November 30, 2007

Some thoughts on Deming's 14 points

In "Adopt the new philosophy", Deming gave 2 examples both in Japan to demonstrate "the economy of a single plan".

Both of these examples are regarding the punctuality of train services in Japan.

Even though I have no doubt that failure raises cost, and as he also pointed out "Excessive medical costs. Excessive costs of liability" are 2 of the deadly diseases. (which are still troubles for the automotive giants in the States)

I just wonder if these 2 examples would be appropriate and easily accepted by his targeted audience, as some considers punctuality as a characteristic of the Japanese people. Interestingly, lots of managers call what they fail to change as culture. Patrick Schmidt used a metaphor, "it's what water is to a fish. The fish takes water for granted. Take it out of its environment, however, and the fish suddenly realises it needs water to survive." I think most of people would be happier to live without delays and mistakes.

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In  "Adopt and institute leadership", Deming suggested "Leaders must know the work that they supervise. ...In most organisations, this idea is only an idle dream, as the supervisor knows nothing about the job." What do they know or what should they know? According to many top management, leaders must know how to write sophisticated report, fancy presentations, and plot nice charts. As pointed out by Peter Drucker "...it turns out that whole layers of management neither make decisions nor lead. Instead, their main, if not their only, function is to serve as 'relays' -- human boosters for the faint, unfocused signals that pass for communication...".

Deming also stated "There was a time, years ago, ...He (the foreman) knew the job. Today, 19 foremen out of 20  were never on the job that they supervise." I wonder if these would be interpreted as promoting the best/oldest in line by some people. I think it is important to note that this must coincide another point "Encourage education and self-improvement for everyone" of his. "Management must go through new learning", as a supervision or managerial role may requires additional or totally different set of skills. It is even more important to note, it is what s/he actually know about the business matters. 40 years of experience might be 40 times of the same experience. 


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