Transforming Jet-Hot by Viewing the Organization as a System

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

Jet-Hot‘s story provides an example of applying Deming’s work to transform a real enterprise. Gordon McGilton and Dennis Sergent share evidence from their experience that will help others transform their enterprises by focusing on their system and aim. Jet-Hot was undergoing bankruptcy, with all the problems that entails. They used Deming’s ideas to turn around a company being crushed in the marketplace to one delighting their customers.

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Jet-Hot integrates Deming’s system view with their own management or operating system. They have made this diagram the central way they operate as a system with common aim and purpose. They use this innovation in their Jet-Hot system and organize all their work with profound knowledge around their business operating system. Jet-Hot has also developed and implemented an application of technology – an operations support system to support their practice and their enterprise throughout their system. They have made this view and diagram actionable and practicable.


Instead of doing what most companies do, which is buy software which is designed based on the thought of a software developer about how some generic company might operate and then having to figure out how do I make my company make the software look good we took a different approach.

We developed an application that allowed us to populate software in a way we ran our company. We took the systems diagram, process flow diagrams, Failure-Mode-Effects-Analysis, control charts. All of the things that are recommended that we do, that is the business operating system for our company. Everything else is subservient to that.

So the accounting system doesn’t run the company. The ERP system does not run the company. A systems diagram, of systems, subsystems, processes, FMEAs, control charts run our company.

This is a very important lesson. So many companies contort their processes to serve their software instead of creating a system where the software supports their continual improvement culture.

Permanent employees of Jet-Hot get 80 hours of training on the Deming management system and how it is integrated into all the work at Jet-Hot. Even temporary and contract employees all get some training on the management system at Jet-Hot and how they fit into that system.

James (one of the Jet-Hot employees) in a question and answer session:

In this system you have to learn just as much as you work.

This captures a key element of a continual improvement culture. Organizations adopting a Deming management system need to emphasis continual learning, experimentation and a never ending commitment to learn how to improve. Too often learning is not given the priority it needs to be in order to successfully apply Deming’s ideas.

James discusses how Jet-Hot emphasizes providing training to give people the opportunity to succeed. This is also where organizations often fall short. It isn’t enough to give people freedom (though that is necessary) you need to provide employees the opportunity (which includes knowledge) to succeed.


We don’t write job descriptions. We don’t write specifications for people. We bring people in and find out what it is they like to do and what they’re good at and we make a job out of it.

This is a bit more extreme statement of how I have long advocated for how we should manage. What is done by the members of a team should adjust as the people on the team change and as those people evolve and learn. When you hire someone to replace someone else I think it is rare that the best form of what each person does should remain the same with the new person doing exactly what the person who left did. Yet most organizations act as though this is the way things should work.

Related: Deming Podcast with Gordon McGiltonDeming and Software DevelopmentImproving the Management System with an Understanding of DemingManagement By IT Crowd Bosses

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