An example of a system, well optimized, is a good orchestra. The players are not there to play solos as prima donnas, each one trying to catch the ear of the listener. They are there to support each other. Individually they need not be the best players in the country….An orchestra is judged by listeners, not so much by illustrious players, but by the way they work together. – W. Edwards Deming.
W. Edwards Deming was a moral philosopher, prophet, and sage with profound insights into the management of organizations and the art of leadership and living. He also was a composer of liturgical music, a singer, and musician. He often used analogies such as this one to express his views about the benefits of managing an organization as a whole‑system and not as a collection of separate parts. Appreciation for a system is a key component of his System of Profound Knowledge.
Max DePree, the former Chairman of Herman Miller, Inc., in his book, Leadership Jazz, described the concepts that guided him in his leadership role of orchestrating human expression. The job of a leader is to enable collaboration and the harmony that comes from the quality relationships among unique individuals. Sweet music can emanate from diverse and productive groups of people.
The musician Joshua Redman said, “Music isn’t just the notes that you play. Music is a set of relationships.” Deming applied this principle when he observed that if you listen to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of London and an amateur orchestra, there is a difference, even if the amateur orchestra does not make a mistake. Deming’s point was that even if the producer meets specifications it doesn’t guarantee a quality experience for the customer. The professional orchestra and the amateur orchestra each meet specifications, but listen to the difference.
John Hunter has led the blogging efforts of The Deming Institute, including our first post on October 1, 2012, followed by biweekly posts ever since. As we transition the role of hosting our blogs from John to Bill Bellows, our Deputy Director, we are grateful that John will continue to serve as a guest blogger, continuing to contribute his remarkable appreciation of The Deming System of Profound Knowledge™.
In his first post, John dedicated himself to “trying to explore Deming’s ideas through his work and through the application of his ideas in organizations.” John added, “In doing so, my opinions will influence what I write. My goal is to stay true to his ideas and thoughts while also seeing how those ideas have been applied, interpreted and extended by others.”
At this time of transition, we would like to honor John’s steadfast commitment to both The Deming Institute and our worldwide community of students and practitioners of Dr. Deming’s philosophy. For 4+ years, John has created a steady stream of blogs that serve our aim of fostering an ever expanding appreciation of the distinctiveness and broad applicability of the Deming Management Method.
Looking ahead, Bill will collaborate with John and a community of guest bloggers, as well as offer his own insightful contributions to our blog site.
As always, we welcome feedback on our posts, as well as suggestions for topics of exploration.
The W. Edwards Deming Institute®
W. Edwards Deming gives the example of using a loss leader to optimize the overall performance. The business losses money on the component with the intention of optimizing the performance of the entire enterprise.
There are many online resources for those looking to improve the practice of management in their organization in a way consistent with Dr. Deming’s management system. The W. Edwards Deming Institute maintains several online resources:
Professor Ravi Roy, Director of the W. Edwards Deming Incubator for Public Affairs at Southern Utah University spoke at the Deming Management in Public Administration Conference earlier this year on Public Administration: Past, Present, and Future.
Systemic transformations are rooted in a profound shift in shared mental models.
Ravi Roy discusses the importance of trust in building an effective organization:
leadership creating relationships, building trust.
And Ravi discusses how important Deming’s integrated System of Profound Knowledge is to build trust and thus build organizations capable of transforming to adopt better management practices. As those familiar with Deming’s ideas know, psychology is one of the 4 elements making up the system of profound knowledge.
Those organizations that can delight customers today and take the steps today that position the organization to delight customers in the future will prosper and grow. But building and maintaining a management culture that reinforces delighting customers and long term thinking is quite difficult.
I have trouble finding businesses that are focused on delighting customers. It is easy to understand the results I see from the businesses I interact with coming from a company with a short term focus on spreadsheets, without respect for customers or employees and without an appreciation for the organization as a system.
There are many reasons I support and wish to see the wider adoption of Deming’s ideas. And one of those is purely the purely selfish desire of wishing to cast aside the businesses that I must deal with that don’t succeed (or even try) to delight customers.
If I can just do business with an alternate company that is fine with me. Unfortunately companies that reliably delight customers are so rare that often I can find no alternatives for a given need that I have.
My life would be better if I could replace companies that force me to put up with the results of their poor management system with companies practicing Deming’s ideas. For that reason, and others, I hope that those that have been following this blog over the years are successful in transforming their organizations to adopt the management practices Deming promoted.
And Sharon states the data available can be used to understand the system but the data is very weak for evaluating individual teachers. However school systems throughout the country as using the data in order to evaluate individual teachers.
I really enjoyed this presentation and the questions and answers at the end. I imagine quite a few of our blog readers won’t be as interested in the first half of the presentation (it is a very focused on some statistical details). If that is the case for you, I suggest moving forward to middle and watching it from there.
There are quotes you can pick to make it seem like executives are responsible for the system and individuals workers have little impact on overall results – “A bad system will beat a good person every time.” This shows the limitation of isolated quotes more than anything else.
Complex systems have many leverage points and can be influenced in many ways. It is unreasonable to have a broken management system and blame those working within it for the naturally poor results than such a system creates. And executives have more authority and thus more responsibility for creating a good management system that is continually improving. But such a management system requires that everyone in the organization is contributing.
Those with authority must modify the management system to allow everyone to contribute. But that doesn’t mean everyone else just sits by waiting for those with more authority to transform the organization. Transformation doesn’t work that way. It is a dynamic, interconnected process. It isn’t as simple as turning on a light (or declaring this is our new transformed management system).
He returns to the Deming Institute podcast again (download) and he shares his approach for using innovation or leadership to improve management practices.
Doug talks about command and control management being too slow for businesses given the competitive markets today. Which is exactly what people have been saying since, at least the 1980s.
The challenge is how to get organizations to adopt better management practices. Doug proposes getting “wins” and building momentum for change. Doug states that finding “new markets” for products and services are probably the biggest example of “wins” his company helps their clients with.
Doug finds the attitude of executives that prevents adopting a better management system is that of focusing on cost cutting. He finds that mindset common and almost impossible to turn around.
Some of the methods that have worked for Doug in convincing those who are looking to improvement management:
Reframing what managers should focus on from controlling to enabling.
Asking “what is the thing you are most worried about?” Lets try to work on that.
That quote is from The New Economics, published in 1993. Still today many companies would benefit greatly from adopting this thinking. So often companies fail to focus on the needs of customers. So often companies focus on the short term to the detriment of long term success.
We would all be better off if more companies would focus on the needs of their customers and how to continual improve their products and services to meet those needs.
This requires planning ahead. A company must have the foresight to know when incremental improvement will not meet their customers needs in the future. And then the company must use their knowledge of customer needs and the possibilities to innovate.
One of the challenges is that the implications of his quote naturally fit into an organization with a management system built with an appreciation of Deming’s ideas but often run into challenges in other organizations. If short term budgets dominate it is difficult to invest in the long term. If performance appraisals punish and reward people for results on short term targets it isn’t sensible to expect people to focus on the long term needs of the customers or the organization.
It is a challenge to anticipate the future needs of customers and plan for meeting them even with a Deming based management system. It is much more difficult with a management system that is not focused on continual improvement, viewing the organization as a system, delighting customers, long term thinking and respect for people.