What "Doing Deming" Means

by Priscilla Petty © 2011

The Deming approach to transformation-thinking seems so simple that it’s deceptive. At first glance it sometimes elicits the response “Any fool knows that” or “Any decent manager knows that.” Some do. Some intuit Deming’s philosophy of management because it’s what works long-term and for the good of the whole. Some simply don’t get it and will never open their minds to understand.

Deming often said that “First they must want it, must ask for it.” When the system is broken, when things seem to be falling apart, smart people step back and say, “How can we fix this whole thing? Not just parts of it, but the whole thing.” Because fixing just parts of a system without considering the whole is tinkering and often makes the whole system function worse than before the fix. Deming said, “Optimize the whole system.” Knowledgeable people understand that everything is part of a system, and that a system, in order to function, must have an aim. They ask, “What is the aim of this system?” after asking, “What is the system in which we’re operating?”

Sometimes at this point people get too technical, especially those who love math and charts and diagrams. They get lost in the techniques which should serve to enlighten but at times instead obfuscate. Why is this? Because it’s easier to focus on the techniques than on the cold hard deep thinking that’s required to fix on an aim of the system. People may blindly use a template for problem solving that was developed for another application. They reapply the wrong solutions.

It’s easier to operate by rules than by principles; rules do not require thinking.

Sometimes people get all warm and fuzzy as they begin--with mission statements and projections based on hope as they try to wrap their minds around a system. This doesn’t help solve large problems either.

Deming called his management theory “profound knowledge.” That’s a little hard to understand but the term is to differentiate it from just plain knowledge
. Profound knowledge is based on pragmatic principles—which work.

Profound knowledge consists of four parts:
*Knowledge of a system
*Knowledge of variation
*Knowledge of psychology
*Knowledge of the theory of knowledge

Greek mathematician Archimedes said that if you gave him a lever long enough and a place to stand on he could lift the world. “Give me but one firm spot on which to stand and I will move the earth
,” he said.

If you use the profound knowledge of Deming’s principles of systems- thinking you will have that firm and principled pragmatic place to stand by which you can lift the world--can transform it.

If we gave the knowledge of Deming’s systems thinking to enough influential people who chose to act on this knowledge we could lift a world which sorely needs transformation.
They could then also emulate the same Archimedes who said, “Eureka! I have found it!”

Priscilla Petty

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