After World War II American industry returned to the peacetime production of consumer goods, for which there was unparalleled demand and no competition. Untouched by war, the industrial heartland produced cars, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, mixers, lawnmowers, refrigerators, furniture, carpet, and all the goods for the growing postwar suburbs inhabited by a generation of prosperous Americans.
The American corporation had fulfilled the promise of ‘scientific management,’ formulated by an influential industrial engineer named Frederick Winslow Taylor more than three decades earlier. Taylor had held that human performance could be defined and controlled through work standards and rules. He advocated the use of time and motion studies to break jobs down into simple, separate steps to be performed repeatedly without deviation by different workers. Minimizing complexity would maximize efficiency, although it was as bad to overperform as it was to underperform on a Taylor-style system.
Scientific management evolved during a period of mass immigration, when the workplace was being flooded with unskilled, uneducated workers, and it was an efficient way to employ them in large numbers. This was also a period of labor strife, and Taylor believed that his system would reduce conflict and eliminate arbitrary uses of power because so little discretion would be left to either workers or supervisors. Hence the evolution of the rule-bound, top-heavy American corporate management structure.
Quality in these postwar years took a backseat to production. Quality control came to mean end-of-the-line inspection. If there were defects and rework, there would be profit enough to cover them. Although some quality control lingered for a time, particularly in defense industries, for the most part the techniques taught by Dr. Deming were regarded as time consuming and unnecessary, and they faded from use. By 1949, Dr. Deming says mournfully, “there was nothing not even smoke.” This setback only served to strengthen Dr. Deming’s conviction, as he considered what had gone awry.
Purpose of Dr. Deming’s Theory of Management
As a statistician, Dr. Deming’s lifelong mission had been to seek sources of improvement. World War II had quickened the pace of quality technology, but as World War II ended, progress in quality control began to wane. Many companies saw it as a wartime effort and felt that it was no longer needed in a booming market. Given the failure of statistical methods for quality control to endure, he figured out what might have caused the failure and how to avoid it in the future. He gradually concluded that what was needed was a bedrock philosophy of management, with which statistical methods were consistent. He was ready with new principles to teach when the Japanese called him in 1950 to aid in the reconstruction of their country.
The aim of Dr. Deming’s theory of management also known as, ‘System of Profound Knowledge,’ challenges leaders to embrace a new paradigm based on the following three major points:
The purpose of the new paradigm transformation is to ‘unleash the power of human resource contained in intrinsic motivation,’ and to foster an environment of full cooperation between people, departments, companies, governments, and countries to achieve win-win scenarios through process improvement, team work, and innovation.
The system of profound knowledge is a fitting theory for leadership in any culture or business. In some circles people think incorrectly of Total Quality Management with industrial connotations. For example, in the health care arena the customer is the patient, and production could be equated to the quality of patient care. Indeed many of the concepts which are espoused by TQM relate to interpersonal interaction as much as they do to other more production oriented criteria.
Therefore the key dimensions of TQM can be identified as: team development, statistical quality control, process management, assessment of customer’s needs, fact-based decision making, continuous quality improvement, and benchmarking. Applying this management theory requires a focus to the new kind of world of interdependence that we are in now. The prevailing paradigm in the Western world is not based on any holistic or comprehensive theory; it is just the cumulative result of assorted reactive experiences and methods:
Managers basing their leadership in the above listed paradigms will be lost in the new economic age. Such leaders need to open their minds and change to be able to learn the new paradigms of Total Quality Management (TQM).
Assumptions of Dr. Deming’s Theory of Management
Dr. Deming’s theory of management is based on four assumptions:
1. Management’s function is to optimize the whole system, not just your components
E.g., Western-style management: Reward-punishment performance appraisal systems optimize components of the system.
E.g., Deming-style management: A better way is to evaluate an individual long-term virtue, to know if they are in the system or out of the system, and to understand the performance issues as special or common cause. According to statistical research by Deming, Ishikawa, and Juran over 80% of problems are related to common cause or system problems of the organization.
2. Cooperation works better that competition
E.g., Western-style management: Internal competition to recognize the top 10% sales people in an organization creates a system where 90% of the population is labeled substandard performers or worse yet losers for those on the bottom half.
E.g., Deming-style management: In any distribution curve, 50% of the population is going to be below average, and only 10% are going to be top performers. It does not make sense to grow an organization of malcontents because nobody wants to labeled a loser. If the system is stable and has good hiring policies in place, a better way to manage is to have a goal to shift the distribution curve to the right by continuous improvement and removing common causes of variation. All employees in the system should be recognized for the accomplishments of the enterprise, rather than just the top 10%.
3. Manage using both a process and results orientation, not only a results orientation
E.g., Western-style management: Asking to sell 30% more (by a MBO goal) without understanding the process that allows that goal to be attained, or providing a process for goal attainment, creates a fail syndrome (demanding unreasonable greater results has the opposite effect that contradict the Pygmalion effect).
E.g., Deming-style management: A better way is to analyze historical performance using statistics. Then basing sales growth goals within +/- 3 standard deviations from the mean, where 99% of the sample population is predicted to attain the goal, and shifting the curve to the right by improving the sales process. If a stable system is pushed beyond its limits, the system typically breaks down.
4. People are motivated by a mix of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation
E.g., Western-style management: Recognizing people solely through extrinsic motivation by giving plaques, letters of commendation, bonuses, and pats in the back to motivate employees.
E.g., Deming-style management: A better way is for management to combine extrinsic and intrinsic motivation to increase quality and pride in the work. Intrinsic motivation is the enthusiasm and positive stimulation an individual experiences from the sheer joy of an endeavor. Management can release intrinsic motivation by creating a culture that encourages employee involvement in using process improvement tools such as the Deming wheel (SDSA and PDSA) to innovate and improve quality.
Each of these assumptions are directly associated with the interrelationships between people. They all revolve around a key concept, receptivity of the management style by those who are not only managing but those who are being managed. The implementation of management philosophies obviously revolves around employee motivation, and not all employees are either easily motivated or receptive to management styles that differ from those to which they have been accustomed.
What motivates an individual, therefore, is at the center of Total Quality Management philosophy. Motivational theory in itself has a long history of both direct and indirect applicability to many aspects of management in general and to Total Quality Management in particular. Indeed, the importance of teamwork in the organizational atmosphere cannot be underestimated. Before employees can effectively interact as a team, however, they must be able to function independently in an efficient and productive manner.
Such independence revolves around numerous factors, some of which were learned in childhood and some of which can be instilled in the professional environment. An important part of this independence is being able to relate to one’s peers and to turn criticism and resistance, which exists from some peers, into a positive factor in influencing team performance.
Leaders applying the Deming-style management need to be experts at molding independent workers and teams. A high performing team is to some degree the product of the individual player’s personalities, personalities that had roots as far back as childhood. Deming’s teachings recognize that an individual’s qualities or lack of them could be refined in the professional workplace. Lastly, Deming has influenced my thinking in a variety of ways. What stands out is the wisdom behind the value of teamwork, process improvement, individual versus systemic issues, and the pervasive power of continuous improvement.