How to Start Applying Deming’s Ideas on Management

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By John Hunter, founder of

There are many different ways to start applying W. Edwards Deming’s ideas on management. There isn’t a cookbook on what should be done first. This is helpful in that you can avoid trying things that would be very difficult given the current state of your management system. However, it is also very challenging in that you have to decide what to do yourself instead of just following a recipe.

This is one reason why a knowledgeable consultant can be so useful. They have the experience and wisdom to know what is likely to work and what will be difficult as you begin to improve management practices. In the recent podcast with Fred Wambier, CEO of Finishing Technology, he mentions the crucial role Kelly Allan continues to serve as Finishing Technology adopts Deming’s ideas.

But if you can’t enjoy the benefit of a consultant you can still proceed. Read what you can (books, by Deming and others, blogs, etc.) and watch the Deming Library videos, listen to the Deming podcasts. Then make changes in your behavior.

Don’t try to start with changing other people. And don’t try to make enormous changes first. Start small, but on things that are important, and build on each attempt. Change what you do. Experiment and learn and experiment some more. Involve others in the changes but I find it is much better to start with those that want to change first. Dealing with those that don’t want to change is best delayed until you build up a record of success using new management ideas, in most cases.

I have written on my other blog on some ideas on getting started: Start small, with projects people actually care about, Grow Your Circle of Influence, Psychology of Improvement, Helping Employees Improve). What you want to do is chose projects you can get started on now (not projects where you are going to be delayed trying to convince others to go along) and where the process and results will help show others the benefits of adopting some new ideas.

Don’t worry about the perfect way to start. There isn’t one. What matters is creating a system that is effective today and which is built to continually improve: a good management system is robust and continually improving.

Related: Change has to Start from the Top (and you are the top of something): Webcast with David LangfordThinking Required: Not Just a Recipe to FollowCustomer Focus with a Deming Perspective

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