Dr. Deming’s “Role of a Manager of People”
Dr. W. Edwards Deming‘s last book was The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education. In Chapter 5, Deming writes, “Transformation in any organization will take place under a leader. It will not be spontaneous.” A leader “possesses knowledge, personality, and persuasive power.”
How does a leader accomplish transformation?
- The leader has a theory and “understands why the transformation would bring to his organization and to all the people that is organization deals with.”
- The leader “feels compelled to accomplish the transformation as an obligation to himself and to [the] organization.”
- The leader is practical, with “a plan, step by step, and can explain it in simple terms.”
Deming writes about the balance between head and heart, that the “head is not enough.”
The first point about understanding WHY is familiar to those who have read the Toyota Production System literature. Taiichi Ohno wrote that we must “Start from need,” which sounds like understanding the reason why change is needed. Shigeo Shingo wrote that “We have to grasp not only the Know-How but also ‘Know Why'”, if we want to master the Toyota Production System (TPS).”
I like how Deming emphasizes the understanding of benefits to ALL the “organization deals with.” This would include customers, employees, suppliers, the community – a similarly broad focus that Toyota takes in describing their “respect for people” principle.
In Chapter 6, Deming writes about the “role of a manager of people” in an organizational transformation effort. Forgive the gender-specific nouns… this is verbatim from Deming’s book.
- A manager understands and conveys to his people the meaning of a system. He explains the aim of the system. He teaches his people to understand how the work of the group supports these aims.
- He helps his people to see themselves as components in a system, to work in cooperation with preceding stages and with following stages through optimization of the efforts of all stages toward achievement of the aim.
- A manager of people understands that people are different from each other. He tries to create for everybody interest and challenge, and joy in work. He tries to optimize the family background, education, skills, hopes, and abilities of everyone.This is not ranking people. It is, instead, recognition of differences between people, and an attempt to put everybody in position for development.
- He is an unceasing learner. He encourages his people to study. He provides, when possible and feasible, seminars and courses for advancement of learning. He encourages continued education in college or university for people that are so inclined.
- He is coach and counsel, not a judge.
- He understands a stable system. He understands the interaction between people and the circumstances they work in. He understands that the performance of anyone that can learn a skill will come to a stable state – upon which further lessons will not bring improvement of performance. A manager of people knows that in this stable state it is distracting to tell the worker about a mistake.
- He has three sources of power:
- Authority of office
- Personality and persuasive power; tact
A successful manager of people develops Nos. 2 and 3; he does not rely on No. 1. He has nevertheless obligation to use No. 1, as this source of power enables him to change process – equipment, materials, methods – to bring improvement, such as to reduce variation in output. He in authority, but lacking knowledge or personality (No. 2 or 3) must depend on his formal power (No. 1). He unconsciously fills a void in his qualifications by making it clear to everybody that he is in a position of authority. His will be done.
- He will study results with the aim to improve his performance as a manager of people.
- He will try to discover who if anybody is outside the system, in need of special help. This can be accomplished with simple calculations, if there be individual figures on production or on failures. Special help might be only simple rearrangement of work. It might be more complicated. He in need of special help is not in the bottom 5 percent of the distribution of others; he is clean outside that distribution.
- He creates trust. He creates an environment that encourages freedom and innovation.
- He does not expect perfection.
- He listens and learns without passing judgment on him that he listens to.
- He will hold an informal, unhurried conversation with every one of his people at least once a year, not for judgment, merely to listen. The purpose would be development of understanding of his people, their aims, hopes and fears. The meeting will be spontaneous, not planned ahead.
- He understands the benefits of cooperation and the losses from competition between people and between groups.
Point #7 reminds me of the Toyota expressed, shared by Gary Convis, John Shook, and others that states “lead as if you have no authority.” This doesn’t mean completely giving away your authority… it means not relying on that formal authority.
Point #5 has also been taught to me as “be a coach, not a cop.”
Point #3 emphasizes the idea that people are not robots. We are complex individuals and effective leaders and managers realize that.
Point #4 reminds me of my friend Sami Bahri, DSS – author of the book Follow the Learner: The Role of a Leader in Creating a Lean Culture. It’s better to be a “learn it all” than a “know it all.”
Lots of great stuff here in Dr. Deming’s work.