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My Dinner with Albert Einstein and W. Edwards Deming

I had the weirdest dream a few nights ago. It was one of those dreams that was so vivid and detailed that I thought it is really happening.

I was at a small Italian restaurant in the East Village of New York City eating dinner with the Physics genius Albert Einstein and Quality Management guru Dr W. Edwards Deming.

The odd thing was that we were engaged in a very intense conversation about Uptime Elements and the Reliability Leadership Framework. These guys were both true inspirations and spoke authentically (In fact they spoke in very famous quotations).

I have recreated the evening in script form as accurately as I can recall so you can follow the conversation.

Opening scene – Italian restaurant, East Village New York City, Round Table.

Terrence O’Hanlon: Do you think it is important to have a strategy for reliability and asset management?

Albert Einstein: You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else. Once you master the rules of the game, you can break them.

Terrence O’Hanlon:We are very excited to map the Uptime Elements Reliability Framework to the new 10 Rights of Asset Lifecycle Management Framework. It is amazing to me that it all boils down to everyone understanding value (assets) and the coordinate activities that deliver value across their lifecycle. Getting the stakeholders on the same page to understand and work together toward organization objectives seems so simple but there are a number of barriers.

W. Edwards Deming: What we need to do is learn to work in the system, by which I mean that everybody, every team, every platform, every division, every component is there not for competitive profit or recognition, but for contribution to the system as a whole on a win-win basis. Sub-optimization is when everyone is for himself. Optimization is when everyone is working to help the company. Management’s job is to optimize the whole system. When we cooperate, everybody wins.

W. Edwards Deming

Terrence O’Hanlon: Our focus is to engage and empower leaders at every level of the organization to ensure a focus on value through asset management and reliability.

Albert Einstein: It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.

W. Edwards Deming: It’s management’s job to know. A leader must have knowledge. A leader must be able to teach. A leader’s job is to help his people.

Terrence O’Hanlon: There are advantages to using a framework for reliability and asset management

W. Edwards Deming: People need to know what their jobs are. The emphasis should be on why we do a job. People need to know how the work they do contributes.

Terrence O’Hanlon: Guys we have known the answers for reliability for over 40 years and we still struggle with achieving high levels. What is stopping us from solving this problem?

Albert Einstein: We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them.

W. Edwards Deming: Stamping out fires is a lot of fun, but it is only putting things back the way they were. Rational behavior requires theory. Reactive behavior requires only reflex action. Manage the cause, not the result.

Terrence O’Hanlon: There is a big difference between knowing and doing

W. Edwards Deming: Best efforts will not substitute for knowledge.

Albert Einstein: Knowledge of what is does not open the door directly to what should be. Information is not knowledge.

W. Edwards Deming: The problem is that most courses teach what is wrong. People learn in different ways: reading, listening, pictures, watching.

Albert Einstein: The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.

Albert Einstein

Terrence O’Hanlon: My work has shifted from supplying answers to working in the form of enquiry to expand possibilities.

Albert Einstein: The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.

W. Edwards Deming: Without questions, there is no learning.

Albert Einstein: Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.

W. Edwards Deming: Information is not knowledge. Let’s not confuse the two. If you do not know how to ask the right question, you discover nothing.

Terrence O’Hanlon: Many managers seem to focus on Key Performance Indicators as the road to improvement

W. Edwards Deming: The most important figures for management of any organization are unknown and unknowable.

Albert Einstein: Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.

W. Edwards Deming: 3% of the problems have figures, 97% of the problems do not.

Terrence O’Hanlon: We just released a report on asset management that showed organizational culture as the biggest single obstacle for asset performance. Top management can benefit from providing constancy of purpose for the people who work in the organization.

Albert Einstein: Concern for man and his fate must always form the chief interest of all technical endeavors. Never forget this in the midst of your diagrams and equations.

W. Edwards Deming: All anyone asks for is a chance to work with pride. If someone can make a contribution to the company he feels important. Innovation comes from people who take joy in their work.

At that point in the conversation I noticed Mr. Einstein staring at the cover on the latest issue of Uptime Magazine when he suddenly pointed with delight that he finally found the hidden Uptime logo in the image at which point I suddenly woke up.


Terrence O’Hanlon

Terrence O'Hanlon

Terrence O'Hanlon

Terrence O’Hanlon, CMRP, and CEO  of® and Publisher for Uptime® Magazine, is an asset management leader, specializing in reliability and operational excellence. He is a popular keynote presenter and is the coauthor of the book, 10 Rights of Asset Management: Achieve Reliability, Asset Performance and Operational Excellence.

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