The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog

Comparing Lean Thinking and Dr. Deming’s Management Ideas

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Guest post by John Hunter, author of Management Matters: Building Enterprise Capability.

This webcast shows Sarah Pavelka’s presentation, Deming and Lean: The Disparities and Similarities, at the 2012 Annual Deming Conference. Sarah co-authored Tool Time for Lean with David Langford. In a previous post I wrote about this presentation which included a few selected clips from the presentation. Now we have added the full presentation to our YouTube channel:

When I go out to help folks I say “what drives you nuts?” What do you do that you would like to skip? Individuals are really good at creating band-aids to processes. If they don’t like the process they will create a workaround. I wasn’t to hear about those workarounds… They may not understand why [that thing they skipped] was important… Or have they learned it is not important.

This is one good tactic to use when introducing new management ideas. One important aspect of the initial effort is to get people to see the change as something positive, something that will make their life better in addition to improving value to customers. Taking care to pay attention to what they want changed both shows an understanding of psychology (“respect for people” in lean terms) and is likely to unearth some fairly easy improvements to start with.

This effort also can be an opportunity to improve communication and the understanding of the organization as a system. If there are some cases where the short-cuts did not just eliminate non-value added steps but eliminated steps that were important even though it wasn’t obvious to those doing the work (and choosing to skip those steps) giving people an understanding of why what they do matters makes a big difference to them.

Leaders must understand the system… if they go back to that flavor of the month they are going to struggle and they are definitely going to struggle with Deming or the lean concepts.

In this presentation Sarah discusses the difference between criticism of lean based on what is promoted by wise lean thinking leaders and criticisms of the poor implementations of lean. Often I see criticism of “lean” made by criticizing poor management that labels itself “lean” but does little that justifies such a claim. I don’t see much value in such criticisms. There is value in looking at what differences in emphasis, tactics and principles there are between Deming and lean efforts. In the previous post I discussed that idea in more detail.

Don’t shut the door on other continuous improvement philosophies.

I agree. I see plenty of those interested in Deming’s ideas that would improve their ability to manage with more appreciation for other management improvement efforts. I do believe that creating a management system based on Deming’s ideas is the best strategy to pursue. But that doesn’t mean there are not good management practices at organizations not following Dr. Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge that can be learned from by those interested in Deming’s ideas. W. Edwards Deming himself would certainly be learning what he could from others, as he showed through his behavior his entire life.

Related: Applying Deming’s Management Ideas at the Great Plains Coca Cola Bottling CompanyWhat’s Deming Got to Do With Agile Software Development and KanbanOne-Piece-Flow Projects Create the Best Conditions for True Creativity


Categorised as: management systems, psychology, video


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