New Management Truths Sometimes Started as Heresies

‘New’ management truths sometimes started as heresies by Cecil Johnson

“The most effective management ideas follow a life cycle — from heresy to outlier (championed by a small group of people) to ingrained practice to conventional wisdom,” Kleiner writes. “In the process, if they are genuinely powerful management ideas, they distinguish the organizations that adopt them.”

One of the management heresies focused upon by Kleiner that has morphed into accepted management wisdom of the highest order is the Toyota Production System, which embraces much of the thinking of heretical quality advocate W. Edwards Deming. That system, Kleiner reminds the reader, entrusts teams at each station in the assembly process to control their local operations. Performance is not evaluated on a predetermined numeral basis.

I agree with this idea except the implication that these ideas are accepted now. To the extent they are excepted it is only a surface understanding of a couple of tools and concepts. The true power of the new ideas are still adopted in a very small number of organizations. Thankfully small initial steps are being made but there is much more to be done, before we can think of these ideas as accepted.

Which of Dr. Deming’s seven deadly diseases of western management have been effectively addressed in several decades? My opinion? Zero. Granted 2 are probably closer to economic failures (political issues that management could have spent time trying to fix but not really in the control of a single company): excessive medical costs and excessive legal damage awards.

Excessive legal damage awards was the one disease most business school graduates would have agreed was a disease decades ago, and they still do. They have spent a great deal of effort to reform the legal system, but have not been effective. Many now agree the health care system is broken. But I would say less than 50% understand this, even decades later, even after the situation has deteriorated much further. And certainly little effective effort at improving the health care system has been made. At least in the last 5 years some real efforts are being made by senior executives as some companies.

And I strongly believe Dr. Deming would see the current unjustified taking of companies resources by CEOs for their own use, in ludicrous pay packages, as a new disease. If these “new” (the system of management ideas are at least 30 years old, as a system, and it has been 60 years since Dr. Deming present them in Japan after World War II) management ideas were common, such horrible behavior as we continue to see would not be tolerated.

Related: Deming CompaniesToyota Execution Not Close to Being CopiedManagement Advice FailuresPurpose of an OrganizationNew Rules for Management? No!

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