Trust But Verify

Posted on January 16, 2012  Comments (2)

The following are my comments, which were sparked by question “Trust, but verify. Is this a good example of Profound Knowledge in action?” on the Linked In Deming Institute group.

Trust but verify makes sense to me. I think of verify as process measures to verify the process is producing as it should. By verifying you know when the process is failing and when to look for special causes (when using control chart thinking with an understanding of variation). There are many ways to verify that would be bad. But the idea of trust (respect for people) is not just a feel-good, “be nice to everyone and good things happen”, in Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge.

I see the PDSA improvement cycle as another example of a trust-but-verify idea. You trust the people at the gemba to do the improvement. They predict what will happen. But they verify what does actually happen before they run off standardizing and implementing. I think many of us have seen what happens when the idea of letting those who do the work, improve the process, is adopted without a sensible support system (PDSA, training, systems thinking…). It may actually be better than what was in place, but it isn’t consistent with Deming’s management system to just trust the people without providing methods to improve (and education to help people be most effective). Systems must be in place to provide the best opportunity to succeed. Trusting the people that do the work, is part of it.

I understand there are ways to verify that would be destructive. But I do believe you need process measures to verify systems are working. Just trusting people to do the right thing isn’t wise.

A checklist is another way of “not-trusting.” I think checklists are great. It isn’t that I don’t trust people to try and do the right thing. I just don’t trust people alone, when systems can be designed with verification that improves performance. I hear people complaign that checklists “don’t respect my expertise” or have the attitude that they are “insulting to me as a professional” – you should just trust me.

Sorry, driving out fear (and building trust – one of Deming’s 14 points) is not about catering to every person’s desire. For Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge: respect for people is part of a system that requires understand variation and systems thinking and an understanding of psychology and theory of knowledge. Checklists (and other forms of verification) are not an indication of a lack of trust. They are a a form of process measure (in a way) that has been proven to improve results.


Related: Trust Employees to Make DecisionsRespect People by Creating a Climate for Joy in WorkRespect for People Isn’t Just Being Nice

Comment: Linked In has horrible urls. Urls should be human readable and obvious what is the correct url to share :-(

2 Responses to “Trust But Verify”

  1. Carnival of HR by the Numbers | Human Resources Software
    February 1st, 2012 @ 2:17 pm

    [...] Things get personal again as we wrap up today’s Carnival. Doug Shaw reminds everyone to treat workers like human beings in Liveable Lives — Humanising the Workplace. Meanwhile, Ben Martinez begs us to promote retention through communication in Strategic HR Wishes For Retention, and John Hunter cautions that thorough processes shouldn’t be confused with mistrust in Trust But Verify. [...]

  2. 50 Blogs That Will Make You a Better Manager | OnlineMBA
    February 22nd, 2012 @ 12:20 am

    [...] Become a better manager by staying curious, reading the Curious Cat management improvement blog. (Recommended Post: Trust But Verify) [...]

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