The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin is the best book I’ve read this year. (True Confession – I even liked it more than the latest book by Charlaine Harris, who is my current favorite escape novelist.) A combination of self-help book and memoir, you can’t help but be happy when you read about someone spending a whole year working on becoming happier! What excited me about the book, even beyond its ability to evoke happiness, was Ms. Rubin’s application of a process approach (similar to process approach used for quality planning and quality improvement) in her quest for happiness.


So what was the process for Ms. Rubin’s happiness project? First, she did her basic research (secondary research in the quality jargon). She read widely – positive psychology, philosophy, biography, and history. Using what she learned, she defined happiness – what it is and what it isn’t. She identified some overarching principles for her happiness project (activities I’d call defining the scope of the project). Continuing to define her project, she identified the subjects she wanted to cover and the time frame for covering the topics. (No good quality guru forgets to have a project plan!) Ms. Rubin developed resolutions for each month. Resolutions needed to be concrete and measurable. Each evening she used her chart to record whether she was meeting her resolutions. (Reader, please let me know if you would like some references on process control charts.) Each month she set out to try various ways of improving happiness. Some worked and some didn’t. She continued with what worked. (Pilot projects are an effective way to test a theory – what works in one situation doesn’t always work in another.) At the end of the year she concluded that she was happier.


What worked best for Ms. Rubin to achieve this goal?

1.      Learning about someone else’s successes and failures was a better catalyst for change than studying a theory. Some ways she learned from others included

a.      Reading biographies and memoirs. For Ms. Rubin those about Saint Thérése of Lisieux  and her memoir Story of a Soul were very meaningful

b.      Asking for feedback and experiences through her blog. She actually self-published a book of her blog posts (learn more on the happiness project web site http://www.happiness-project.com/ )

c.       Encouraging feedback from her husband, family and friends through-out the project

2.      The resolutions chart was the single most effective step she took to make sure she was following through on her resolutions. By the way, follow-through was the hardest part for Ms. Rubin. (Implementation is often the hardest part of a quality project too.)

3.      The feeling of greater control that resulted from identifying resolutions and then following them was a critical element to Ms. Rubin’s increased happiness.


Summer calls for a vacation from our usual business reading and I would recommend The Happiness Project as a the perfect summer break. Reading about someone becoming happy simply made me happy. If you are one of those personality types questing for examples of ways to improve, the processes followed by the author are useful tools both in and out of the office. Enjoy. Be Happy.

References for Setting Cut Scores

I’ve been asked by several organizations to recommend a methodology for setting a cut score that would meet accreditation standards. It sounds like a simple request, but it isn’t. You need to consider the type of test you have (e.g., multiple choice versus performance), the target population, and who should be making the cut score decision. The standards are not prescriptive and assessors are not supposed to be prescriptive either! Many certification organizations would prefer to conduct the study themselves. If you are in that boat, there are several books that have come out recently that can give you direction.

1. Certification: The ICE Handbook (2009, published by the Institute for Ceredentialing Excellence), Edited by Joan Knapp, PhD, Lynn Anderson, PhD, and Cheryl Wild, PhD. See chapter 11 by I. Leon Smith, PhD, and Cornelia Springer , CAE on standard setting.   (Includes results of a 2008 survey on what standard setting method is most frequently used to set cut scores by NCCA accredited organizations!)

[Read more…]

Continuous Improvement of Testing Processes

2011 Florida WorkshopCheryl L. Wild, Rohit Ramaswamy, and David Anderson presented a session at ATP on how a certification or testing organization can continuously improve their processes. To see the power point for this session, click here.  If this presentation was of interest, there are three ways you can learn more about the concepts.

First, this session was based on Improving Testing. You may want to read what others have said about the book at LINK. Although books are useful learning tools, they do not easily allow for exchange of ideas and discussion.

The second option is to participating in Improving the Quality of Your Certification Program: A Learning and Planning Retreat and Follow-Up, a learning and planning retreat with three months of follow-up resulting in a Quality Plan – your plan will apply quality concepts to your program. [Read more…]

Improving the Quality of Your Certification Program: A Learning and Planning Experience

Many of you have asked me where to begin improving your certification program. My usual “it depends” answer is not very satisfying – for either of us.

Of course, I follow up my “it depends” response with lots of questions and we can come up with an improvement plan. However, this individual work with you comes at a price, and many professionals have told me they would like to learn more about quality tools and techniques before embarking on a round-the-world quality journey. [Read more…]

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