How do we apply Deming’s profound knowledge vis a vis our Congress?

6 08 2011

Extreme Politics with Communication, Collaboration and Commerce at the Speed of Light

A reader of my blog writes:

“Since the elected officials do not share the same goals or theories of knowledge they do not act like cooperating players in a system with a common vision or goal. Instead they behave as adversarial players trying to get the best deal for themselves and their patrons (or sponsors who lobby for their causes) at the expense of others. Current shared goal among all the players seems to be convincing the voters that their side is right, so that they can impose their views on all voters.  How do we apply Deming’s profound knowledge vis-a-vis our Congress?”

A good question.

Deming’s approach is based on developing a consensus based on facts supported by measurements.  The first step in a collective consensus building approach is to show respect to each other.  Do not blame people.  Blame the process.  This is a learned skill.  This has to be accepted and observed and when people violate this rule, they should be called out and reminded to observe respect toward each other.  Without this acceptance, there will be no meaningful dialogue except noise.  If a Vice President of the country calls (or condones when others do it in his presence!) other members of congress terrorists, he is not showing respect.  If a member of congress questions the patriotism of the President, it is not showing respect.  Showing respect and cultivating the ability to argue one’s point of view to convince the other is a learned skill.  Old tricks of political demogaugory no longer work in the age of communication at the speed of light.  Politicians will be immediately exposed in 24X7 multi-media in living color.  Our corporate leaders went through the same transformation from being disrespectful noisy authoritative self-centered managers to becoming consensus building visionaries developing common goals and mission with Deming’s approach.
When Deming arrived at Ford, the management at Ford resembled today’s U S Congress and the Executive Branch – highly polarized, bickering, undermining each other’s efforts and totally ignoring what their customers were saying [1]. To Ford management’s surprise, Deming did not focus on quality but scolded the management for being mainly responsible for 85% of the problems in developing better cars. Before Deming, Ford management paid only a lip service to quality [1]. The incentives and appraisal systems, which were intended to motivate people to do a good job, were cost-oriented, not quality oriented. As a consequence, people who wanted to be successful had no reason to collaborate across divisions and focus on end-to-end process and product quality. At the top levels, the bickering, back-biting and self-promotion were so prevalent that they had to bring in a facilitator to mediate at management meetings and to bring focus back to issues on hand. Deming’s success at Ford is well documented [2, 3] in the literature and “the system of profound knowledge” describing the fourteen key principles for management and the “Seven Deadly Diseases” which must be addressed by the management are well articulated in Deming’s book [4]. There is no shortcut to developing leadership skills.  Education, training and experience are essential to polish our leaders.  Perhaps every elected official should undergo a three-month education on Deming’s profound knowledge before they take the oath to serve the people who have trusted them to do the right thing.

It is important to remember that when the resources are abundant, some waste in the system is tolerated but in a competitive world where communication, collaboration and commerce are conducted at the speed of light, resources become scarce, and waste is not tolerated by the system.  It behooves the leaders of this great nation to focus on competing with the rest of the world instead of fighting with each other on their ideologies that are only marginally different.  A majority of citizens probably favor fiscal conservatism and social liberalism.  If one cancels the noise from the left and the right, the majority agrees that we should first cut waste, live within our means, then reform the tax system to make it fair, and provide a social net.  If leaders do not listen to their customers (in this case the citizens), they will vote them out.  A leader’s reponsibility is to develop consensus with a vision for the future.  It is not to expoit fear to cause a riot to promote their views!

One easy way to fix the current stalemate of extreme liberalism and extreme conservatism is to elect republicans who will promise to reform tax code to be fair and elect democrats who want to cut spending.

Democracy  (Aristotle classifies democracy as a deviant constitution (albeit the best of a bad lot),) works well when everyone pitches-in toward a common purpose and the leadership role is to define and develop a common purpose based on consensus and will of the people.


[1] Deming, Systems Thinking, Organizational DNA and Putting America First – Part I

[2] Mary Walton, and W. Edwards Deming, “The Deming Management Method”, The Berkeley Publishing Group, New York, NY

[3] Womack, James P., Jones Daniel T, and Roos Daniel, “The Machine That Changed The World”, Free Press, 1990

[4] Deming, W. Edwards, “Out of the Crisis”. MIT Press, 1986.




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