Tag Archives: guest post

I Don’t Know

Guest post by David Kerridge (originally posted to the Deming Electronic Network):

This is part of a series in which I recall striking or thought-provoking things that W. Edwards Deming said, but did not put into his books.

I remember taking a manager to his first Deming 4-day seminar. Afterwards my friend said to me “I was very impressed with that man. He said ‘I don’t know.'”

Something in our culture makes us ashamed to admit ignorance. We expect quick, slick answers, whether from politicians, managers, or consultants.

Deming said “I don’t know” more often than anyone I have ever known. Sometimes you heard the answer about two years later, in his seminar.

I also remember him saying “I have learned more in the last six months than in the previous ten years.”

Maybe one quotation explains the other.

Related: Dr. Deming quotesInstant PuddingDeming on being Destroyed by Best EffortsWhere to Start Improvement

Deming and Performance Appraisal

Guest post by Ron Kingen (originally posted to the Deming Electronic Network)

Several weeks ago someone in the DEN list ask what did Dr. Deming recommend about this issue, well I ask that very question of Dr. Deming back in the 80’s when I had the good fortune to work with him. I had expressed my concern to Dr. Deming about several of his fourteen points that I either didn’t understand completely or did not fit with my experience and/or education. Dr. Deming suggested we talk about it over dinner – during the subsequent dinner discussion Dr. Deming made several points relative to performance improvement (not appraisal):

  1. Hire good people – one of the most critical decisions we all make.
  2. Train and educate them – even if they come from the best universities and are at the top of their class.
  3. Coach them, constantly, don’t wait for an annual appraisal to correct an issue or behavior.
  4. It is the system that must be improved to ensure people work to their potential.
  5. Recognize your top performers, but money isn’t the best method of recognition, in fact, it can be counterproductive.
  6. Work with your low performers to understand their issues and difficulties; give them support and assistance. If they can’t improve and are truly performance outliers , don’t keep them, they will affect the over system.

The advice seemed valid, but I told him my company insisted we do performance appraisals. He laughed, he suggested I change the system; but Dr. Deming knew I worked for General Motors and that wouldn’t be easy. So he recommended I become a rebel and change my part of the system; which I did try. At the time I worked for one of the most progressive divisions within GM and was fortunate to work with many talented GM people and several well know and recognized experts, but I was convinced the best system change option was to leave GM.
Continue reading

Where to Start Improvement

Guest post by Dave Nave

The question of where to start improvement is not an ‘either/or’ choice of top-down or bottom-up approach. The place to start is both. Leading an organization requires both a long-term and a short-term focus. With changing management practices being long-term and improving operational efficiency being short-term. The organization is a system. Optimization of any single component (management practices or production operations) frequently detracts from the whole.

For many years I firmly believed (actually hoped) the bottom-up approach would be the most effective. Especially since I came from the shop floor. However, after watching several large companies try the bottom-up approach, I realized that it didn’t work. You can show management success, but they will not believe it. Especially when the management practices involves the underlying beliefs that workers are untrustworthy, and must be dominated and controlled. I saw one Fortune 20 company turn around their operations using a process improvement program. When the bottom line numbers drastically improved, upper management scrambled for years trying to find out why. Five years later, I don’t believe they still understand how it happened, or why.

To help clarify the various arguments of top-down or bottom-up approach to implementing improvement in my own mind, I wrote a paper. Most arguments focus on ‘success’ – however that is determined! What I though was missing, was the perspective of a leader who has a broad knowledge of business, the desire to help the long-term health of the organization, but did not the ability to hold off the financial dogs of short-term results. Once I started looking deeper, two key factors came to light, time to see results versus scope of influence throughout the organization. Bottom-up produces short-term improvement however it’s effects are limited to the local area. Top-down takes a long time to see results, but it effects the very foundation of the organization. The hybrid of a top-down support for a bottom-up improvement approach is not the answer. The Fortune 20 company mentioned above, tried a high level support approach to a bottom-up improvement methodology. Looking through the lens of speed and scope, suddenly product redesign (Value Engineering) became a viable option. Providing a balance of moderate returns with a moderate time delay.

I concluded that a three prong approach is needed. But, how do you manage that? By cooperation and collaboration between improving; management practices, product redesign, and process improvement.

If anyone is interested in reading my thought paper, you can download the paper – Improvement Triad: Processes, Products, and Management Practices. I would love to hear your feedback.

Related: Lean and Theory of ConstraintsHow to ImproveCurious Cat Management Improvement portal