The following is an excerpt from an email I wrote in 1995 while at CBS Television Network in response to a leadership story by Jean-Marie Gogue former President of the French Deming Association. The statement shows the need for leaders to be knowledgeable in systems thinking and understanding the interdependencies within there own organizations. Twelve years later I am still very concerned about U.S. operational business culture and the misbelief that software can replace true leadership.
Date: Thu, 23 Mar 1995 08:48:59 -0500
Subject: Re: Leadership story
I read your story with interest. I agree completely with the Deming’s statement "There is no substitute for knowledge".
There are many ways of presenting the Deming theories. The most difficult way is to present the theories is the way Dr. Deming did. I believe Dr. Deming was the only person who could present his theories in his straitforward style. Dr. Deming telling his audience that their methods of management (MBO & management by fear) were competely WRONG and clearly demonstrating that there is a better way, was accepted coming straight from the master himself.
I have been working for the past several years as a Quality Director implementing Dr. Deming’s philosophy. I focus on the fourteen points and teach methods of putting the theories into practice, without focusing on the fact that "quality is made in the board room" and that "quality is the responsibility of top management". Once the methods of putting Dr. Deming’s theories into practice are well presented, any intelligent clear thinking, logical human being, can see that the job of management is to optimize the system, to achieve the goals of the organization. There may be many things to fear by following his theories and people may find that they are working for the wrong organization. In the long run a manager has to make a decision whether he/she needs to work in an environment free from fear with the ability to experience "Joy in Work".
I know exactly what you are talking about because I have experienced the same thing. The initial enlightenment message must somehow get to the Top Leadership in a non-threatening manner but it cannot come from middle management. I have found it very powerful to let top management hear the message from Leaders of other organizations who are practicing Dr. Deming’s philosophies and have them do a presentation. I have done this with great success but remember that it is a continual learning process. Each organization must learn to practice the theories and customize methods that work for particular business. The greatest obstacle is convincing the top leadership to change and transform the organization. Blindly copying other organization methods could doom the quality efforts to failure. If it was easy then anyone could do it. Never stop learning. The more I learn, the more I find out what I do not know. I heard Dr. Deming say at one of his lectures at NYU "Learning is not compulsory". I would like to suggest that maybe learning should be compulsory for all in business, especially Top Leadership.
I admire your candor in writing your Leadership Story.
ODA Consulting Inc.