The Quincy Effect…

The year was 1976 when the TV show “Quincy” first aired, with the main character played on screen by actor Jack Klugman, Dr Quincy was a coroner who took to solving a weekly murder mystery.  The way the story line played out every week thereafter until its end in 1983 was Dr Quincy would approach his boss Dr Robert Asten and explain his solution to the murder at the start of the show.  The solution set was based upon Dr Quincy’s vast experience base built while serving in the Navy.  However, Dr Asten (a button down corporate type) in turn would dismiss Quincy out of hand (repeatedly every week) forcing him to “re-prove” himself over and over again.  In the end after all of this, Quincy’s position would be proven right.

Well in the first week, this didn’t strike me as odd as we all must prove ourselves once or twice, right?  Then came week two and once again the same thing repeated itself, now I am thinking ok, Dr Asten is a tough cookie.  Now fast forward to week six of the show and again the same thing yet again, ok enough was enough.

So think about this for a minute, Bob Smith from production control comes to you as his manager with a potential situation and you dismiss him, however the event happens.  Week two, he again comes with another, and like clockwork it pretty much goes down as he says it will.  Now what are you going to do on week three?  Has Bob not built a reasonable track record worth investigation?

Let’s talk about frustration, how would you feel if each and every week you where dismissed and had to re-prove yourself?  Maybe you do, and I will go so far as to bet many of those folks reading this do this on a regular basis.  This organizational defect has led me to coin the term the “Quincy Factor” as an organizational measure of a company’s ability to or not to leverage the learned experiential knowledge of the people within its organization and empower that judgment.

As mentioned above, after watching about 6 episodes, I voted with my channel changer and tuned out as the plot was given away up front, as why would I want to watch when I already knew the outcome? Now if you’re one of those Dr Asten types (you know who you are), you have to be thinking, “are my employees tuning out too”?  Today’s organizations are failing to fully realize the experience their employees are bringing to the table and losing competitive advantage because of it.  This is especially true if we look at the graying of the workforce, as each year that passes the experience set increases and this viral aspect is further supported by the fact that people are working longer.  So the impact is one man year times the entire workforce and the distribution of the workforce is not linear as retirement age spans out ward and the volumes of workers are at the tail and not the nose due to the “baby boomers”.

The next question is what drives this negative behavior and in many cases it is the “not invented here” bug-a-boo meaning if solutions are not reinvented each time, the personal value proposition of others are placed in perceived jeopardy.  In the show “Quincy”, this was one of the clear drivers as Dr Asten could not wield the same problem solving acumen Dr Quincy did when it came to assessing a crime.  Thus, Dr Asten felt his personal value proposition was threatened by Quincy.  The same could be said for our scenario with the production control manager Bob Smith from above, as his managers personal value proposition could also be perceived as threatened.  This is a clear defect in the managerial chain by allowing perceptions to dominate over results.

What other options could drive one to redo the same homework over and over again just so they see the same results?  Maybe it’s we as a managerial culture have truly developed what Seth Goden calls a “Culture of Attendance“, where in Quincy’s case, Asten’s belief was he was paying him to show up so therefore the expectation was he would start at square one each week rather than employing his institutionally learned knowledge to “leap frog” his advantage.

Regardless of the reason or even a plurality of reasons, companies are wasting resource time, creating turnover and general discourse as the higher the applied “Quincy Factor” the greater the level of organizational friction will be induced.  As this goes up other key factors such as productivity, creativity and motivation decline.  So have you measured your “Quincy Factor” today?


About Joseph Campbell

As a strong believer in the fact that "people work for people", it has been a life driver to better to understand the complexities of the various aspects which drive efficiency within this axiom, especially the concepts of leadership. Supporting this, I have been fortunate enough to having experienced this as leader on a global basis over the last decade and half. During this time it has been clear there are three core drivers being Life, Leadership and Economics.
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