I was fortunate to be exposed to the writings of W. Edwards Deming before I even learned about Lean. While I sometimes get tired of reading new books on Lean and Toyota, I never tire of revisiting books by or videos featuring Dr. Deming. A few years back, I again re-read big chunks of “Out of the Crisis” and blogged about it here and here.
There's a timeless wisdom in what he said – and we're reminded of his work when exposed to people like my podcast guests Alfie Kohn, Dan Pink, Mike Micklewright, Samuel Culbert, Clare Crawford-Mason, Mike Stoecklein, and John Hunter.
We get to revisit Deming's wisdom in the recently published book “The Essential Deming: Leadership Principles from the Father of Quality.”
The book was compiled from a number of letters, papers, and speeches that Dr. Deming gave throughout his career, so it's mainly his own words, not somebody's interpretation of what he said and wrote.
I took a number of screenshots of some key passages and shared them via Twitter… collected on this “Storify” page, linked and embedded below. What are your favorite quotes? What flies in the face of today's conventional wisdom in the worlds of “lean management” or “traditional management?”
You can also read public highlights from Kindle readers including my own. The book was researched and edited by Professor Joyce Orsini and Kevin Cahill (Deming's grandson), who add some parenthetical context to Deming's words. Read about and listen to a podcast that my friend Joe Dager did with Orsini and Cahill.
In this article he states that if companies try to start their improvement efforts with QC-Circles, it will delay improvement… Moreover, little contribution from QC-Circles is possible except where the management is ready to act on recommendations of a Circle. The fact is that, in America, management is not ready… QC-Circles are the last step, not the first step, in improvement of quality and productivity… The first step is therefore good management. QC-Circles will follow naturally after good management is established.
Deming was right that staff involvement in improvement is pretty meaningless if management is not ready (if they are not willing to listen, to participate, to honor their employees, etc.). Read this recent blog comment about an organization that wasn't ready for Kaizen.
A core theme of Deming's was that senior leaders own the system… if the system is incapable of meeting customer and market needs, then having front-line staff just tweaking that process might be a form of “tampering” with a system. That's something to think and reflect more about. We often need radical system redesign to create stability and to move the mean performance of the system (this can be done through “kaizen events” or other systematic process redesign efforts) — then Kaizen is helpful. ThedaCare and Virginia Mason are two examples of organizations that have combined radical redesign with daily continuous improvement – and the same is true at my co-author's organization in Indianapolis (see pages 50-51 of our book for an example – or see this journal article of ours). The leaders are these organizations have proved theiy are ready and then some.
Disclosure: I was given a free copy of the book by the publisher, but I bought the Kindle version to travel with.
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