The 1998 film “The Big Lebowski” is a cult classic for a variety of reasons but largely due to actor Jeff Bridges’ portrayal of its main character. It’s also beloved by fans for its laugh-out-loud dialogue that is considered some of the wittiest and and oft-quoted lines in cinematic history. You wouldn’t think that such a picture could have an apt tie-in with the topic of quality management. But somehow the movie pulls off even that feat, offering some fun and memorable tips to share around the company watercooler.
The film is about Jeffrey “the Dude” Lebowski, an unemployed stoner who loves bowling, and his mix-up with an old rich man who shares his name. Played to perfection by Bridges, the Dude is plunged into a misadventure after some baddies who mistake him for his namesake take the rug in his living room and manhandle him. The rest of the movie is about the Dude’s quest to take his rug — and his peace of mind — back. Along the way, he meets the real “Big Lebowski” (his rich namesake); he serves as the middleman in paying the ransom for the old man’s young wife; and he even romances the man’s estranged daughter, Maude.
Quirky and filled with profanity, the movie was a flop when it came out, but it has grown increasingly popular over the years. Written and directed by the brilliant Coen Brothers (Joel and Ethan), the movie has inspired many books and “dress as your favorite character” festivals. For many cinephiles, “The Big Lebowski” is a true diamond in the rough when it comes to comedy filmmaking.
I rounded up five quotes that carry a lot of truth in life and in quality management.
#1 "The Dude abides.”
If you’re a quality professional, the Dude is your opposite. He doesn’t care about … well, almost anything, while you care about a million details that affect your organization’s regulatory compliance. Through a different lens, Lebowski’s Zen-like demeanor in the face of adversity is something we can all embrace. Whatever, man, the Dude abides. In life and in quality, follow the rules, or at least go with the flow.
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#2 “The rug really tied the room together.”
Being a quality professional requires focussing on the end goal in the same way His Dudeness sticks to his mission of getting back his rug. You will have distractions coming from all directions on a daily basis, but keep in mind your overall goal of maintaining high-quality standards. As the Dude’s friends, Walter and Donny, remind him, “The rug really tied the room together,” so he must get it back.
#3 “Just take it easy, man.”
The Duderino can’t pay his rent. He has no job. So what? No need to stress out. How can you be Dude-like when you’re responsible for quality and compliance? If your company is still using a manual or partially automatic quality management system, a big step toward reducing your team’s stress is to switch to a fully automated system. Then, you can just take it easy, man.
#4 “The royal we.”
When the Dude delivers the ransom money to the bad guys, his buddy Walter goes with him. Walter may not be the best team member around, but he means well and he supports his friend. In quality and compliance, you can’t do it alone. Quality should be everyone’s responsibility. Enlist your organization’s support. Consider the different departments part of the team — or what the Dude calls “the royal we.”
#5 “Let’s go bowling!”
The Dude faces one challenge after another. His car is stolen, his friend Donny dies, and he still doesn’t get his rug back. Everything is a mess. But when all else fails, the Dude can always turn to bowling.
Maintaining quality for the purpose of compliance is the kind of challenge that will blow the Dude’s mind, but you can bet that he’ll remain cool. If you find yourself overwhelmed by unresolved CAPAs, incomplete training tasks, and an upcoming audit, just stay calm. When all else fails, do as Walter exhorts the Dude, “Let’s go bowling!” In other words, do something that will help restore your composure — take a walk, listen to music, or meditate — so you can get back to the challenges at hand with a sharp mind.
If you haven’t seen “The Big Lebowski,” watch it for some good laughs, and yes, some unexpected lessons on quality.
This article is a revision of a highly popular blog post by Cindy Fazzi previously published in GxP Lifeline.
Mike Rigert is a content marketing specialist at MasterControl's headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah. He has nearly a decade and a half of experience creating journalism and marketing content for the tech industry, news media, and higher education. Rigert holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from Brigham Young University.