Deming on being Destroyed by Best Efforts

Best efforts are essential. Unfortunately, best efforts, people charging this way and that way without guidance of principles, can do a lot of damage. Think of the chaos that would come if everyone did his best, not knowing what to do.

Out of the Crisis by W. Edwards Deming, page 19

I am reminded of a quote I heard from Dr. Deming (though it may well precede him): “Don’t just do something, stand there.” First think, then act. His quote also relates to the tendency we have to tamper – institute “solutions” without understanding what is going on (often due to a lack of understanding variation). Many managers have learned their job is to act, even if they don’t have the knowledge needed to make a rational decision: they don’t just stand there, they do something. Learning to say, I don’t know, and then spend time learning instead of acting is a valuable skill to develop.

As regular readers of this blog know I think Ackoff is great. Dr. Ackoff’s ideas on this topic are wise (as usual): articles by Russ AckoffDoing the wrong things right podcast by Ackoff.

Related: Deming on Management – best effortsDoing the Wrong Things Rightertheory of knowledge

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