What Can I Do?

by David and Sarah Kerridge – from Deming UK site

Is your organization committed to the Deming Philosophy? If so,
you can do the right things without opposition. Wonderful: but
few of us are so fortunate. Most of us work among people who seem
blind to both evidence and reason. We can easily feel discouraged
and helpless.

There is no need, because there are positive things we can
do. We can help others, and also help ourselves. First of all we
must learn, and keep learning. When change comes, those who learn
now will be very valuable: even more valuable because we are so

We will not understand the full meaning of transformation
until we experience it. But some things are easier to learn in a
bad organisation than a good one. That seems a strange thing to
say. But suppose we had never experienced arbitrary targets, or
ranking, or short-term thinking. How could we understand the
damage that they do? To know in depth, we must see the conflicts
they cause, and feel the effects ourselves.

True, many people live their whole lives with bad practices
like these, and remain blind. As Dr Deming often said, examples
without theory teach nothing. The overwhelming importance of
theory is impossible to grasp, until we see what happens without

Once we know the better way, each bad practice we experience
brings life to the theory. The frustration we feel must be
weighed against the understanding we gain. Another valuable
experience is to see a “TQM programme” fail. Most do fail. They
copy Japanese methods without understanding the theory. Study the
failures, and you will see the false starts listed by Dr Deming
in Chapter 3 of “Out of the Crisis”. You will also see that
management has ignored the “Heavy Losses”, described in Chapter 2
of “The New Economics”.

Why have theoretical knowledge, if we have no chance to use
it?. There are three reasons. The first is that we must practice
the long-term thinking that we preach. The second is that the
opportunity may come sooner than we expect. Who could have
imagined, ten years ago, the changes we now see in Russia?

The third reason is that knowledge is useful now. You can, for
example, use control charts, on whatever figures affect your
work. Go to the BDA [British Deming Association–SysOp] seminar
on SPC, or study Don Wheeler’s book “Understanding Variation”.
You will become better at predicting the future, or, just as
important, knowing when it can not be predicted. You will also
know when to act, and when to wait: a great gain in efficiency.

Apply the principles of Profound Knowledge to understand
things about you, even if you cannot change them. Notice how
often decisions are made without considering the long-term
effects, or the aim of the whole system. Look for examples of
management reaction to “red beads”, or the rules of the funnel.
And notice the havoc caused by changes made on the basis of
opinion, instead of the Deming Cycle.

If the managers about you make these mistakes, you know what
will happen. You will be in a far better position to avoid the
consequences, and gain a reputation for sound judgment, or just
being “lucky”. In fact, the worse the mistakes that others make,
the better you will seem by comparison.

Take care though. If you are tactless, you may be labelled as
a troublemaker. There will usually be some who share your enthus-
iasm, and will help you deepen your knowledge. But remember that
the others not only do not understand, they can not understand.
They lack the insights which you have struggled to achieve. Your
enthusiasm seems to them like blindness, and if they can blame
you for their failures they will.

Of course it is better to work in a good organisation than a
bad one, if possible. But change is on its way. We forget how few
years it is since Dr Deming was first recognised in the USA, and
even fewer since the BDA was founded. Some ideas of the Deming
Philosophy, like the need to have fewer layers of management, are
beginning to penetrate. As change comes, it will need leaders,
who can see further, and understand more, than those about them.
Let us hope that you will be one of the leaders of the future.

Reproduced by permission from VARIATION, the newsletter of the
British Deming Association

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