The Greatest Waste

The greatest waste in America is failure to use the ability of people.

Money and time spent for training will be ineffective unless inhibitors to good work are removed.

Page 53, Out of the Crisis by W. Edwards Deming

The power of Dr. Deming’s ideas on management increase the more deeply they are explored. Superficial overviews miss a great deal of the value of adopting Deming’s ideas.

The sentiment of failing to use the ability of people is not that uncommon. But putting the thought and effort behind changing that failure is. Dr. Deming consistently re-enforced the creation of a management system that sought to take advantage of the ability of people.

Quote image text: The greatest waste in America is failure to use the abilities of people.

Simplistic solutions don’t effectively deal with this problem. Providing training while leaving in place systems that counter the ability of people to contribute effectively is not the solution. “Open door” policies and “submission boxes” when in reality they are just dead ends is not the solution.

What is needed to take advantage of the ability of people is to create systems that:

    • respect people
    • provide joy in work (see how their work contributes to providing customer value)
    • allow those doing the work to improve the process for doing so (give people authority to make changes, along with the tools, training and support to make the right choices)
    • provide support (training, coaching, job instructions etc.)
    • put people in the position to succeed
    • avoid creating pressures that run counter to doing this (for example, setting up competing sub units within the organization – which will discourage efforts to help those in the organization that you are competing with)
    • support intrinsic motivation

Dr. Deming created a systems view of management. The longer you work at applying these ideas in your workplace the greater the understanding of how inter-connected the system of management is. Efforts to improve are often greatly limited by existing management practices. Attempts to change require changing existing management practices. Hoping to capture the benefits of all the great minds working in your organization without questioning many existing practices is likely to result in minimal improvement.

Related: Managing Our Way to Economic Success: Two Untapped Resources by William G. Hunter – Managing Human SystemsDr. Deming on Innovation

You may also like...

13 Responses

  1. John Dudek says:

    On page 95 in The New Economics, Deming speaks of the first step is transformation of the individual. Once transformed the individual will perceive new meaning to his life. I believe this speaks to the need of profound knowledge being fundamental to the thinking process of all to separate those competencies taught by our social systems [schools, politics, legal, and spiritual] which hold people back from attaining a life based on their ability to learn and make choices/decisions free of the influences of those systems. What has held you back from being the person you were born to be? Difficult to answer if someone else has made those decisions to serve their own belief of what is right for you.
    Profound knowledge would give you the clarity to be free of those wrongfully designed influences.

  1. November 19, 2012

    […] The Greatest Waste by John Hunter – “The sentiment of failing to use the ability of people is not that uncommon. But putting the thought and effort behind changing that failure is. Dr. Deming consistently re-inforced the creation of a management system that sought to take advantage of the ability of people.” […]

  2. June 13, 2013

    […] that do the opposite is damaging and all too common. We have written about this topic in the past, The Greatest Waste, and will continue to do so fairly often I would […]

  3. July 19, 2013

    […] Knowing How to Manage People Is the Single Most Important Part of Management – The greatest waste in America is failure to use the ability of people – We Need to Understand Variation to Manage Effectively – Appreciation for a […]

  4. January 13, 2014

    To me it was amazing what people could do when they had purpose, knowledge, and a small stake in the outcome. It was the greatest management experience in my life…

  5. April 22, 2014

    Other institutions can have such drastic consequences at times (hospitals and the military for example) but many other organizations have less dramatic consequences (failures in education may actually have consequences that are as dire but most of those are consequences that might be manifest years and decades later)…

  6. March 9, 2015

    […] employees with respect and creating systems that allow people to be engaged and contribute is critically important. Pixar has done that. What is important is creating management systems that support the such […]

  7. May 11, 2015

    […] sounds so easy on paper. But it requires that there is a strongly shared management vision, with respect for people, and that is not easy for most organization to pull off. It usually takes quite a while to build […]

  8. October 5, 2015

    […] at all. And the claim makes no sense when you look at how much emphasis he put on joy in work and the importance of using everyone’s creativity. Yet I hear it over and over, decade after […]

  9. November 19, 2015

    “We have to change the relationship between management and workers in many firms, to draw out the contributions that workers want to make to productivity problem.” Jerry Jasinowski

  10. December 7, 2015

    […] to enjoy his work.” At the Deming Institute, we believe in improving lives by restoring that joy in work and in […]

  11. September 1, 2016

    […] The greatest waste in America is failure to use the ability of people – The Intellectual Foundation of Modern Improvement (Our post, which includes the Don Berwick […]

  12. January 26, 2017

    […] do). Since the Deming management system includes educating everyone on useful management tools and using the abilities of everyone as much as possible most non-supervisors will have gained significant knowledge and experience during their career. In […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.