November 24, 2008

Deming's Profound Knowledge & Taylorism

The father of Scietific Management, Frederick Winslow Taylor who's thinking was what led to an era of industrilisation in the Western nations. He was someone who, like Deming, also firmly believed in the forces of system variation and work hard to remove it from the process. His approach, later known as the scientific management invovled breaking down complex task into multiple simple tasks so that worker's effciency can be greatly improved. And Taylor proposed using various financial incentives to control the output of worker's performance. Taylor's idea was highly influential in his timer because the meaning of a job in the early 20th century was different from today. It was simply an exchange of labour for monetary reward.

When we look at what what is being discussed in class we'd realise how the makangement thinking have progressed so profoundly. In today's business environment work has a much different meaning. No longer is it a mere ouput of labour. Now we have machines and computers to help us carry out monotomous tasks which means things can be done in much greater precision at a fraction of cost than before. More importantly, work today require special talent and expertise which machines cannot imitate easily. Intellectual capability is vital to the quality of work.

So like Taylor, Deming also teach us to eliminate the sources of variation in the system. But different from Taylor, Deming shows us a different approach that is the appreciation for the system. Understand that there are inherent variations that are despite our best effort and intention we can never truly get rid of. What then is the appreciation for the system? Perhaps instead of bogging down on the details of the actual process, we would look at the whole picture. Okay, what exactly is this whole picture? A simple way to explains this is that there are other factors outside the process itself which can influence the outcome. For example, worker's morale, the influence of culture, the worker's job satisfaction and etc just to name a few. Such factors , as we would all agree are all pretty important for the quality of outcomes but are nevertheless not captured by financial incentives alone. Psychology , one of Deming's four profound knowledge is a nice illustration of this idea.

To me it seems like what we have been learning in CBE (EFQM, Deming, Baldrige, TQM in lesser extent)has all pretty much revolved around same set of core fundamental concepts. That is, management is no longer a simple one way process where the manager can quite easily control outcome with various incentive schemes. Workers today are just as intelligent and capable as their bosses. To release their fullest potential and direct them to work, manager has to be able to understand their workers as human beings, know their needs, remove the barriers that inhibit their ability to perform. This I think, are the fundamental management concepts underlying everything we've studying until this day.

- 3 comments by 2 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. I truly believe in the last paragraph, that today the business environment is truly not about monetary incentives but to know the employees non-monetary needs. In my experience too as managing the production department and talking to the labourers what i always found was that they wanted more than just money but a sense of belonging. They wanted security (not people guarding them but security about their jobs) !. About which I always had arguments with my subordinates. My subordinates always wanted me to raise their pay. But i was not getting results even with their increase in pays. So after talking to them i actually found out it was more than just money. Thank you Kang for having shared your thoughts about it.

    26 Nov 2008, 01:18

  2. Paul Roberts

    Thank you both for your insightful comments. I fully support what you have written and you make a particularly interesting point Louis, that in MBE you are studying fundamental core concepts. Deep understanding of these concepts and the willingness to practice them will lead you to make the most effective decisions in whatever situation you find yourself.

    26 Nov 2008, 16:12

  3. fishing tackle

    The last paragrapgh clarifies things, thanks.

    08 Jan 2009, 14:49

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