Deming Unrealized

W. Edwards Deming’s substantive influence upon management thinking and practice is evidenced by the number of organizations that have worked to implement his key points, the abundance of books and papers related to his ideas, and the impact of his ideas on the practice of business today.  While I’m not a fan of the term Quality Guru, it is hard to miss his impact.

Deming’s main concepts can be summarized as:

Visionary Leadership: The ability of management to establish, practice, and lead a long-term vision for the organization, driven by changing customer requirements, as opposed to an internal management control role.
Internal and External Cooperation: The propensity of the organization to engage in non-competitive activities internally among employees and externally with respect to suppliers.
Learning: The organizational capability to recognize and nurture the development of its skills, abilities, and knowledge base.
Process Management: The set of methodological and behavioral practices emphasizing the management of process, or means of actions, rather than results.
Continuous Improvement: The propensity of the organization to pursue incremental and innovative improvements to processes, products, and services.
Employee Involvement: The degree to which employees of an organization feel that the organization continually satisfies their needs.
Customer Satisfaction: The degree to which an organization’s customers continually perceive that their needs are being met by the organization’s products and services.
Summarizing the System of Profound Knowledge

Almost thirty years after the publication of The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education and we are still striving to realize these. They are still as aspirational and, for many organizations, out of reach today as they were in the eighties. We can argue that a lot of the concepts that swirl around Quality 4.0 is just trying out new technologies to see if we meet those objectives.

We can, and should, discuss the particulars of the System of Profound Knowledge. For me, it makes an excellent departure point for what we should be striving for. By looking to the past we can discover…

  • Strengths that define us
  • Weaknesses that frustrate us
  • Causes that energize us
  • Relationships that inspire us.

Microfeedback for Adjusting Behaviors

Previously I’ve talked about defining the values and behavior associated with quality culture. Once you’ve established these behaviors, a key way to make them happen is through microfeedback, a skill each quality professional, supervisor, and leader in your organization should be trained on.

We are all familiar with the traditional feedback loop: you receive feedback, reflect on it, make a plan, and then take action. This means feedback is given after a series of actions have taken place. Feedback addresses a few key observations for future improvements. In a situation when actions and sequences are quite complicated and interdependent, feedback can fail to provide useful insights to improve performance. Micro-feedback potentially can be leveraged to prevent critical mistakes and mitigate risks, which makes it a great way to build culture and drive performance.

Micro-feedback is a specific and just-in-time dose of information or insights that can reduce gaps between the desired behavioral goals and reality. Think of it as a microscope used to evaluate an individuals comprehension and behavior and prescribe micro-interventions to adjust performance and prevent mistakes.

Microfeedback, provided during the activity observed, is a fundamental aspect of the Gemba walk. These small tweaks can be adapted, and utilized to provide timely insights and easy-to-accomplish learning objectives, to drive deep clarity and stay motivated to modify their performance

Where and when the microfeedback happens is key:

1. Taskbased microfeedback focuses corrective or suggestive insights on the content of a task. To provide higher impact focus micro-feedback on the correct actions rather than incorrect performance. For example “Report this issue as an incident…”

2. Process-based micro-feedback focuses on the learning processes and works best to foster critical thinking in a complex environment. For example, “This issue can be further processed based on the decision tree strategies we talked about earlier.”

3. Self-regulation-based micro-feedback focuses on giving suggestive or directive insights helping individuals to better manage and regulate their own learning. For example, “Pause once you have completed the task and ask yourself a set of questions following the 5W2H formula.”

For microfeedback to be truly successful it needs to be in the context of a training program, where clear behavorial goals has been set. This training program should include a specific track for managers that allows them to provide microfeedback to close the gap between where the learner is and where the learner aims to be. This training will provide specific cues or reinforcement toward a well-understood task and focus on levels of task, process, or self-regulation.

During change management, provide positive micro-feedback on correct, rather than incorrect, performance. This can be very valuable as you think about sustainability of the change.

Leveraged sucessful, but well trained observers and peers, microfeedback will provide incremental and timely adjustments to drive behavior.

ASQ 2022 WCQI Day 3 (second half)

Making a Quality Leader: From Theory to Practice

Always a pleasure to hear from the Human Development and Leadership (HDL) technical community. Their competency framework is a great tool that can help many a quality leader as they struggle to build the leadership competencies necessary to strive towards excellence.

Human Development & Leadership Body of Knowledge Model

Having done a lot of comptency frameworks I think the HDL has done a good job building theirs out as a progressive framework. I think a challenge is how do we make it easy to scale up to this more detailed HD&LBok from the QBok, and occasionally the same concept can be discussed a few different ways across different technical community boks and this lack of consistency is a detriment.

Stressing practice as the core part of a competency framework. A good conversation at my table was how often these competencies move back a little as we change roles and organizations.

No competency framework is valuable without a good development plan and the workshop did a great job at introducing how to use one.

Honor Deming’s 14 Points Through Modular Kaizen by Grace Duffy

Grace has always been a mentor who always brings thought provoking topics to the society.

Goes without saying that I’m a fan of the 14 points and the System of Profound Knowledge. I’ve written a lot about Driving out Fear. It ties in a lot of my thoughts about how much of what is happening now in organizational excellence is the evolution from these 14 points.

Looking to the past is an important part of building the future. I think Grace did a great job of respecting the past to drive innovation and new ideas within the quality practice. I loved the care for our past, and the urge to challenge the future in the audience. She really avoided the tendency in some quality circles to obsess about the past (Toyota nuts I am thinking of you) and thus trap the present and stifle the future.

Grace does an amazing job being a pillar of the quality community while still being an iconcolast. When you see her name on the conference session list I always recommend taking the time to attend.

Quality Past & Present

I found most of the videos to be a little personality driven instead of insightful pieces of history. I would hope this session would draw from our history in exciting ways, that was not realized. However the ending charge to create solutions instead of just solving problems is a pivotal one.

2022 Business Meeting

This business meeting drives home the struggle the ASQ has on figuring out what comes next.

As an organization we do not understand what a digital organization looks like. Only 2000 users of the app in the US is embarrassing. Teens can create apps with 100 times more users.

It is nice to admit that actively listening to the members is crucial. I look forward to that consistently happening. We don’t always do a good job of using the tools at the heart of the QBok.

Finances are still rocky, though the Federal Stimulus has left the ASQ in an okay place.

I was actually shocked to hear the chair of the ASQ say it is hard to have metrics for meeting strategic goals. We have entire methodologies dedicated to that.

There are a lot of challenges ahead of us.

Is There Equity in Out of Office?

I think many of us are considering what work looks like, grappling with a return to offices, hybrid situations, and being fully remote. I think the media focuses rather extensively on companies like Apple, where a good chunk of the workforce seems to be up-in-arms about a mandatory return to the office.

In the pharma world, things are a little more complicated, especially as it applies to the quality profession.

At the heart sits the question, what sort of labs and manufacturing facilities do you have on site? This physical presence requires that certain employees be on-site. Which in most pharmas makes a bundle of those who must be on-site, and those who do not need to be on-site.

I understand the desire for those who can work remotely to want to work remotely. There are a lot of good reasons for working remotely, and I personally chose a company that was purely remote for a chunk of those.

But, and this is a big but, what does equity look like?

Take for example an average quality department. It is broken down into those who support labs, manufacturing, clinical trials and post-marketing surveillance (for simplicity). You thus have in the same department individuals who must be always on-site; who need to show up a few days a week; and those who can do their job perfectly well remotely. To complicate matters you might even have a big chunk of your partners (all those clinical trial, medical affairs, pharmacovigilance folks) that have no attention of coming back to the office.

So, what does equity look like? How do you treat these three camps? How to you compensate those who come into the office, that have commutes on top of their days that co-workers do not? How do you ensure everyone has equal opportunity to be seen, heard and participate? What does this organization look like?

I thnk this is one of the major challenges for quality organizations moving forward. I do not think there is one size fits all, and there is no easy answer.

Adapting and Experimenting – the Role of a New Quality Leader

I think a common challenge is how do we as a new quality professional joining an organization replicate the same success we have had in past roles

Quality requires a support structure, and I think it is easy to underestimate the impact of the absence, or the lack of, that structure. Just parachuting quality professionals into different organizations where they are left without the scaffolding they’ve implicitly grown to expect and depend on can lead to underperformance. Some adapt, of course, but others flounder, especially when hired with daunting short-term expectations, which can often be the case in organizations looking to remediate gaps in a fast way. I think this is only exacerbated as a result of the pandemic.

Culture can have a steep learning curve and being able to execute requires being very well-versed in the culture of an organization. You have to know how your organization works in order to get it to work diligently like a well-oiled machine to execute the higher-level quality vision.

Learning the culture doesn’t mean simply parroting the oft-repeated mantras received during orientation, but truly internalizing it to an extent where it informs every small decision and discussion. At the best of times, that’s difficult and takes time, particularly as there isn’t usually a single monolithic culture to learn, but myriad microcultures in various different parts of the organization. Doesn’t matter the size, this is a challenge.

In the worst case, where an organization has a culture diametrically opposite to that of the previous workplace, “learning the culture” also requires un-learning almost everything that led people to get to their current level in the first place. The humility to strive to turn themselves into the leader the organization truly needs, rather than the leader they’ve grown to be over the past years, is a hard one for many of us. Especially since we are usually brought on board to build and remediate and address deficiencies.

To be a successful agent of change one has to adapt to the current culture, try experiments to accelerate change, and do all the other aspects of our job.

This is hard stuff, and a part of the job I don’t think gets discussed enough.