My favorite story is about a fellow I’ll call John.  John was a member of one of the Total Quality organizations I belonged to a number of years ago.  This was before I’d developed the whole Want-ology® package (that continues to evolve).

A number of years ago, I wound up in the Total Quality Transformation business as part of my livelihood path.  It totally fit (from my perspective) what I was about: Systems and shifts and transformations–and making things work.  

So I developed the core that is now “Want-ology®” to help companies figure out what to focus on in their quality efforts (which was not necessarily what they had been told they were supposed to do), and how to measure the effects to see if they were REALLY getting the results they wanted.  These efforts are usually really expensive and painful, and if they don’t get you a good result, you’ve just wasted LOTS of money.  They usually start out with a solution like, “Implement a TQM program.”  And the consultants get rich but frustrated, and the companies often go into the red before they go back to business as usual, or just auger in.

I was teaching the seminar to a public group of quality professionals, and John was in the audience. Since the people there worked for different companies, they didn’t want to expose their business problems directly.  So I gave them the option of using an example from their personal life.  

John did. 

When I asked that they come up with a Want statement, John said “I want to keep my job.”  Interesting.  So we moved through the very short set of questions.  

And suddenly, he couldn’t contain himself.  He said, “I said I wanted to keep my job.  I really need the money.  And jobs in quality are really tough to come by.” (Did I mention we were in a previous recession at the time?) 

John continued. “But everything I love about my current job is going away.  The bank I work for has just been bought by a different bank, and they are moving their people into the front-lines.  What I love about my job is the customer contact, working with the staff to make thing better for customer service, and really seeing the results and the difference we’re making.

“If I keep my job, they’ll move me to the back office, and all I’ll ever do is deal with routine problems and the computerized systems.  They have their own quality staff, and I’m not on it.”

So I’d made my point…the first thing we ask for is not necessarily what we really want.  But how to help John? We talked a bit more about how to get clear about what he really wanted, and how to know when he got it, and a few other things that I thought might help.  I was dejected…wished I could have done more. 

Fast forward to the first Statewide Quality Initiative conference in the region about six months later.  I attended.  And I thought I recognized one of the people on the stage.  It was John.  I was looking to congratulate him, when he caught up to me at the morning break.  

“I’m so glad to see you!” he said.  

“John, I’m so glad you’re involved in this. It looks very exciting, and right up your alley.”

He said, “I know.  And I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t been in your seminar that day.  I realized that I couldn’t stay in that bank job.  When I realized, and said out loud, what was important to me, it was like the light went on!  I called a colleague of mine who was in a similar situation, and we went to the governor’s office and pitched this idea.  So we just founded the State Quality Initiative and we are having a blast. I’m on it as a full-time officer.  It’s so exciting.  I’m working with people at all levels and getting to make such a difference businesses in the region…and to the whole state. I’m going to the National Quality conference next month.  So, thank you!”

I can’t take credit for what John did after he left the seminar.  He was awesome.  But I am so proud and glad that the questions that became Want-ology® got him unstuck, refocused and launched.

That was MY aha to go deeper, and fully develop Want-ology® for people.  Different versions of this story, some not as flashy, but equally personally profound, happen out of every workshop, and many Want-ology® engagements.

Thank you John, for helping me see how I could make a bigger difference.