By John Hunter, author of Management Matters: Building Enterprise Capability.
W. Edwards Deming’s 14th point is:
Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the transformation. The transformation is everybody’s job.
One important point to note is that quotes lose a great deal when taken out of context. You can also find quotes by Dr. Deming, such as:
“As I use the term here, the job of a leader is to accomplish transformation of his organization.” (in Out of the Crisis)
“Quality is made in the board room. A worker can deliver lower quality, but she cannot deliver quality better than the system allow.”
There are quotes you can pick to make it seem like executives are responsible for the system and individuals workers have little impact on overall results – “A bad system will beat a good person every time.” This shows the limitation of isolated quotes more than anything else.
Complex systems have many leverage points and can be influenced in many ways. It is unreasonable to have a broken management system and blame those working within it for the naturally poor results than such a system creates. And executives have more authority and thus more responsibility for creating a good management system that is continually improving. But such a management system requires that everyone in the organization is contributing.
Transforming from old style management systems to those Deming proposed many years ago requires that everyone be engaged in that transformation. While Dr. Deming understood that people were subject to the constraints the management system placed on them, he also understood that it was everyone’s job to transform – not just something for executives or board members or managers.
Those with authority must modify the management system to allow everyone to contribute. But that doesn’t mean everyone else just sits by waiting for those with more authority to transform the organization. Transformation doesn’t work that way. It is a dynamic, interconnected process. It isn’t as simple as turning on a light (or declaring this is our new transformed management system).
Instead the transformation of an organization will take hundreds of distinct events that each provide stepping stones for more to be done. Those events require the active participation of everyone. The events will (and need to) build trust, build confidence in the new methods, build respect for each other, build skills in putting new ideas into practice… Each of those steps reinforces the ability to take the transformation to new levels. That process requires leadership and it requires the active participation of everyone.
The transformation of a management system is a journey. It requires effort through time by many people. As time goes by people change and gain new skills and abilities. And the organization gains the ability to operate with new ideas that were not possible to use successfully earlier. The journey requires that individuals transform so they can operate in new ways and that the organization transforms so it can operate with a management system envisioned by Dr. Deming and discussed in this blog.
Related: 94% belongs to the system – Using Deming’s Ideas When Your Organization Doesn’t – Why Do People Fail to Adopt Better Management Methods? – How To Create a Continual Improvement Culture – Build an Environment Where Intrinsic Motivation Flourishes