A few people have emailed me about this and it's easier for me to comment here than it is to register for the IW forums. An interesting idea is posed by Brad Kenney: would Deming “endorse” Obama as the result of this quote?
“Does experience help? NO! Not if we are doing the wrong things.”
– W. Edwards Deming (consultant, statistician and educator, 1900-1993)
That's hardly an endorsement and it raises the question of whether Obama really has “new” ideas or old liberal ones. The Deming quote is certainly a paraphrase of what Obama is trying to say about Hillary Clinton, that she has “experience” and it was the wrong things.
Yes, things are broken in Washington DC, as the writer points out. My own position is that things are equally broken on BOTH sides of the political aisle. Kenney is trying to be clever in comparing government problems to business issues, but I think he misses the mark — badly.
The employees (us) aren't engaged, and the management (the three branches of government) range from hopelessly inept to criminally incompetent. Employee morale and “customer satisfaction” (approval ratings) are at an all time low (in the 20% range for both Bush and Congress). Our country is hopelessly in the red, and don't get me started on defect rates where legislation is concerned (Congress' first pass yield has got to be in the single digits).
Whoa whoa…. the American citizens, the public…. we're NOT “employees.” We do not work for the government. The government is supposed to work for us. “Customer satisfaction” is maybe a better analogy than “employee morale.”
Kenny equates political change to “pulling the andon cord.” Maybe that's not a bad analogy. But, I don't think Dr. Deming would want change for the sake of change or merely “fresh ideas.” I'll have to dig up some of his quotes from “The New Economics” for his thoughts on government, but I would suspect Deming would favor the PDCA process — try a change, measure the results, see how it works. Too many government programs never go through the Check and Act phases… we just “Do” and programs are stuck in place forever.
Deming wrote, on page 123 of The New Economics:
Transformation is required in government, industry, education. Management is in a stable state. Transformation is required to move out of the present state, not mere patchwork on the present style of management. We must of course solve problems and stamp out fires as they occur, but these activities do not change the process.
… there will be cooperation on problems of common interest between people, divisions, companies, competitors, governments, countries…. the function of government should be to work with business, not harass business.”
I quoted selectively and hopefully not out of context. You can read the whole page online at the Google Books page for the book (scroll to page 123).
If I had to guess Deming's views on the current election… he would be opposed to party divisions and the use of divisiveness to win votes. I'm guessing he would want a candidate with systemic solutions to broken government policies and systems, not just fire-fighting. I'm also guessing he would fall more along the Republican or Libertarian lines of not over-regulating or punishing business.
Too bad Dr. Deming isn't alive to be a third-party candidate, because I would have voted for him in a second. Heck, Dr. Deming had plenty of foreign policy experience with all of the countries he visited during his teaching and consulting!! Deming for President!
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