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Maintaining Quality with a Work-Surf Balance

By Bob Stinson

Growing up three miles from the Manhattan Beach pier, I came by the desire to surf early. More than 40 years later, I’m still surfing weekly but now have a greater appreciation for how much surfing correlates with my approach to quality at work.

Surfing gif

When surfing, every wave presents its own challenges you have to maneuver through. Done unsuccessfully, the consequences can be painful. You can get caught on the inside and held underwater or end up going over the falls (falling top to bottom) on a takeoff. Once you paddle out into the surf and you’re in the lineup, you must be aware and prepared for the unexpected.

There are days when the waves are perfectly shaped and it’s easy to get a great ride. Other days, the wind will lead to choppy waters and you need more perseverance.

As a Quality Analyst, I find that new challenges and problems can frequently come up that require immediate attention. Imagine if a retaining ring on a fastener came off during a customer inspection.

Talk about a challenge! In this type of situation, we could form a team to study it further. Perhaps the team discovers the shop had struggled with this issue for a while. Quality Engineering may have been unaware because the standard repairs were being done on the spot. Let’s say we discover that the tool used to install the fasteners required refurbishment to function properly. So the team implements repairs and other corrective actions, and the problem does not resurface. Our customer is happy, and so is the shop.

We often hear the phrase “quality in everything we do,” especially around Quality Month in October. So what does that mean? For me, it is the importance of ensuring quality every step of the way — even on programs we’ve built for years — because the consequences are far too great if we don’t.

A good number of lessons I apply at work, I’ve gained from surfing. In 40 years, I’ve ridden countless waves, and I’ve inspected products countless times in my 30-plus years at Northrop Grumman.

Each time there is a possibility that a new challenge, a different wave can come up, and you need to maneuver through it. But the satisfaction of a sweet ride, or ensuring the best quality, keeps me coming back.




Northrop Grumman has many career opportunities available who oversee quality, and are in locations where you can pursue your preferred work-life balance activities, including surfing. Click here to see all our quality positions.


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