Scribes and Gladiators - Juran?s Managerial Breakthrough


Don Winton

Scribes and Gladiators - Juran’s Managerial Breakthrough

The Belief That Skilled, Intelligent Decisions Are Made by Skilled Educated Professionals May Be the Single Most Erroneous Belief in American Industry.
Taken from Juran’s Managerial Breakthrough

Scribes and Gladiators

There were two kinds of men in the room, gladiators and scribes. The gladiators had just come from the arena, still covered with blood and sweat, still breathing heavily. But the scribes were cool, alert and energetic.

Now there were shown on the screen the pictures of what had gone on in the arena. Oddly, the discussion was limited to pictures of faulty fighting. They had a name for this selection - it was called the “exception principle.”

As these pictures were shown, the scribes would comment sagely, “That thrust was rather weak.” “There you should have advanced.” “That cut was not up to standard.” The gladiators listened and grunted. Now and then, they would try to explain that in the arena there is not time to think of all these things, that blood is slippery, that lions have their own ideas. But it was to no avail.

The gladiators were doomed to defeat. They were now fighting in an arena they did not understand. The weapons now were not the familiar swords and spears; the weapons were numbers, words, rhetoric. As to these weapons, the gladiators were no match for the scribes.

The meeting broke up and each group went back to its station . The scribes retired to the safety of the stadium seats, where they made themselves comfortable and ready to resume counting. The gladiators returned to the hot, hostile floor of the arena. They knew they had suffered defeat at the hands of the glib, clever scribes. But in their hearts, they remained convinced that no one but a gladiator understands the problems of fighting in the arena.

Sound familiar, anyone?

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Great illustration! How about the Emporer? The Emporer ofen chops the heads (or other body parts) off of his gladiators for not doing what the scribes says.

Don Winton

Good one - crosses to much of life - not just quality.
Agreed, Marc. Only if more would listen.

I like this particular story because it reminds me, a very humble practitioner, the value of knowing my place. It is not my place to instruct the person performing a job how to do the job. Very valuable when implementing Systems Management Methods (or most other methods, for that matter). If procedures or work instructions are required, a sure ‘kiss of death’ is to try to implement them without the employee’s input. I have seen it happen. Sadly, too many times.

I prefer to see my function somewhat differently (perhaps, wrongly). Explain WHY something is needed, and more often that not, the employee will supply the solution. For example, if I place myself as a scribe, I would explain to the gladiator in terms something like this:

Kill the opponent or he will kill you.
Then I would demonstrate the concept of better swords, keener edges, longer spears, steel shields, etc. Explain that if the sword were sharper, the cuts would be more effective. If the spear is longer, his reach is better extended. Then leave it to the gladiator to develop the sharper sword or whatever. You can bet a dead cat that he would be better prepared when he next entered the arena. Get the attention, get the lesson in and then get the point across.

As for the emperor (CEO, President, or whatever title is ‘in’ these days), I offer this:

Arrogance in the administration of power always tends to bring the opposite of the desired effect.
I Ching

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