We are Being Ruined by the Best Efforts of People Who are Doing the Wrong Thing

Posted on January 30, 2012  Comments (6)

Deming’s Second Theorem: “We are being ruined by best efforts.”

What did Dr. Deming mean by this?

Another quote by Dr. Deming might give you a clue? “Best efforts will not substitute for knowledge.”

Irwin, the porcupine at the Animal Rescue League Wildlife Center has to work a little harder for his breakfast in this clip. The wildlife center likes to provide animals in captivity puzzles and challenges to keep them interested in their environment so they stuck his breakfast to the bottom of the mug.

Thankfully the baby porcupine in the video doesn’t ruin anything and instead just gives us an enjoyable video. He does spends a great deal of energy putting forth his best efforts, but without a theory :-) Best efforts can often cause damage to the organization when people give their best efforts but are not guided by knowledge of what is useful and what is harmful.

Another Deming Quote: “We are being ruined by the best efforts of people who are doing the wrong thing.” Please share your comments on how organizations are ruined by best efforts.

And I will wrap up the post with another quote from Dr. Deming: “We want best efforts guided by theory.”

Related: quotes by W. Edwards DemingDeming on being Destroyed by Best EffortsRighter Incentivization

6 Responses to “We are Being Ruined by the Best Efforts of People Who are Doing the Wrong Thing”

  1. Anonymous
    January 30th, 2012 @ 9:49 am

    Great video! Thanks for posting.

    I agree that the best efforts are futile without some knowledge and theory. Wasn’t it Einstein who said insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? Brute force works sometimes, but some analysis will get you there more efficiently.

    Credit to the porcupine, though. He does investigate the bottom of the mug to see if he can access breakfast from a different angle.

  2. Adi Gaskell
    January 30th, 2012 @ 10:04 am

    I often think this whenever I hear the popular saying at the moment about failure being a good thing. Failure in itself is never a good thing, but if you learn from your failure and improve next time then it is valuable. Just repeating the same mistakes over and over is seldom good for individual or organisation.

    So to apply that to this example, it would appear to me that accurate feedback + constant learning is more important than mere effort.

  3. Wesley Connell
    February 1st, 2012 @ 4:38 pm

    I wonder if Deming would have the same outlook today as he did during his time. I think it very possible to engage employees to know what the right thing is from the very beginning of their time working. I see ideas around company culture much more prevalent in today’s society and I believe that culture can drive knowing what the right thing is, or at least knowing when to ask for clarification.

  4. John Hunter
    February 1st, 2012 @ 5:42 pm

    I agree that more organizations are focused on culture and education on process improvement, customer focus. Deming’s point was that you need to provide people the right tools, setting and education.

    The problem he saw was so many people trying hard but in systems that were working against them and without the right knowledge (so their hard work wasn’t properly focused). Unfortunately far too many people (a large majority) are stuck in situations where their best efforts are frustrated in the same ways Deming saw.

    What he wanted (and I want) is for organizations to provide the systems and knowledge so people that put forth their best efforts can be successful.

  5. Carnival of HR — The Cynical Girl
    February 15th, 2012 @ 7:46 am

    [...] 7 Things I Learned About Goal-Setting in 1999. Keep on doing it. Baby keep on.John Hunter submitted We are Being Ruined by the Best Efforts of People Who are Doing the Wrong Thing. You always hurt the ones you love.Tim Sackett gives us How to Really Get an Entry-Level Job. [...]

  6. We are Here to Learn, to Make a Difference and to Have Fun « The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog
    June 17th, 2013 @ 10:56 am

    In that statement you can see the importance Deming placed on knowledge, effectiveness (also compassion – when looking at all his work, being effective at doing what is important makes a difference you can be proud of) and joy in work…

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