A Word for Hectic Lives

Posted by Harry Hertz, the Baldrige Cheermudgeon

I recently returned from the ASQ World Conference in Milwaukee, WI. After going through security in Terminal C at the Milwaukee Airport, there was an area (as is typical) for putting shoes back on, and reassembling belongings and yourself. What was different this time, was a sign hanging over this area that read: Recombobulation Area. The meaning was clear and the result was a smile, a chuckle, and the immediate easing of the stress that accompanies the 20160517_104205challenges of travel and needed airport security. When I returned home, I googled recombobulation. The first thing I learned was that the word is defined in the Urban Dictionary, as follows: 1. Something being put back the way it was, or into proper working order.  No surprise there. Next, I learned from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the sign was created in the airport maintenance shop in 2008 as a way of alleviating stress on airport personnel and travelers.

What caught me somewhat off guard was the Urban Dictionary’s second definition of recombobulation: 2. Gathering one’s thoughts or composure. Sure, why not have this meaning also. It caused me to think.

I am not proposing the addition of recombobulation to the Baldrige glossary of key terms or the Baldrige Excellence Framework. I am suggesting that we all establish a real or virtual recombobulation space in our workplace (and maybe our homes). Why might this be worthwhile?

  • It may allow decompression after a tough commute to work and before interacting with colleagues or customers.
  • After a stressful meeting, it can allow a calming period.
  • It could prevent a stressful colleague or customer interaction from affecting the next interaction.
  • Meetings could start with an intentional minute of recombobulation time to gather thoughts rather than diving right in to content.
  • It is a great segue into some thinking and reflection time.
  • Just seeing the image of the word in our minds may cause a smile and change of attitude from negative to positive.
  • It should encourage a mindset of operational excellence and win-win outcomes.

Thank you Milwaukee, for a great ASQ conference and insight into a simple mode of attitude adjustment! How might you and your organization effectively use recombobulation space and time?


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12 Responses to A Word for Hectic Lives

  1. Debbie Kosarek says:

    Priceless. And absolutely spot on.
    Thank you, Harry!

  2. Larry Flakne says:

    Hi, Harry. Thanks for sharing your thoughts that have already helped me recombobulate a little.

  3. Glenn Hamamura says:


    Congratulations on your ASQ Distinguished Service Medal award at the WCQI in Milwaukee.

  4. paul pasternak says:

    good idea. rethinking workplace break rooms and employee fitness is more common place today than 25 years ago,not a bad thing

  5. J.D. Leza says:

    Does this mean I have time to put the groceries away before my kids ask tell me what happened and my husband expects attention? Great picture and cheerful return from holiday thx!

  6. Ciro Alberto Sanchez says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts; it is very interesting: Recombobulate me and all others, not only at work.

  7. Jaggu Jagannathan says:

    Excellent idea. As usual you are insightful and drive a lot of good sense with humor.

  8. Barry Johnson says:

    You were in Milwaukee. “Recombobulation” could just be an add for a polka band.

    Also “Recombobulation” could be the real meaning for the “R” in NERD

    • Harry “The Baldrige Cheermudgeon” says:

      It could indeed be the “R” in our NERD acronym for feedback writing…Nugget, Example, Recombobulation, Done! Our applicants would certainly appreciate a concise recombobulation of the importance of the comment! Or does it relate to the two “R’s” in Barry and Harry?

  9. Genie Dillon says:

    Harry — Loved your article – good food for thought!
    If this catches on — I can see all types of applications and variations of using it to make a positive difference, to refocus, and to be able to move forward – then, all will be happy and recombobulated! Thanks!

  10. Leslie Garcia says:

    Does anyone know where I could find the complete article?


  11. Cruz Sedillo says:

    Thank you! What a wonderful thought! An opportunity to re-frame one’s thinking before going into the weeklyht staff meeting and making something productive come out of it…..Might event become contagiouis and spread the infections of balance and perspective.

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