November 23, 2008

Deming and the learning organisation

One thing you notice about Deming is that his style of writing is very different. Sometimes he would write a short sentence that would just turn what you used to believe up side down. I would like to share my thoughts on one of Deming's greatest contribution to management thinking ('greatest' according to Delavigne 1994 ...)

"Every system has variation: hence, the information needed to create optimum systems is unknown and unknowable." (Deming's quote adapted from Delavigne 1994; pp47)

When we read something as abstract as that, it is worthwhile thinking about what it means exactly...

Why is it unknown?

Because all systems contains variation, no matter how sophisticated the system is, sources of variation will always exist and that prevent us from producing an outcome that is exactly identical with the last outcome.

(Hmm... fair comment? maybe for actions controlled by man we can expect significant amount of variation. But with learning and practice this variation can be reduced significantly. Further the advances in machinery and automation has given much greater precision to production process and outcome which makes this comment less convincing then it was before recent technological advances took place)

So all we can possibly do, in a system under statistical control, is to change the system somehow so the range of variationis reduced, albeit never truyly eliminated.

Why is it unknowable?

The optimum system is a goal by which we gear all our effort to achieve. We do not know how to get there nor do we know it when we get there. All we essentially know, is that we need to constantly improve our system if we want to become closer to this goal.

This creates a need for a learning orgnisation since a learning organisation by definition is:

"the process of improving actions through better knowledge and understanding" (Fiol, C.M 1985; adapted from CBE Group 1 presentation)

THERE! I established the link between Deming and the learning organisation XD Hope you find this useful ...


- 4 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Paul Roberts

    Another good post Louis. With regard to the point that you make with respect to technology enabling greater precision than systems greatly dependent on human input, I offer the following thought. Variation will still exist, albeit in smaller quantities. But as this occurs so will we become more sensitive to small variations – that is our ability to measure and be sensitive to variation will increase and hence we will always differentiate between systems’ outputs.

    In consumer terms, the more that you deliver to the customer, so you will raise their expectations and therefore, there will always be a need to raise your game if you wish to be class leading in what you do.

    26 Nov 2008, 16:05

  2. variation will always exist, although modern technology has improved manufacturing process, however variation does not only caused by machinery…human factor has a much bigger contribution towards variation… I think the link between variation and LE is if a company want to become a LE, it has to recognize the fact that variation does exist… am I right?

    29 Nov 2008, 00:58

  3. processautomation

    Excellent Article.

    Thanks for the hard work and the valuable information for sharing with us.

    24 Dec 2008, 12:15

  4. fishing tackle

    Thanks for sharing

    08 Jan 2009, 14:49


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