Management: Geeks and Deming

Why Business Needs More Geeks [the broken link was removed] by Robert May:

then along came Wall Street. Obsessed with quarterly profit increases and seeing them as disconnected from value creation, Wall Street encouraged businesses to think short-term. The things that led to value creation – things like innovation, continued learning, employee development, long-term focus – were replaced by pump-and-dump management styles.

There is a great deal of similarity between this article and Deming’s ideas. Several of Deming’s 14 obligation of management and 7 deadly diseases are noted in this quote, including: “Remove barriers that rob people of joy in their work” and the disease – “Emphasis on short term profits.” Deming was a physicist so that may explain the similarity of this ideas to geek management culture.

Points from the article:

  • “Geeks seek knowledge for it’s own sake” – Deming’s point 13 “Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement.” Deming encouraged organizations supporting education of employees – even when unrelated to work in any direct way.
  • “Geeks like to experiment” – many of Deming’s ideas focus on this point, most obviously is the emphasis on PDSA
  • “Geeks openly debate the merits of technical ideas” – again many of Deming’s ideas focus on the importance of focusing on actual merits versus people’s assumptions or organizational power struggles (though this point might be less direct than some of the others). Understanding variation (also see tampering) is an effort to get people to focus on merits versus arguing over misperceptions or less important details.
  • “Geeks are concerned with doing good work just because” – Deming: “Remove barriers that rob people of joy in their work.” Geeks have a strong tendency to hold onto this desire even in the face of Dilbert bosses – where many others give up (and even convince themselves they have no such desire – in my opinion as a coping mechanism). Deming (and I) believe everyone has this desire – though I believe many non-geeks have given up hope of having pride in their work.
  • “Geeks are about results, not office politics” – I don’t see any direct tie here, but the sentiment would support many of Deming’s points about how management has lost its way, failing to focus on the important business needs.

More Deming on management and
other posts on Deming’s management ideas.

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