Change has to Start from the Top – Webcast with David Langford

By John Hunter, founder of

YouTube video

David Langford quotes Dr. Deming as saying “Change has to start from the top.” As David says in the video he struggled trying to get the top of his organization involved in management improvement. And then he realized:

You are the top of your system. Change your thinking, change your process – you change your system. As soon as you start to modify your system you are going to have an effect on the larger system: the way you organize, the way you manage what you do everyday, how you process the work that you are doing [will impact the larger system].

This is the time to start practicing what you are hearing.

You start right now. And you start thinking about: what can I do? How do I manage things? How do I work with my supervisors to change the system and get a different result?

Deming message is really about transformation. Are you transforming the way you think, how you look at your situation? Are you learning to apply management techniques with people around you?

David’s direct message is to start by changing your thinking. Figure out what you are in charge of, what is your sphere of control, and get to work. As you are part of a system you will likely interact with that larger system in many ways so then you need to use your ability to work within your sphere of influence to lead improvement in the larger system.

As Dr. Deming said you have 3 ways to influence others, your authority stems from: position, knowledge and personality. Each of those area can grow over time to expand both your circle of control and your circle of influence. Learning how to successfully influence the organization is a critical step to expanding your ability to help create positive results.

It is important to learn how to bring about change in your organization. That “change has to start at the top” is not meant as an excuse for inaction. If the positional leadership is not committed to management improvement then determine what you control and start to improve. By learning and then acting you create a learning cycle.

You won’t have all the answers when you start. And actually you won’t have all the answers when you finish (with your project or your career). But the way to improve your organization is to get started. Then learn from what you do and keep going; you can’t learn everything before you start.

As you begin to learn and have success you will need to examine how to best influence the existing system to improve with you. Learn how you can increase the scope of the organization (finding a new “top” that encompasses more of the organization) that is committed to improving the way the organization is managed?

As with system improvement, in general, this path is challenging. It is easier to make excuses for why improvement is not possible; just as it is easier to manipulate the data or manipulate the system compared to improving the system. But those organizations that achieve success were lead there by people that learned how to make changes in their own thinking. Those people then changed how they worked and then expanded that new way of thinking and working to the rest of the organization.

The path is not easy but the rewards are tremendous and they only happen after you get started. So if you haven’t gotten started yet, take this opportunity to get started now.

Related: How to Get a New Management Strategy, Tool or Concept AdoptedPodcast discussion on how to build enterprise capabilityIncreasing the Adoption of Management Improvement Ideas in Your OrganizationDr. Deming Video with David Langford: A Theory of a System for Educators and Managers

For more information about David’s current work, with Ingenium Schools, please visit

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