Applying a Model for Small Business Continual Improvement

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Guest post by Luciana Paulise, see part 1 of these thoughts: Applying Deming Principles at Small and Medium-sized Enterprises.

How to apply the model


The SME deck is to be developed in two months, with weekly two hours meetings, on-line or face-to-face depending on the location of my clients. After the two months, extra meetings to follow up on the action plan are optional.

As a quality engineer, I am always looking for quality focused businesses. I truly believe that you need to strive to do things right the fist time. That doesn’t mean you can’t make mistakes, for sure it will be hard to build a perfect product. But you need to define the basics right: be organized, collect the right information on time, and improve your product and services in a lean way. You need to use reliable processes for action and continually improve your processes based on studying your results.

I organized them in eight simple theoretical and practical weekly sessions. Clients would use the meeting to learn, and they would practice during the week, applying those learnings to their own business, researching and focusing their thinking on each module in turn. Applying SMED, the theoretical sessions would act as the external activities that operators have to perform before a changeover, and actually implementing them in a running business would be the internal ones.

Having all the external ones well set up and fine-tuned before really starting the business would help them improve profitability, reduce errors, improve customer satisfaction faster and better, reduce the failing rate, improve the time to get to the break-even point, and increase the odds to be satisfied of quitting their job and owning a sustainable business.

The idea was that once they finished the two month sessions, they would end up with an action plan, a well-defined product, a sense of customer service, a methodology to analyze context, suppliers and competition, an organized process, a clear idea of the required income to cover minimum expenses, a scorecard to follow up on results and even a notion of continuous improvement.

On top of that, they would end the process feeling more confident and ready to start (or drop the idea once and for all).

Usually, entrepreneurs have lots of ideas, but it takes them time to really implement them. This model would actually help them to organize those ideas, write them down, and implement them through an action plan.

The table below shows how the 14 principles helped to frame the steps for each of the dimensions. Quality tools are shown next to stages where they are most often useful but many tools can be used in many different stages of the model.

Deck 14 Deming principles 20 SME Steps Tools
Diagnosis (Internal Value + Context) 1) Analyze your SWOT
  • SWOT analysis
Leadership 7) Institute modern methods of supervision

8) Drive out fear

2) Implement a leadership model that balances your four type of competences of the leadership team (spiritual, intellectual, emotional and physical)

3) Be agile by delegating tasks and trusting your team

Planning 2) Adopt the new philosophy

14) Create a structure in top management that will push every day on the above 13 points

4) Develop an org chart to assign responsibilities and communicate it to everyone

5) Implement a planning method that cascade objectives to everyone and never forget about it. Make it available to everyone every day.

Team 9) break down barriers between organizations

12) Remove barriers that hinder the hourly worker

6) Promote a sharing culture though HR politics (Share: passion, reward, purpose, tasks and ideas)

7) Work in teams

8) Support individual talent

  • 5 team sharing basics: passion, reward, purpose, tasks and ideas
Customers 1) Create constancy of purpose 9) Value your customer by taking care of the 5 keys that will make him happy: product, user, due care, customer services and personnel)
Processes 3) cease dependence on mass inspection

6) Institute modern methods of training on the job

10) Design your processes to be mistake proof

11) Train your people to follow the procedures but also to propose improvements if they don’t work

Suppliers and Partners 4) End the practice of awarding business on price alone 12) Consider your supplier as a long term partner

13) Think and take care of everyone impacted by your company

Results 10) Eliminate numerical goals for the workforce

11) Eliminate work standard and numerical quotas

14) Design a Scoreboard to follow up on the planning objectives

15) Measure results in real time on the job, not only on the desk, by using visual management tools

16) Analyze planned vs actual differences and take action in teams, top down and bottom up

Improvement and Innovation 5) Constantly and forever improve the system

13) Institute a vigorous program of education and training.

17) Instill a new culture: be the first to improve continuously and show it off

18) Offer training to promote self-improvement

19) Celebrate innovation

20) Go back to square 1 and start all over again

  • PDSA
  • DMAIC methodology
  • 8 hidden costs
  • Triz



I have been applying the model in several companies now. I have helped many businesses to grow and succeed even in changing environments such as developing countries. Most of the entrepreneurs I had interviewed had successfully moved to having their own business, and best of all, have changed their way of thinking, their way of approaching to uncertainty, to customers, to money. They have all learned that quality can not only increase profitability, but also help them live a better life: they plan in advance and prioritize tasks, enjoy what they do every day and delegate what they don’t like doing, and do their job right.

Luciana Paulise with 3 others
Luciana Paulise at The 2014 W. Edwards Deming Institute conference

Luciana Paulise is a business consultant and founder of Biztorming Training & Consulting. She holds a Master in Business Administration and is also a Quality Engineer certified by the American Society of Quality (ASQ). She has participated as an examiner for the National Quality Award in Argentina. Participates in weekly meetings with the Deming Collaboration Group. She is also a columnist for Somos PYMES (Argentina) Destino Negocio (Spain), Influential Voice for the ASQ (US) and for SimpliLearn (India). Speaker and author.

In 2014, Luciana received a grant from the Deming Institute to develop the SME (small and medium size enterprise) deck based on Deming teachings.

Related: Noriaki Kano and the PDCADeming’s Stage 0: By What Method?

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