Management’s Job

In episode 48 of the Deming Len’s podcast, the host refers back to Deming’s last interview, “Dr. Deming: ‘Management Today Does Not Know What Its Job Is‘”

Deming Len's Episode #48 – Management (Still) Doesn't Know What Its Job Is The W. Edwards Deming Institute® Podcast

In our 47th Deming Lens episode, host Tripp Babbitt shares his interpretation of wide-ranging aspects and implications of Dr. Deming's System of Profound Knowledge. This month he looks at Dr. Deming's Last Interview. https://www.industryweek.com/operations/quality/article/21963885/dr-deming-management-today-does-not-know-what-its-job-is-part-1 Show Notes [00:00:14] The Deming Lens – Episode 48 [00:02:39] Management's Job [00:03:59] The Lost Art of Quality [00:06:20] The Source of Innovation [00:08:28] What's Happening in Organizations     Transcript [00:00:14] In the forty eighth episode of The Deming Lens, we'll look at Dr. Deming's last interview. Management doesn't know what its job is. For this month's Deming Lens, I was looking around for a subject, maybe something that I've talked about before, which after you've done a few podcast episodes, it's hard not to repeat yourself. But I came across an article from Industry Week and it was Dr. Deming's last interview with a gentleman from Industry Week. His name is Tim Stephens, and the article is titled Dr. Deming. Management today does not know what its job is. And it was a two part article. And I, as I started to read it, just brought back a lot of thinking and and it covered a lot of Dr. Deming's thoughts about quality, management, innovation and things of that sort. And it occurred to me that management still doesn't know what its job is. And in Dr. Deming's in this interview, the question was asked, what is management's job? And Dr. Deming responded, and I'm going to paraphrase a little bit. Here is Bob. They don't understand Mantid mean they management does not understand its responsibilities. They don't know the potential of the position. They lack knowledge or abilities, and there is no substitute for knowledge, which we've heard that phrase over and over again and. After you've studied the work of Dr. Deming for a long period of time, like I have when I went to his four day seminar in the 80s, you know, these things kind of resonate in your mind.   [00:02:39] And you reread them and read articles about them, people's comments about them. There is so much depth to even answering a question like what is what is management's job? And in a word, as Dr. Deming alludes to in this article, it's quality. And, you know, it's such a nebulous word. The word quality can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people and even for organizations or customers. How do you define that? In this article, Dr. Deming basically said quality what we'll do a customer some good and that what was required was to study the customer, get ahead of him or her. The customer invents nothing we've heard thus, you know, over and over again, it's his famous line which is actually quoted in this article. No customer ever asked for an electric light, a VCR or a CD. And so these are some of the things that Dr. Deming would talk about in terms of quality.   [00:03:59] And I think as time has gone by and you look at quality, first of all, it's a word that's rarely used anymore. We talk about customer experience and we talk about innovation. And I think those are components of quality, but really understanding.   [00:04:17] To me, there's two areas. One is understanding customer expectations of what they're going to get and a product or service. And even their Dr. Deming would say, you know, you as the provider of a service or product, build the expectations of what the customer is going to get. Now. Over time, I've learned to be very critical of organizations because I've seen what they're what they're capable of and what they're performing, and there is a huge delta there between at least at my expectations and what they're delivering from a service standpoint. And there's the curse of W. Edwards Deming, I guess one might say. And so that's the first thing is this this whole thing about expectations, especially if you've experienced good service, then you experience bad service and you understand what the delta is between those two things. And then the second thing is the source of innovation or innovation in general. You start and talk in terms of coming up with new products and services and ideas, whether it's in an effort to reduce variation or to come up with actually new products and services. And actually, if yeah, I would say that you're going to increase your variation till you work on that particular product or service where you can deliver it on a high level to a customer. But but the source of innovation. Innovation is what really kind of caught my eye in this article, too.   [00:06:20] And what he says and I'm going to quote from the article when he was asked the question, what then is the source of innovation? And Dr. Deming responded, The source of innovation is freedom. All we have new knowledge. Invention comes from freedom. Somebody responsible only to himself has the heaviest responsibility. Discoveries and new knowledge come from freedom. When somebody is responsible only to himself has only himself to satisfy, then you'll have invention, new thought, new product, new design, new ideas. And this ability to be free is one of the things that I see kind of disappearing and some cases they never had. It is an ability to be free within your job, especially if you're a front line worker or an employee of an organization. And this is where I think management is really squelching employees, front line people who are interacting with customers on a daily basis as they're so centralized and almost choreographed to a point where micromanagement is, you know, the the flavor of the day. We seem to be going not not not just in organizations, but just as a whole, this kind of pendulum swing to centralization of things and control of things and working in these organizations. And interestingly, I was participating in a LinkedIn conversation that I commented on. And let me just go back to this particular conversation.   [00:08:28] This started with a LinkedIn news poll, their LinkedIn news, if you're familiar with or have different topics, and then they'll pull comments and things from from folks. But the question was the poll. Have you considered leaving your job or actually left a role to pursue a passion project in the last year? Twenty two percent said yes. And I'm not looking back. Forty four percent said yes, I've considered it. Thirty percent said no, not at all. And four percent said it depends. And now there were over fifteen thousand responses to this poll, what you'll get when LinkedIn is sponsoring a particular poll, but. I wrote in this as a response, I said there are serious problems with our organizations. Why is it people have to leave a company define YOLO jobs and YOLO jobs? Are you only live once types of jobs? Where why would I want to, you know, experience grief in an organization that I have when I only live once? I might as well quit my existing job. I went on to write This is something I've been working on with executives, executive teams for over a decade now. It isn't easy to create a system people want to work in, but it is worth it. One large factor contribute to the YOLO mentality is control micromanaged. Employees will either leave, undermine your mission or mail it in meaning disengage.   [00:10:17] You, engage employees with purpose, assist you with the customer innovation and greater good, leaving the details to employees to accomplish and control their work. Opportunities exist for those wanting to run their own show, and organizations need to compete against it or lose people. This requires new approaches and methods, and I think a lot of that response really comes from my study of Dr. Deming and what is management's job. And with all the centralization that we seem to have going on not only in government but also in our organizations, we're losing that freedom that that creates this need to create the atmosphere, to innovate. And so I wanted to just share I still think management doesn't know what its job is. I worked very hard coming up with methods to help define that. They're very imperfect. But that's been a huge focus of how do you get management to understand what their job is. And then when you look through the lens of the system of profound knowledge, you're going to see things. When you look at your organization as a system, when you understand variation and the power of of using control charts, when you and understand variation, the power of how to get knowledge and using scientific method and and then the psychology of it. And in fact, one of the things I wrote in my notes here as I was reading this was, you know, does your organization provide freedom? And it's so important you want to create stress in people.   [00:12:21] Neuroscience has found that, you know, if you don't control your own work, this this is something that is really going to drive people out of your organization. They have no freedom. They have no sense of freedom if it's just about training them. And you do step one step to follow the procedure type of atmosphere, that doesn't help her company because you've got to constantly be innovating today and today's world. And it's one of the advantage, at least here in the US we've had for a long period of time, is allowing that freedom and, you know, tapping into that to come up with not only new ways of doing things, but new products and services. So anyway, I thought I'd share that with you this month. Hopefully maybe you picked up something off of either the article, which I'll put a link to in the show notes or possibly my response in my linked in response to why people are leaving organizations. But share your thoughts. Either you can go to the LinkedIn article or reach me at tripp@deming.org. Hi, this is Tripp Babbitt, one way that you can help the Deming Institute and this podcast is by providing a reading on Apple podcast.  
  1. Deming Len's Episode #48 – Management (Still) Doesn't Know What Its Job Is
  2. Deming Len's Episode #47 – SoPK: The Interaction of the Parts
  3. Deming Lens #46 – The Art of Tampering
  4. Deming Lens #45 – Thank You, Ron Moen
  5. Deming Lens #44 – Deming Institute Podcast Audience Review

I’ve written recently about driving fear out of the organization. Without a doubt I think this is the number one task for us. True North for the quality profession.

The source of innovation is freedom. All we have—new knowledge, invention—comes from freedom. Somebody responsible only to himself has the heaviest responsibility. “You cannot plan to make a discovery,” Irving Langmuir said. Discoveries and new knowledge come from freedom. When somebody is responsible only to himself, [has] only himself to satisfy, then you’ll have invention, new thought, now product, new design, new ideas.

Dr. W. Edwards Deming

Whataboutism

Whataboutism is the common term for a version of the tu quoque fallacy, a diversionary tactic to shift the focus off of an issue and avoid having to directly address it by twisting criticism back onto the critic and in doing so revealing the original critic’s hypocrisy.

Whataboutism often results in a comparison of issues as pure deflection. We see it when individuals are always focused on why others get ahead and they don’t, looking for comparisons and reasons they are being treated unfairly instead of focusing on their own opportunities for improvement. It is so easy to use when we are faced with criticism, “Well, what about … ?”

We also see whataboutism in our cultures. Maybe it is a tendency to excuse your own team’s shortcomings because obviously the sins of another team is so much worse. This is a result of, and strengthens, silo-thinking.

Building the feedback process to reduce and eventually eliminate whataboutism is critical.

Transparency

Transparency in organizations generally falls into one of two categories: proactive and demand-driven.

  • Proactive dissemination refers to information that the organization’s leadership makes known about its activities and performance. Practical expressions can range from strategic and tactical goals, third-party evaluations, and organizational risks.
  • Demand-driven access refers to an organizational commitment to respond to employee requests for specific kinds of information or documents which otherwise would not be accessible.

The idea of transparency can also be unpacked in terms of its directionality. Disclosure cuts both ways, channeling information upwards as well as downwards in the organization. Leadership sharing insight into decisions is an example of downwards, where idea management processes are upwards.

The type of transparency also matters:

  • Opaque or fuzzy transparency involves the dissemination of information that does not reveal how organizations actually behave in practice, whether in terms of how they make decisions, or the results of their actions. The term also refers to information that is divulged only nominally, or which is revealed but turns out to be unreliable.
  • Clear transparency sheds light on organizational behavior, which permits interested employees to pursue strategies of constructive change.

This distinction between clear and opaque is grounded on the premise that if transparency practices are going to meet their goals of transforming organizational behavior, then they must be explicit in terms of who does what, and who gets what.

Transparency requires not only a willingness, but processes to drive it.

Photo by Elena Koycheva on Unsplash

Drive Out Fear on International Workers Day

Happy International Workers Day. Let’s celebrate by Driving Out Fear!

Thirty-five years ago Deming wrote that “no one can put in his best performance unless he feels secure.” Unfortunately, today we still live in a corporate world where fear and management by fear is ubiquitous. That fear is growing after more than a year of a global pandemic. As quality professionals we must deal with it at every opportunity.

Fear undermines quality, productivity, and innovation. The existence of fear leads to a vicious downward spiral.

Some sources of fear include:

  • Competition: Many managers use competition to instill fear. Competition is about winners and losers. Success cannot exist without failure. Managers deem the anxiety generated by competition between co-workers a good thing as they compete for scarce resources, power and status. Therefore, management encourage competition between individuals, between groups and departments and between business units.
  • “Us and Them” Culture: The “us and them” culture that predominates in so many organizations proliferated by silos. Includes barriers between staff and supervisors.
  • Blame Culture: Fear predominates in a blame culture. Blame culture can often center around enshrining the idea of human error.

We drive out fear by building a culture centered on employee well-being. This is based on seven factors.

FactorMeansObtained by
ResponsibilityWell defined responsibilities and ownershipThe opportunity an employee has to provide input into decision making in his department
An individual employees’ own readiness to set high personal standards
An individual employee’s interest in challenging work assignments
The opportunity an employee has to improve skills and capabilities
Excellent career advancement opportunities
The organization’s encouragement of problem-solving and innovative thinking
Management CompetenceManagers trained with skills that lend themselves to contributing to the work of their team ensures that they will be looked to for help. Managers need to be able to guide.Direct Supervisor/Manager Leadership Abilities Management is engaged and leads by example (Gemba walks)
Management by Facts
ConsiderationWhen managers act as if employees have no feelings and just expect them to do their work as if they are robots, it can make employees uneasy. Such behavior makes them feel detached and merely a tool to carry out an end. In such environments, many times the only times employees hear from the manager is when something goes well or really bad. In either case, the perception could be that the manager has mood swings and that also adds to the employee’s insecurity. They may feel reluctant to talk to their manager for fear he is in one of his bad moods.Senior Management’s sincere interest in employee well-being
An individual employee’s relationship with their supervisor
Open and effective communication
Trust in management and co-workers
CooperationThe feeling that every person is on their own to look out for their interest is a sad state to be in. Yet when everyone has a fear that the other workers will take advantage of them or make them look bad at the first opportunity, a selfish and insecure environment will result. Employees should be able to work together for the benefit of the company. They should focus on group goals in addition to their personal goals, recognizing that individually there will be failures, but that the whole is more important than the individual parts.Trust Well trained employees Collaboration as a process Organizational culture (psychological safety) Hire and promote the right behaviors & traits to match the culture
FeedbackInformation that is given back to the employee regarding their performance on the job.Know what is expected of them (clear job descriptions)
Effective processes for timely feedback
Recognition
Know their opinion matters
InformationTransparency is critical. When employees know nothing about how a company is doing in terms of where they should be, it is a source of uneasiness. Without that knowledge, for all they know the company could be doing very poorly and that could be a bad thing for everyone. When they have a better sense of where the company is in the scheme of their objectives set by management, it helps them feel more secure. That is not to say it is the news being good or bad that affects their security, but rather the fact that they actually have the news.Strategy and Mission — especially the freedom and autonomy to succeed and contribute to an organization’s success
Organizational Culture and Core/Shared
Values
Feel that their job is important
StabilityEmployees feel more secure when their role does not change frequently and they understand what tomorrow will mean.Job Content — the ability to do what I do best
Availability of Resources to Perform the Job Effectively
Career development – opportunities to learn and grow
Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com

Vision and Psychology Safety Enable Change

Professor Amy Edmondson in 2016 wrote “Wicked-Problem Solvers” in HBR that laid out four leadership levers for collaboration that fit nicely into quality culture and nestle nicely with Kotter’s Eight Accelerators. Together they help define the leadership behaviors necessary to build quality culture, all informed by the enabler of knowledge management.

Levers and Accelerators of change

Professor Edmondson in this article is discussing cross-industry collaboration, but the central four levers apply in any organization.

Having a vision that strives for a True North of Quality is critical. Make it align to individual needs. Remember that vision grows and adapts as you go, and as others get the opportunity to shape. Vision has six criteria:

  1. Stimulus: Vision needs to include actual benefits for those affected by it. String vision brings people together as community, not as strangers. Stimulus means people see themselves in the vision and understand how they will benefit.
  2. Scale: Vision should be of great breadth and depth with potential for extension at later stages. Vision never leads to or accepts a dead end. It shows multiple potentials for expansion.
  3. Spotlight: Vision assumes responsibility, immediate and extended. The greater the vision, then the greater the responsibility for its impact on people’s lives and the legacy that will be left afterwards. This responsibility needs to bring opportunity for people who are involved. This is part of the vision that will drive the volunteer army.
  4. Scanning: A visionary sees the signs on the way to success. Pay attention to to pain points, spot trends and see where and how value can be added. Gemba walks are critical here.
  5. Simplicity: Vision is elegant thinking about complicated and complex things. A vision is not a vision unless it’s understood. Simplicity lets people believe in vision. If the vision is complicated most people will ignore it. Vision operates and makes execution possible from its simplicity. The simpler the vision in its core meaning, the easier it can be shared with employees, customers and partners and thus, easier to scale inside and outside an organization.
  6. Passion: Vision provokes strong emotions. A strong vision is always accompanied by excitement and passion. Excitement equals passion that gives an emotional power to a vision. A strong vision brings strong excitement that is difficult to contain. Strong excitement and passion are highly contagious. A simple and compelling vision excites more passion than any mere goal.

Psychological safety is the state where employees feel that there is safety in taking risks at work setting. In this safe environment employees will engage in risk-taking actions that are inherent to creative endeavors and if they perceive safety, then they are more comfortable to voice their opinions. This safety makes them more willing to take the chances to own the vision and try to experiment with making that vision a reality which motivates them to develop, promote, and implement new ideas.

This safety will enable knowledge sharing, which can come in many different styles, including combination which creates something new.

Through inclusive, democratic leaders who value the inclusion of employees in a particular work process, employees have the chance to raise their voice for generating, promoting, and implementing useful ideas
Through leveraging vision these inclusive leaders exhibit openness attributes that communicates the importance of taking innovative actions and gives employees the guarantee that in case of negative consequences they will not be punished, experiencing greater psychological safety.

Employees experience non-defensive behavior, and feel high levels of self-worth and self-identity, motivating employees not only to generate new ideas, but also to promote and implement new ideas in the organization.

The organization that is structured to accept these ideas will continue to drive iterative cycles of improvement.