Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Chelsea is the Red Bead Experiment

Dr. W. Edwards Deming made a lot of headlines if not a lot of friends in American industry a generation ago with his Principles of Quality Management. In the USA where all we're concerned about is winning and losing and nuance gets lost in the noise, people invoke him more as an abstraction than an applied idea. Too bad, because more often than not, he's be right at home in Norwich, Connecticut.

Deming insisted 'we should work on our processes, not the outcome of our processes.' His Red Bead Experiment was intended to prove flawed systems are responsible for failing outcomes, not those willing to work hard or those talented enough to lead them.  Quite frankly, if that's not Norwich in the summer of 2012, then I need to get a new GPS because this is where I seem to come home to every night. I'd know those red beads anywhere.

Tonight is actually an exception to the Red Bead Experiment I think, based on last year, that may prove to be the rule (fingers crossed). Tonight at six, it's the inaugural show of Rock the Docks, the Wednesday night free live performances at Howard T. Brown Park all summer long which showcase a whole lot of different performers and bands playing a variety of musics in the belief that everyone likes some kind of music.

The turnout last summer was excellent, building from week to week and if the skies are half as kind as the acts promised are good, downtown should be jumping and that, simply put, is both the process and the outcome. Terms like 'thinking outside the box' get used for an idea like this which is all well and good except we can delete everything after 'thinking' and still be correct.

Elsewhere, it's more of the same thinking that got us here. Up the street from Howard T. Brown Park, like a sleeping beauty, say its proponents, is the Reid and Hughes ruin (building really does seem a bit of a stretch) awaiting just a pinch of municipal dollars and some tax credits for a developer to return it to life as something it never was, a mixed use building that will be another downtown destination. 


That the proposals to develop that property have no connection or correlation to a half dozen other private projects in various stages across downtown almost goes without saying. This is, after all, Norwich; hold on tight to your red beads.  


Rock the Docks costs us as a city very little in terms of overall expenditures and creates waves of commerce that reach from the park to the restaurants and bars blocks away as those attending the shows are the feet in the street we purport to be so interested in attracting across downtown. We argue among ourselves everyday as what 'Chelsea needs' and small shop owners and restaurants and pub owners seem to have figured it out already. 


When you add events like First Friday, like performances at the Spirit of Broadway, the Farmers Market (coming soon) and Meet the Author nights at Otis Library, discussions about perceptions of crime and/or the  lack of parking are suddenly mooted and muted because when we are attracted to an offering we choose to invest of ourselves and go. 


Success like failure is more habit than destiny and we can be (more) successful if we trust our instincts and learn to dress for success. And that means lose the red beads.
-bill kenny 

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