Where There is Fear You Do Not Get Honest Figuresby John Hunter
Fear invites wrong figures. Bearers of bad news fare badly. To keep his job, anyone may present to his boss only good news.
Using data to make decisions is important to effective management. But using data goes far beyond math. To make judgements we need to understand the source of data. We need to understand the potential weaknesses in the data. We need to understand how to apply statistical thinking to make decisions using the data.
The data gathered are a result of the system. If the system creates fear among employees the chances of tainted data increases. Another way Deming stated this is where there is fear you do not get honest figures. If the system creates incentives to have the data look good to get promotions or bonuses or credit the chances of tainted data increases. If the system doesn’t use good operational definitions to define how to collect the data the chances of tainted data increases. If those looking at the data don’t deeply understand the processes from which the data are meant to measure (they don’t understand the gemba) the chances of tainted data being used increase.
And all these factors, and more, work together. Weaknesses in any increase the impact of weaknesses in the other areas. The problems fear creates result in bad data, ineffective decision making and the destruction of joy in work.
For these reasons Dr. Deming included as one of his 14 points for management:
Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company
To improve results management needs to focus on improving the system. Blaming people for problems will increase fear and decrease honest data on the current results. If you find your organization consistently finding the reason for bad results was a person or people failing that is a sign you are likely to have fear based thinking and figures that are not trustworthy. The significant interactions between the various aspects of Deming’s management ideas are clear when you examine one simple quote.