Using Deming’s Ideas Today to Promote Trust and Meaningful Work

Joshua Macht wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review (published in June) : The Management Thinker We Should Never Have Forgotten. In that article he explores the importance of Dr. Deming’s ideas today.

He quotes from the response W. Edwards Deming sent Peter Senge on his book, and which Senge included in his introduction to the Fifth Discipline:

Our prevailing system of management has destroyed our people. People are born with intrinsic motivation, self-respect, dignity, curiosity to learn, joy in learning. The forces of destruction begin with toddlers — a prize for the best Halloween costume, grades in school, gold stars — and on up through the university. On the job, people, teams, and divisions are ranked, reward for the top, punishment for the bottom. Management by objectives, quotas, incentive pay, business plans, put together separately, division by division, cause further loss, unknown and unknowable.

Joshua focuses on the importance of trust, which I see as part of understanding psychology and leading with a focus on creating systems that value people That Dr. Deming promoted.

The glue that seems to hold Deming’s framework together is the trust between manager and worker.

The trust between manager and worker is the bedrock upon which a healthy managerial relationship will be built. Deming’s thesis is worth recalling now, perhaps more than ever, because it’s precisely this trust that has eroded so precipitously since his passing.

For me trust is too narrow a vision but that may be an issue in my mind more than it is for others. But the value of managing human organization with an understanding of psychology and an aim to provide joy in work with respect for people is indeed core to Deming’s message.

That focus on building systems people can thrive in is why the ideas Deming expressed work so well in all organizations. His focus was on how to continual improve organizations made up of people. What those people did (medical care, software development, retail sales, manufacturing…) was not a limiting factor. The form Deming’s ideas would take in different settings is a bit different but the underlying principles are the same.

Related: The greatest waste in America is failure to use the ability of peopleThe Intellectual Foundation of Modern Improvement (Our post, which includes the Don Berwick presentation Joshua mentions in the article)
Build an Environment Where Intrinsic Motivation Flourishes

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1 Response

  1. Thanks for sharing this article. I will be sharing it within my organization. Deming has been forgotten by many, but I have this feeling he’s about to get rediscovered in the mainstream. More and more, it seems that Agile is going back to its roots talking more and more about Lean and TPS. I think the more these are studied, the more people are going to realize Deming’s huge impact on these principles. I hope I’m right.

    I’d also agree about trust being a problem. I find the issues in the organizations I have worked for often boil down to either a problem with trust or fear.

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