Support of top management is not sufficient. It is not enough that top management commit themselves for life to quality and productivity. They must know what it is that they are committed to — that is, what they must do. These obligations can not be delegated. Support is not enough: action is required.
– W. Edwards Deming, page 21, Out of the Crisis
Far too few executives practice management improvement in their own work. Failing to do so costs organizations the most important gains they could achieve. It is true nice gains can be made by applying quality tools, methods and concepts at lower levels in the organization; but those gains are much smaller than the possible improvements that would be achievable if the organization changed the overall management system. Adopting a new management system can’t happen unless executives change their daily work and change how they manage.
As discussed in our previous post: Improvement is a Learning Process. If you are not practicing improvement yourself, learning is much less than it could be. Actively experimenting with improvement yourself maximizes what you learn.
Since executives have the greatest authority, they have enormous influence on the organization. If executives don’t learn to understand variation, continually improve using the PDSA cycle, appreciate the interactions within a management system, etc. they will stymie efforts to improve the management system.
Those with the most influence should have the best grasp of management improvement. They need to continually be learning how to improve the improvement process. And many of the processes they are involved with have the largest impact on the future success of the organization. Those are precisely the processes most in need of continual improvement.