The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog

Mobility of Management

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Mobility of management, job hopping was one of the practices Dr. Deming included in his list of 7 Deadly Diseases.

To understand why we can look at the underpinnings of Deming’s management system. Two of the four elements that comprise the management system play a big role in why the rapid movement of managers and executives from one job to the next is a deadly disease in so many organization still today.

The result of moving leaders quickly through the organization encourages behavior that damages the organization. It puts a focus on making a case for why the manager should be seen as very successful in their short term assignment in order to gain another quick promotion. This leads to focusing the organization more on short term thinking. It results in focusing resources on finding metrics to make the case for why the manager deserves credit (versus using metrics to improve the system).

There are many problems created by quick management turnover related that can be understood by looking at what actions are going to be encouraged with an understanding of psychology. What problems, in this vein, have you seen in your career?

Also the ability to understand the organization as a system is greatly hampered by quick stops in jobs before moving on to the next one. The practice results in a superficial understanding of the organization by those tasked with leading it.

Quick turnover often leads to an over-reliance on measures which are even at the best only somewhat illuminating (and often using the available metrics to judge is like trying to see clearly thorough a pair of glasses that cloud your vision rather than enhance it). Without a good understanding of a system it is easy to rely on measures that offer an overly simplistic understanding of the conditions in the organization. Often this is even encouraged (for several reasons including rapid management turnover), as it is fairly easy to manipulate data (or the system) to claim success – much easier than actually improving the long term health of the organization.

With a deeper understanding of the business, an understanding of the gemba for the work, the overly simplistic data is not as likely to mislead (managers understand the complexity beyond the numbers).

When a manager is quickly moving from job to job their interest and ability in the long term success of the people and processes they currently are working with is reduced. The ability to forge deep connections with other employees is damaged by frequent job hopping.

What problems have you experienced due to the deadly disease of the mobility of management?

Related: The Greatest WasteAlternatives to Rank-and-Yank in Evaluating PeopleBattling Deming’s Fourth DiseasePerformance Beyond the Short Term


Categorised as: Dr. Deming, psychology, systems thinking


2 Comments

  1. Mike Stoecklein says:

    One consequence of not understanding the problem of “mobility of management” affects “constancy of purpose” in an organization. One way to think about this is Patrick Lencioni’s model for the “5 dysfunctions of a team”. He uses a pyramid to describe the major functions (and dysfunctions). At the base is – building trust, and then works up through, willingness to engage in conflict, commitment (to each other and to goals), accountability (to each other) and then “results”.

    When there is mobility of management, the leadership team is always going back to the foundation “building trust”, and that takes time and hard work.

  2. Since executives have the most authority, they have enormous influence on the organization. If executives don’t learn to understand variation, continually improve using the PDSA cycle, appreciate the interactions within a management system, etc. they will stymie efforts to improve the management system…

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