Too Many People Putting Forth Their Best Efforts

In this clip from volume 14, Understanding Profound Knowledge, of the Deming Library, W. Edward Deming discusses the problem with people putting forth their best efforts.

Deming theorem #2

We are being ruined by people putting forth their best efforts.

Brian Joiner quoted Dr. Deming as follows:

Best efforts are not enough, you have to know what to do.

The Essential Deming, includes this quote from Dr. Deming (page 38):

Hard work will not ensure quality. Best efforts will not ensure quality, and neither will gadgets, computers or investment in machinery. A necessary ingredient for improvement of quality is the application of profound knowledge. There is no substitute for knowledge. Knowledge we have in abundance. We must learn to use it.

There is no simple answer to learning how to apply knowledge effectively. The entire scope of Deming’s work addresses that question. The seminars, books, and videos aimed to show people the problems with existing management practices and explain what to do in order to achieve the best results. The individual items he brings up in the excerpt are addressed in posts in this blog (just search for them to read more, or add a comment on any you have questions or thoughts about).


The new ways of thinking and managing he spoke of, sadly, are still largely new to most organizations (though some practices have been adopted, thankfully). But as to the question of what to do, the answer is found in this blog, his writing and seminars, and the work of many others (mentioned in his writing and this blog).

There are not simple answers. There are someone simple seeds of ideas that form the core of the Deming philosophy: respect for people, managing the organization as a system, making decisions with an understanding of variation, experimentation (PDSA). But exploring the meaning of each of those ideas takes some effort. And then applying those ideas to your organization takes effort.

I can understand why some managers would rather they could just “motivate” people to work harder instead of learning how to lead an organization to be successful. But as Dr. Deming says on page 19 of Out of the Crisis:

Best efforts are essential. Unfortunately, best efforts, people charging this way and that way without guidance of principles, can do a lot of damage.

Related: Deming’s First Theorem: Nobody gives a hoot about profitDeming Library Video with Dr. Deming Discussing the 14 PointsDeming’s System of Profound Knowledge

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