The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog

Outdated Management Practices Don’t Die Off Easily

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The following quote was provided by Eric Budd

During the meeting, our division president asked Dr. Deming, “Is there hope for GM?”
Dr. Deming’s reply: “Sometimes you have to wait for people to die.

Eric Budd‘s comment

In attempting to understand why he might say something like this, I ran across this quote, ‘A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.’ (Max Planck, Nobel Prize winner, originator of the quantum theory, Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers). I presume that something along this lines is what Dr. Deming was communicating.

While the quote from Deming (and Max Planck) may seem pessimistic, they might actually be too optimistic. Even after leaders clinging to old ideas give way to new people the old ideas often stay. It makes sense that living in an organization clinging to old ideas for a couple decades can make it difficult to accept different ideas (even if they are decades old – such as those of McGregor, Deming, Ackoff, Joiner etc.).

Sadly it seems like GM has gone through several wholesale replacements of leadership over several decades and still finds itself with serious problems created by their management culture.

Luckily it is possible to encourage the acceptance and adoption of better management ideas. But it isn’t easy. And you can’t even rely on just letting those holding outdated ideas to leave, as that will often mean they are just replaced with new people with outdated ideas on management.

Related: Andrea Gabor on Management at Ford, GM and the USA Education SystemChange has to Start from the Top, Webcast with David LangfordW. Edwards Deming Quotes from Seminars and Consulting EngagementsBuilding a Better Management Culture in Your Organization


Categorised as: psychology


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