Poor Results Should be Addressed by Improving the System Not Blaming Individuals

Posted on February 6, 2014  Comments (4)

My response to: Where is the Deming study that asserts most errors are in organization or process?

There is no such study, it is based on Dr. Deming’s experience as I discuss in 94% Belongs to the System (improve the system, don’t blame the people in the system).

“I should estimate that in my experience most troubles and most possibilities for improvement add up to the proportions something like this: 94% belongs to the system (responsibility of management), 6% special.”

Page 315 of Out of the Crisis by W. Edwards Deming

Getting hung up on the figure 94% is a mistake. His point was that you improve performance going forward by improving the system not blaming people. His two books provide background and the thought process involved behind why we are failing to manage better. Changing the people, while leaving the system in place, most often doesn’t help.

Variation does confuse people sometimes. The same mistake as say yelling at someone any time results are really bad. Most likely results will get better. Not because yelling helps but essentially regression to the mean. So you can move people out after really bad results and things get better. Of course, most of the time they would have gotten better if you left the people there (and did nothing or yelled).

Even when the person did totally mess up, why did the system allow that? Why did the system put that person in a place where they were not qualified? Answering and fixing these types of questions would help improve the system and the results going forward.

Yes, occasionally the answer might be that Joel was hired sensibly, managed and coached sensibly but he just became a complete jerk and won’t respond to coaching and this is only his fault. But normally that won’t be the case, even when the person seems nearly totally to blame (and that isn’t even a very common situation) normally there are obvious weaknesses in the system that put them in the place to fail and will likely put anyone else in the same place in the future.

Related: Firing Workers Isn’t Fixing ProblemsPeople: Team Members or CostsCreate a System That Lets People Take Pride in Their WorkFind the Root Cause Instead of the Person to Blame

4 Responses to “Poor Results Should be Addressed by Improving the System Not Blaming Individuals”

  1. The Carnival of HR - International edition | Compensation Insider
    March 12th, 2014 @ 2:12 am

    […] John Hunter of Curious Cat – a management improvement blog wrote Poor Results Should be Addressed by Improving the System Not Blaming Individuals […]

  2. Carnival of Quality Management Articles and Blogs – March 2014 | The world is too small? or Is it?
    March 22nd, 2014 @ 7:40 pm

    […] In this month’s edition we will take a look at his post Poor Results Should be Addressed by Improving the System Not Blaming Individuals. […]

  3. Eliminate Slogans, Exhortations and Targets « The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog
    April 7th, 2016 @ 1:38 pm

    […] The reason that the organization failed is because the systems are producing what they will produce (along with the expected variation) not because an employee isn’t doing their part. To change results change the system. […]

  4. Bill Scherkenbach Interview with Dr. Deming « The W. Edwards Deming Institute Blog
    May 13th, 2016 @ 5:08 pm

    […] Bill Schekenbach asks Dr. Deming if you then blame the foremen (for among other things focusing on getting the work out today and not continual improvement). And Dr. Deming says he does not. The system in place at the organization creates the conditions where that foreman is under tremendous presure to behave as they do. This is consisent with his belief in fixing the system, not blaming individuals. […]

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