Busman’s Holiday. The Jefferson Memorial, Wastewater Treatment and Root Cause Analysis.

20130209-094238.jpgTo avoid any confusion with my friends I need to put something on the record:

  1. I did not take my wife on a visit to a wastewater treatment plant (sewage works) on our honeymoon.
  2. We had a lovely time camping in a second-hand tent at St Cast, Brittany, NW France.
  3. I did visit the Barbados Wastewater Treatment Plant – alone – whilst we were on holidays in the Caribbean a few years later (it was fantastic).
  4. I did visit several other wastewater treatment plants whilst overseas on holidays during the following years (they were also very interesting).
  5. Yes, this activity was associated with my job at the time so it could be labelled as a Busman’s Holiday, but my wife never came on any of the visits, she’s far too sensible (bet you are now thinking I’m a real catch……).

Fast forward almost 20 years…….. Washington DC Hotel, family holiday with the kids.

Me: “Come on kids, get ready, we are off to see the Jefferson Memorial”

Oldest Son: “Ah yes, Thomas Jefferson, Third President of the United States, principal author of the Declaration of Independence, born 1734,  etc etc etc…… ” (He’s still talking)

Wife: “Yes, it’s where Howland Blackiston from the Juran Institute filmed that classic video on root cause analysis, The 5 Whys.”

Me: “Yeah, I really want to go and see if there are any spider webs left”.

Younger kids: “Please can we stay here and watch Sponge Bob on TV?”

Two points to note here:

  1. The 5 Whys video is a great one to watch if you are interested in root cause analysis and the 5 Whys technique. I’m not going to explain it and spoil things; I suggest you watch the 60 second video. By the way I did see plenty of spider’s webs at the Jefferson Memorial.
  2. This was a sublime moment when my wife and I were completely in tune and thinking about the same thing (that wasn’t kids related). We had both been exposed to the 5 Whys video during separate work activities and were genuinely excited about going to see the real place (well I was). A joint busman’s holiday, lovely.

Fast forward to summer holidays 2013 (Back to the Future)

It turns out we are going on holiday somewhere that doesn’t excite me very much. I’m not really a posh hotel sort of person. I’m not one to complain either, which is probably why I enjoy the hardships of cycling with my friend Geof. But I am someone who sees opportunity in even the direst of situations.

Good news! The place we are going has some interesting industrial facilities nearby AND some wastewater treatment operations. Even better they are really good at continuous improvement and staff engagement. I know a few people in the country who may be able to arrange a visit for me (and eldest son, he can tell them all about Jefferson). I am truly excited about the prospect of this latest busman’s holiday; hopefully I can share my learning experiences in some future posts.

It really is a bit like back to the future. My wife plans to go swimming with dolphins while I’m off at the industrial complex. I thought she did that in the Caribbean?….. whatever, roll on summer!

So, what’s the PONT?

  1. There is opportunity for learning even in the most unlikely of circumstances.
  2. If you enjoy something it doesn’t feel like work, or a busman’s holiday.
  3. Having a few different interests to your partner isn’t such a bad thing.

Busman’s holiday: Definition from http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/busman%27s_holiday

EtymologyFirst recorded in 1893 in the UK. The idea is that a bus driver going off on a holiday, would take an excursion by bus, thereby engaging in a similar activity to work.

Noun: busman’s holiday.  A holiday or vacation during which one does something similar to what one does as work

Interesting links:

5 Whys and Root Cause Analysis a the Jefferson Memorial http://www.oahhs.org/quality/lean-transformation/jefferson-memorial-root-cause-analysis.doc

Why you need to ask Why? http://www.ideachampions.com/weblogs/archives/2011/05/some_years_ago.shtml

Howland Blackiston Juran Institute video. The 5 Whys. http://youtu.be/IETtnK7gzlE

Picture Source: Lego Bus http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=lego+london+bus&hl=en&tbo=d&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=4QsWUYmcFufY0QXnsYDQCw&ved=0CAkQ_AUoAQ&biw=768&bih=929#biv=i%7C12;d%7C_0gRqkBD9u9ZTM:

About WhatsthePONT

I'm from Old South Wales and I'm interested almost everything. Narrowing it down a bit: cooperatives, social enterprises, decent public services, complexity science, The Cynefin Framework, behavioural science and a sustainable future. In 2018/19 I completed a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, looking at big cooperative enterprises and social businesses in NE Spain and the USA. You can find out more here: https://whatsthepont.com/churchill-fellowship/

8 Responses

  1. Mark Woods

    I am a big fan of the Jefferson video myself, despite its slightly dated production values and given the opportunity would have been looking for webs too. I think sometimes it can be a little hard to leave work at home and sometimes opportunities are too good to pass up. I am guilty, given my interest in film both in work and at home, of dragging my other half to film locations when we are on holiday…I guess the principle is the same.

  2. This is the first time that I have come across someone who enjoys visiting sewage works on their holidays. I don’t go on holiday often but tend to avoid as much as visit my work interest places (ancient monuments, historic buildings, museum and galleries).

  3. […] Our joint enthusiasm for 5 Whys extended to dragging our kids around the Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC on holiday a few years later. The kids were incredulous as we searched for evidence of; midges, spiders, pigeons, pigeon poop and stone damage. They have never really forgiven us, details here in, Busman’s Holiday. The Jefferson Memorial and Root Cause Analysis. […]

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