Andy Forbes is a current Adelaide MBA student and the IT Manager at Cavendish Superannuation. Andy is also the author of the blog MBANights.com and contributes a monthly post to the Adelaide MBA blog on general business issues and his MBA study. [Read all of Andy’s posts] Andy can be reached on his website and LinkedIn.
W E Demming was one of the many greats studied in Managing Contemporary Organisations. Famous for his work in Japan, he is one of the forefathers of the Toyota manufacturing method and lean engineering. His work was of particular interest to me because of the widespread adoption of lean manufacturing techniques in my trade of software development and because he championed quality, innovation and leadership at all levels of an organisation.
He believed companies should operate under a ‘total quality’ paradigm; that all management techniques should be evaluated by their effects on the pursuit of quality. That any practice deemed harmful to the continual improvement of quality should be removed from the workplace.
“Quality comes not from inspection but from improvement in the process” – Demming
Demming’s focus on ever improving quality lead him to question many established management practices. He believed in constant improvements, doing it right first time, statistical analysis (without quotas!) and treating staff more like willing volunteers or citizens. He was a vocal critic of incentive payments, numerical targets, workplace slogans and other forms of extrinsic motivators.
“Leadership is the job of management. It is the responsibility of management to discover the barriers that prevent workers from taking pride in what they do” – Demming
Demming refined his ideas into the ‘Demming 14 Point Management Method’ (1982):
- Create Consistency of Purpose for the Improvement of Product and Service
- Adopt the New Philosophy [Total Quality Focus]
- Cease Dependence on Mass Inspection
- End the Practice of Awarding Business on Price Tag Alone
- Improve Constantly and Forever the System of Production and Service
- Institute Training and Retraining
- Institute Leadership
- Drive out Fear
- Break Down Barriers Between Staff Areas
- Eliminate Slogans, Exhortations, and Targets for the Workforce
- Eliminate Numerical Quotas
- Remove Barriers to Pride of Workmanship
- Institute a Vigorous Program of Education and Retraining [not just with their current role in mind]
- Take Action to Accomplish Transformation
Many of Demming’s ideas appear to fly in the face of accepted management practices.
Demming, along with others studied in Managing Contemporary Organisations, such as Alfie Kohn and Donella Meadows, show that you don’t have to accept the status quo of management techniques. That anything and everything is worth questioning, considering and reflecting on. Importantly, for me, the work of people like Demming show that being an effective manager does not have to be about sticks and carrots, parent and child, command and control. There are other, more sustainable ways.
If you would like to read more on Demming, check out my extended blog post on MBA Nights – The Demming 14 Point Management Method.
[All quotes referenced from Walton, M (1986), The Demming management method, Perigee, New York, pp 55-95]