The Deming Dimension by Henry Neave

By John Hunter, author of the Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog.

image of the Deming Dimension book cover

The Deming Dimension by Henry Neave provides good historical background and then a well presented explanation of Deming’s ideas on management. It is one of the best books to read to learn about Deming’s ideas.

The book includes a forward by W. Edwards Deming:

The prevailing system of management has smothered the individual, and consequently dampened innovation, applied science, joy in learning, joy in work. It will be necessary to restore dignity and self-esteem to the individual. This can be done, but only by transformation of the style of management now practised.

The transformation must be led by top management. The transformation is not stamping out fires, solving problems, nor cosmetic improvement.

This book by Henry Neave explains why the prevailing system of management has led us into decline. It explains the transformation that must for survival take place under the leadership of top management.

One section of the book explores Deming’s 14 points from a holistic management system approach (which of course is required). As Henry says:

The 14 Points are a substantial aid to teaching and to learning. But, although the 14 Points are an extremely helpful guide to important parts of the philosophy, they also increase the danger of people trying to take action in order to obey they words before developing understanding.

He is correct, though at this time I think the 14 points are useful but I wouldn’t say “substantial aid” or “extremely helpful.” I think the weaknesses he discusses and the time we have had to further develop Deming’s framework within the context of the System for Profound Knowledge mean the 14 points are significantly less important than they used to be; but they are still useful. And they are still popular – they are often the way many are introduced to Deming’s ideas today.

His book does show how to think about the 14 points and understand the deeper meaning they each hold. Exploring Point 7,

Adopt and institute leadership aimed at helping people do a better job.

[Leadership] is the ability to analyze special and common causes in respect to the systems within which people work. Fundamental in this is the avoidance of any hint of blame on people for problems (the vast majority) caused by the system, and the aim to help (instead of blame) the few people whose performance does fall below that of the main system.

Often in a simple list of Deming’s 14 points this point is listed as “Institute Leadership.” Dr. Deming provided more text and then had more explanation in Out of the Crisis for each point. But in simplifying the ideas to 14 points often most of th meaning is eliminated. It is also important to remember Dr. Deming was continually revising and updating his wording of the 14 obligations of management as well as the context he saw for each and the connections between them.

The Deming Dimension is an excellent book for those learning about the Deming management system and those that have been applying Deming’s ideas for decades. The book provides explanations that are suited to getting started on an improvement journey. And it also serves as a good resource for those well along the journey as it helps focus your thoughts and think about the core principles of Deming’s management system.

Related: Using Data to Seek Continual Improvement, Not Just Process MonitoringCreativity Inc.: Using Deming’s Ideas at PixarFour Days with Dr. DemingDeming’s Management Ideas Evolved Into the System of Profound Knowledge

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