Section 305

Message from the New Haven Section Chair


Do you know the difference between a fairy tale and a war story? The fairy tale begins ‘Once upon a time’ and the war story starts ‘This is no *!#@$%, it really happened to me’. Trading war stories has long been an informal way to pass along information within a group of people. The process is timeless, from a caveman telling tales of his latest successful hunt around the fire up to today’s person telling his dinner companions how his feats of accounting derring-do kept the company in business. So you can see, the exchange can take place during coffee breaks, after-work gatherings involving adult beverages (beer call!), or yes even at ASQ meetings. To determine if war stories are being told look for the following signs: one experienced (read that as older) person surrounded by three or four younger people; a significant amount of hand gestures on the part of the experienced person, and the occasional rolling of eyes by the younger participants. If you see these indicators across a room, it is safe to assume that war stories are being told, even if you can’t actually hear what is being said.
I think that organizations should encourage the trading of war stories. It is especially critical if your business is going through a phase where many of your senior employees are retiring. We should follow procedures, but we all know there are times when the procedures let us down. How do you handle that difficult customer or supplier situation? What do you do when it’s the end of the month/quarter/year and you receive a batch of critical parts that don’t quite meet the specs? What works in those crucial circumstances and what doesn’t? War stories are an important learning tool for any organization. Would you rather learn by sitting in a classroom and watching PowerPoint slides, or talk with someone who has been there and done that? Both methods can be effective at imparting information, but by using storytelling to pass along ‘tribal knowledge’, our caveman ancestors would be proud to know that we are keeping the tradition alive.

--Bill Folsom, Chair, New Haven ASQ