February 16, 2024
“I used to worry about rich and skinny until I ended up poor and fat…” Delbert McClinton Over the years, some of the things that cost me many hours of sleep never actually happened. I bet your experience is similar; you toss and turn trying to think of something else but your mind keeps returning to a situation that upsets you. It might be a relationship issue, a family or health concern, or even a minor incident that you know you are blowing all out of proportion. I enjoyed leading an engineering team despite the sleep some of my teammates, or more correctly their performance, robbed me of. Previous blog postings have recounted my schemes to evaluate their results in a logical and dispassionate manner. It did not always work out as planned — but I think it helped me sleep better. On the non-people side of my worries, I try hard to stick to the things I can actually control and let the rest of the problem go. Checklists are great for this, as are step by step process plans. Every item on an aircraft pilot’s checklist, for example, got on the list because someone at some time forgot it and bad things happened. ISO quality plans always include a “list of lists” because they are just so fundamental to insuring good results. When I first started work at one job shop I was surprised to find they were adamantly opposed to written process plans. “Our people are craftsmen,” they argued. “It is insulting to suggest that they need a list of operations to make a good part.” It took our accountant tracking scrap and rework to finally convince the “dead-enders” that there was no shame in “making a list and checking it twice.” If it is good enough for St. Nick it ought to be good enough for you. I find that making lists and step-by-step plans is better than counting sheep when it comes to fighting insomnia. Recently, several nights of rest were disrupted by worries over our house possibly not selling for many months and messing up a planned relocation. Then the place sold in three days and an entire new batch of checklists and plans have to be developed. You can only control so much, after all, and half of that is unlikely to be needed. Good process plans are never wasted; you can recycle them for the next set of worries.