In this episode of the Deming Podcast (download), Steven Haedrich, President of New York Label & Box Works, talks about the Deming journey at the company. Steven also talks about the relevance of the Deming teachings today and the keys to long-term success using the Deming method.
Another aspect the Red Bead Experiment can’t replicate is the long term impact of working in a system that frustrates your desire to do great work. The importance of what happens to people in such a situation is under appreciated. I believe people want to do a good job (I believe in theory y not theory x – also known as carrot and stick management).
But I understand that people have to protect themselves from deep disappointment. And when they have worked in management systems that crush joy in work for years people protect themselves from disappointment.
When trying to reengage people’s innate desire to take pride in their work there is often a need to transform their expectations. Many have had to repress their desire to do great work and seek extrinsic motivation (through awards, money, etc.). They have to gain trust that they can seek to take pride in their work without the near certainty they will disappoint themselves due to institutional barriers that don’t allow them to do so. Barriers that don’t let them fix problems, that don’t let them learn practices that allow them to succeed with improvement efforts, etc..
This is often not an easy process. And it provides an easy out for those looking to show there is no hope to improve. Half-hearted attempts to change will fail to get over this barrier – people will not open to try and improve when they have years and decades of experience showing those that seek to take pride in their work open themselves up to heartbreak in going against the prevailing culture of the organization.
Hard work will not ensure quality. Best efforts will not ensure quality, and neither will gadgets, computers or investment in machinery. A necessary ingredient for improvement of quality is the application of profound knowledge. There is no substitute for knowledge. Knowledge we have in abundance. We must learn to use it.
There is no simple answer to learning how to apply knowledge effectively. The entire scope of Deming’s work addresses that question. The seminars, books and videos aimed to show people the problems with the existing management practices and explaining what to do in order to achieve the best results. The individual items he brings up in the excerpt are addressed in posts in this blog (just search for them to read more, or add a comment on any you have questions or thoughts about).
She recounts Roger Smith’s attempts to use a huge investment in robots to avoid the hassle of dealing with union workers. Of course this is not the mindset of a Deming company would take. Deming saw the people of the company as an enormous resource.
The supposition is prevalent the world over that there would be no problems in production or service if only our production workers would do their jobs in the way that they were taught. Pleasant dreams. The workers are handicapped by the system, and the system belongs to the management.
Knowledge of what Deming taught provides an understanding that an individual’s contributions are the result of an interaction of their effort with the existing system. Attributing results to an individual is not sensible (see the Red Bead Experiment for one example showing the flaw in such thinking).
Within an organization managed using the principles Dr. Deming proposed people are expected to think, their job is not merely to do what they are told. The system must be designed so that everyone is able to contribute their thoughts.
The way most organizations are run, even today, those doing the work have limited ability to improve the system. In some organization this situation is better than others. Even in organizations where things are fairly good at the process level: where those close to the process can make decisions, often larger systems are still out of their control.
Those trying to improve the system often can’t change supplier (purchasing) system to deal with continual problems caused by switching between low initial cost suppliers. They often can’t get rid of the annual performance appraisal process and all the problems that causes to the management system. They often can’t change the bonus system that rewards certain behaviors that are almost always short term and focus on sub-optimizing parts of the system at the expense of the overall system. They can’t ensure the senior management and executives are getting adequate training and education to learn how to manage more effectively. And on and on…
Executives need a higher level understanding of the complex interactions of the management system, policies, investment decisions, market… on the organization. Customer service representatives in a call center have the need to understand the organization as a system in a different way. But everyone needs to be educated on how to understand and continually improve the organization.
Response to a question on the Deming Institute LinkedIn group: let’s say Dr. Deming wanted to sit down with his boss to negotiate a compensation increase. What grounds would he use to justify the request?
I believe he would explain how the value he brought to the system was worth a raise.
For example, a likely scenarios might be that I learned and applied new skills (say learning the awesome Ruby programing language) and have used that skill to provide more value to the company (than, for example, when I had to use a less awesome language).
the market rate for each job (how much to pay to replace you) + accumulation of skills (can do more than others, a different job) + seniority (connections, street smart) this is the main determinant in Japanese companies + prosperity of the company (gain sharing, distribution).
So providing evidence that in the market my skill as for example an software development program manager have been rewarded with increases in pay and I should therefore also get that increased pay also would be a reasonable argument for increased pay.
An increase in the scope of work would also be a reasonable argument for increased pay. If I have taken on a additional role in the company to coach others in their efforts to mistake proof processes and apply the PDSA cycle if doing so was beyond the scope of responsibility that was used to set my pay I believe that would also be a reasonable justification for an increase in pay.
If pay had been held down in the past due to financial conditions at the company and now financial performance had improved that may also justify increasing pay though that idea would likely be something management should do across the board. But perhaps they need a bit of prodding to remind them that such an idea has merit now.
W. Edwards Deming is remembered for many things; one of those touchstones was the Deming 4-day seminar. Those 4-day seminars changed the lives of many people. And many of those people went on to change their organizations and the lives of those working there.
Fred Warmbier, owner of Finishing Technology (based outside of Cincinnati, Ohio, USA), and Kelly Allan are writing a blog on the New York Times exploring how Deming’s management ideas are put into practice at Finishing Technology.
A comment Fred posted to the blog (The New York Times choses to have urls not show the comment for that url, so I can’t provide a url that works):
From our initial thoughts of doing the blog, Kelly and I have had the aim to share my discoveries about managing with others. The teachings of Deming and others are a foundation for those discoveries. And, I, for one, want to get better at running a business. It’s good for me, the business, employees, and our customers.
I think many people will find it interesting to follow the journey and watch the challenges and successes one company experiences in applying Deming’s management ideas.
The W. Edwards Deming Institute is seeking research papers from diverse perspectives, businesses, organizations and industries that provide examples of Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s theories applied in the present day, or papers linking Dr. Deming’s work to that of other great thinkers.
Research papers must be original works. Please submit your abstract of 200 words or less electronically to The Deming Institute at firstname.lastname@example.org by 3 November, 2014. Selected speakers will be notified by November 17th and invited to present their papers in a session at the Seminar in March 2015. Research papers will be due on 12 January 2015.
The Research Seminar brings together people from around the world, and from a variety of businesses and industries, to extend and illustrate Dr. Deming’s theories.
Join us to hear innovative new approaches and directions being tested by others to enhance operations, build trust, foster leadership, promote commerce, create ethical business cultures, and sustain success. Enjoy dialogue stirred by new thinking, and informal networking with Deming practitioners and leaders in the Deming community.
In discussing his experience at HP applying Deming’s management ideas his talked about the value of expanding the scope of those tasked with exploring customer issues, Dan noted:
Designers interacting with customers would give them new insights for products in the future
We really don’t take advantage of the energy, innovation and creativity available in the workforce… there are indications that that thinking is changing but Deming brought that thinking to us a long time ago and it has taken a long time to get the little bit farther we are [in using the full capabilities of all employees].
I agree with comments by Dan that the advice in Deming’s Profound Changes is just as valuable today as when it was published in 1993. The practice of management has improved some, but not a huge amount. The ideas in the book have not been overturned by changes since it was published. Manager’s need to learn and apply those ideas today, just as they did in 1993.