written in a manner that anyone can understand them? Do pictures support the words in such a way someone who doesn’t speak the local vernacular can make sense of them? Or did some brilliant engineer attempt to practice his Shakespeare thus making the work instructions useless… unless of course you are attempting to settle your 4 year old down for her nap.

The point of this post is to respect the brilliance of people like Shakespeare while realizing there is a time and a place to mimic them. And creating work instructions of any kind is most definitely not the time or the place! This also pertains to teaching in general. Know your audience and communicate in a such as way they will understand. Perhaps the old Keep it Simple Sam (KISS) is the best motto to follow. Replace Sam with another word if you so wish… just don’t forget about the whole respect for people aspect of true continuous improvement.

4 Comments

  1. Bing Miller

    April 23, 2007 - 8:47 pm

    Ron, I agree with you both about the beauty and strength of Shakespeare, as well as the need for simplicity and power in our written language. The poem you cite from Midsummer is beautiful, and as an English teacher your post gives me hope that what I do in the classroom can be valuable in real life. If you’re interested, my students are reading Midsummer and posting their ideas as comments on my classroom blog: http://millersenglish10.blogspot.com

    Thanks again and good luck.

  2. Ron Pereira

    April 23, 2007 - 9:10 pm

    Thanks for stopping by! If you read this, I am interested on how you came to find my blog? Google search? I am still amazed at how people come to the blog. I will check out your blog and if your kids want to learn about Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing send here – tuition is free! Keep up the great work.

  3. Meikah Delid

    April 24, 2007 - 11:39 pm

    Ron, I can say the same for the legal language. I spent one year in law and I couldn’t stand how they could phrase their decisions in such a way that not everyone can understand. But don’t you know that being simple–or writing in simple, plain English–is not that easy, too? I’m an English major, too, and I had to labor to appreciate Shakespeare. 🙂 Good entry though about Shakespeare and Lean.

  4. Ron Pereira

    April 25, 2007 - 5:18 am

    When I was studying for my MBA I remember my business law class. Wow. That is some crazy stuff. I would read the case and judgement and be like “so who won?” Great comparison Meikah!