Leading The Transformation Process

Guest post by John Hunter, author of the Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog (since 2004).

Leading The Transformation Process, Barbara Lawton’s presentation at the 1993 Ohio Quality and Productivity Forum conference:

YouTube video

Aim of Deming’s System of Profound Knowledge in Barbara’s words (building on Deming’s quote “provide jobs and more jobs“).

Create value for customers, ourselves and the society that nurtures us all. Continuously improve our ability to do so.

Barbara does a good job of explaining how copying the most visible aspects of companies applying Deming’s management methods doesn’t allow you to transform another organization. The visible aspects are more often symptoms not causes (FYI, this is my terminology – John). Copying the visible aspects without transforming the management system (and how executives think) results in failed efforts to improve.

Another focus of her talk was the interaction of personal transformation and organizational transformation. Transformation starts with the individual but as they change they can run into organizational barriers and resistance to change. Similarly if the organization institutes changes without helping people change their own understanding and views those people resist the changes in the organization.

Deming’s management system provides a view of the organization as a system, including the people in that organization, and ideas for how to manage the transformation as an integrated system. The interactions between the components of the system and people must be considered and managed to transform. And those interactions continually change as the overall system evolves.

The culture is set by how people actually behave not just what they say. Leaders must act in ways that reinforce the transformation. “Support of top management is not sufficient.” – W. Edwards Deming

Barbara also discussed the importance of iteration within the transformation process. The transformation is not a few big changes but hundreds of small changes aligned toward the aim that are continually evaluated, adjusted, extended, experimented with in multiple iterations. The transformation is a continual effort that allows you to learn, adapt and continue forward based on what you learn.

The aim is not to force some initial thoughts on how the transformation should take place through but to seek to learn and continually improve. If some ideas just don’t work in the current state of the organization adapt and try some other ideas. Then do more experiments and learn and continue the iterative improvement.

Culture comes from working as a group and from that learning that is going on… repeated successful applications of these new ideas with build that new culture. The outgrowth of this will be new systems and methods.

Those new systems and methods are the symptom of a new management culture. When you try to install those new methods but keep the old management culture it doesn’t work. The success is based on using these new systems and methods within a compatible management system.

Transformation is revolutionary change but it has to happen in an evolutionary manner.

Related: Transforming the Management System of an OrganizationThe Transformation is Everybody’s Job Leading Quality: Some Practical Approaches to the Managers New Job

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