When I started my career in the auto industry, I learned that a “not defect” is a product that doesn't meet specifications in some way. An “escape” is a defect that reaches the customer.
Through inspection and other quality tests, you hope to prevent any defects from escaping. Even Toyota has final inspection areas in their assembly plants (even in Japan).
The ideal state, of course, is to build quality in at the source… to do it right the first time… but even Toyota doesn't do that 100% of the time. They don't have zero defects and they don't have zero escapes, as good as they are.
Escapes in Published Books
When it comes to book publishing, it seems EVERY book ever published has some defect… and it's an “escape” because it reached the customer — or the reader.
There was one other particularly annoying error in the first printings of Lean Hospitals. This is how the one figure was supposed to appear, with arrows going up and down. The caption below the figure refers to going up and down in the organization.
In the publishing process, a PDF of the book gets thrown back and forth between the author and the publisher's people many times.
When I reviewed what's called the “Final Pages” PDF of the book, the figure was correct.
Somehow, a new defect got INTRODUCED between Final Pages and printing. Needless to say, that is NOT supposed to happen.
What got printed was this:
I don't know if rotating the graphic somehow made it fit better on the page. It didn't seem like it was really the case. Was a disgruntled employee sabotaging the book? Again, note how the caption says “flow up and down.” That was frustrating. It was probably a bad process, not a bad person.
But, we're all human. Organizations are made of humans. 100% inspection is never 100% effective — even at Toyota.
But, I still wonder why somebody at the publisher apparently didn't follow the process. If they felt the need to make a change, it should have led to a “Final Final Pages” document that should have been thrown back to me for review. That would have been the proper process, but alas.
Error Cards — Baseball
When I was a kid in the 1980s, I loved baseball cards. A special treat was finding an “error card.” Yes, even professional baseball card companies sometimes had glaring mistakes. These included:
- Misspelling a player's name (like “Craig” instead of Graig Nettles)
- Reversing the negative (leading to a left-hand hitting Hank Aaron, shown below)
- Editors not noticing Billy Martin's middle finger (I own this card)
- No name appearing on the front of a Frank Thomas rookie card
The card companies would then start printing corrected cards, at some point, but the error cards were already out into the wild. Sometimes, these error cards are pretty valuable because of the scarcity.
Will the same be true with some of the first printed paperbacks for my book Measures of Success?
When I self-published my latest book Measures of Success as an eBook, I used a professional editor to work with me… and there were still some typos and other small defects that got through — escapes.
One great thing about self publishing is that I can very quickly and easy make updates in the eBook publishing platforms. With a traditional publisher, I found that they didn't want to make many changes… partly because they were printing big batches of paperbacks. Now that my book is a paperback, it's printed (by Amazon and IngramSpark) using “print on demand” technologies. So, it's likewise easy to make updates to the PDF file that I upload to them for the interior of the book.
And, oh, did I need to make updates.
People sometimes confused the words “honored” and “humbled.” I was honored to be invited to speak at the “Systems Thinking TO” group in Toronto last night. It would have been humbling if I had given a talk that nobody liked or told jokes that nobody laughed at. Last night was more honoring than humbling.
What's humbling is making mistakes and letting book defects escape to customers.
When I was getting the back cover designed, I felt under time pressure because I was generally busy and, thankfully, many people were emailing me to ask when the paperback would be available.
I shouldn't have rushed.
When I got the first books, I was appalled to see a typo that I didn't catch before approving this with Amazon. I should have asked somebody with fresh eyes to review this, but I skipped that step. Lesson learned.
It says, “With methods grounded in the Lean, math, and science…”
Oops! It said, “… in the Lean methodology” during one iteration. I don't know how and when that word disappeared. As the publisher and the final approver, I only have myself to blame.
The back of the book, as it's currently shipping, says simply, “…grounded in math and science…”
Again, it's not like a large batch of hundreds or thousands of books got printed with that defect. It's a defect that many people might not notice, since our eyes sometimes help our brain read what we think it says… or people might just wonder what “the Lean” is.
There is also something about the front cover that really bothered me when I noticed it. I've shown the physical book to many people and it doesn”t jump out at them at all, so it's a less severe defect. Can you see it?
When I got the initial “proof ” printed by Amazon, the front cover was correct, but the “MEASURES OF SUCCESS” text was a bit too close to the top edge of the book. The back cover was fine at that iteration, by the way.
I asked my cover designer, I think quite literally, to “move down the MEASURES OF SUCCESS text so it's better centered in the top section.” He did that. Below, the left shows the eBook cover. The right shows the print cover front with the defect… can you see it?
The blue lines around “OF” didn't get moved down. Again, I don't think I asked the designer to do that… I assumed he would and he didn't. That's MY fault for giving poor direction and it's my fault for not noticing the line placement for submitting it to Amazon for an update.
So, again, that's now fixed for any books that are ordered and printed after today.
I started lamenting to myself that I have a bad combination of personality traits. I'm a perfectionist… but I also don't have the greatest attention to detail. So, I end up making mistakes and getting mad at myself.
I thought, “Well, the interior of the book is probably fine because there was my initial copy editor and then the firm that I hired to design the book interior had a professional proofreader.”
Well, some sharp-eyed early readers found a few bugs, or defects.
On page 124, it says “softwar-development” instead of “software-development.”
Oops! That defect was not in the manuscript that i sent to the design firm. So when was that defect introduced? I went back through the different PDF iterations. It was NOT in the initial PDF that the design firm created. That was the PDF that I read most closely. Somehow, that defect was introduced by the design firm in the second PDF iteration. Nobody caught that. Not a big deal. that's now fixed.
Here is another weird defect…. “ssafe-driving.”
The “ssafe-driving” defect also got introduced for the 2nd PDF iteration. Nobody caught it, including myself. Oh well, not a big deal.
Part of the issue, I believe, is that the book design software does NOT include spell check as a feature. That's what my former publisher told me years ago and that seems to be the case here. How is that possible??? Adding spell check would be a great improvement to the system, eh?
Defects That Were Completely My Fault
There were a few other defects that were clearly my fault, in the manuscript and early eBook releases.
For this chart, the text below it refers to “April 17, 2018” when that was supposed to say “April 17, 2016.” That was the defect of muscle memory typing the current year instead of the correct year. This is now fixed.
In the chart below, it's mistakenly labeled “Weekly Leads” when the chart shows monthly data. That's now been fixed. That's my fault and my inattention to detail…
There was another chart where my submission to the design firm (and my initial eBook) was correct. The orange line's label was supposed to say “Dec 2010 – Nov 2011”. A defect was introduced when the designer was re-doing the graphics… and I didn't catch it. This has been fixed.
There was a more significant error in a chart on Page 157… totally my fault. The chart had an extra data point in it, somehow… the X-axis dates were wrong… oops. That has been fixed.
Again, this is all really humbling. I try to be perfect and I have high expectations. I probably have unrealistic expectations. I'm human. We all make mistakes.
My wife and some author friends have reminded me that:
- The errors are not a big deal
- Every book ever printed has defects
I take solace in remembering that The Toyota Way and Lean Hospitals both had defects on PAGE 1. And that was with two different professional publishers involved.
I do feel bad that the earliest, most enthusiastic buyers of the book got books with defects. If you're one of those buyers / readers… maybe you can laugh at having a collector's edition.
Or, if you want to exchange your book for a freshly-printed copy with fewer defects (I won't say it's defect-free), please contact me. If your book is in reasonably good shape, I can do an exchange for you.
On the Positive Side
It is worth remember (and saying) that I love the work that was done by the design firm. People have told me that it's a very visually appealing book. I agree. I'm proud of the result.
More importantly, the book is proving useful to people… one review on Amazon.ca says:
“I finished this book about a week and a half ago. Mark has created an excellent companion and guide for those of us who seek continuous improvement while facing the demands for “meeting” targets from upper management. It is well explained and filled with clear and valuable examples.
I am certain that upper management can use the understanding of data and systems presented in Measures of Success as well.
Practically, Mark and his book helped me to focus on signals and have a clear understanding of noise. The data driven perspective allowed me to recognize that what I thought was noise was indeed a signal and make changes to the system rather that simply seeking “better” work from my team.
As a result my KPIs have jumped exponentially to return us to a leading position. Of course, we need to see that this is a new trend and not a blip…but the main thing is that I can see better and therefore focus where needed based on data and signals NOT noise and normal variation. I will continue to rely on PBC's and the understanding shared in Measures of Success for the rest of my career!”
It feels good to get a 5-star view. What's even better is knowing that the book is helping people and their organizations. The writer of that review has emailed me and told me more about the story and what company it is. I can't disclose that, but it's a company that's personally important to me and I'm happy to have helped! I hope the book helps others, warts (defects / escapes / bugs) and all.
What do you think? Please scroll down (or click) to post a comment. Or please share the post with your thoughts on LinkedIn. Don't want to miss a post or podcast? Subscribe to get notified about posts via email daily or weekly.