Dr. Deming’s Role of a People Manager


    I stumbled across these notes I had taken about 8 or 9 years ago based on a video lecture from Dr. Deming:

    W. Edwards Deming – The Role of a People Manager
    Lecture Notes 8/13/1990

    • A manager and his people understand the meaning of a system and how the work of his group may support these aims.
    • A manager works in cooperation with preceding and following stages toward optimization of the efforts of all stages.
    • She understands that all people are different from each other and tries to create for everybody interest, challenge, and joy in work. Improvement and innovation are her aim.
    • He acts as a role model and as an unceasing learner.
    • She is a coach and counsel, not a judge.
    • He understands a stable system, including what to do about mistakes and failures of people and how to help them.
    • She has three sources of power 1) Formal 2) Knowledge 3) Personality.
    • He will study results with the aim to improve his work.
    • Another aim is to learn whom, if anybody, is outside the system, and in need of special help.
    • He creates trust. This takes time. Give your word and follow up on it.
    • She does not expect perfection.
    • He listens and learns without passing judgment.
    • She understands the benefits of cooperation and the losses from competition between people and between groups.

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    Mark Graban
    Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


    1. “She does not expect perfection”

      Quite: that’s why we act on the system (e.g. through error-proofing) to reduce defects to zero. We don’t place undue pressure on our team members to reach unrealistic levels of personal perfection.

      I can’t help thinking some managers haven’t grasped the distinction (yet).


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